photos by madison Bloomquist
Wild Rumpus is the kind of store most people would wish they had as kids. It’s loud and vibrant, and unlike most bookstores, live animals roam between the towering bookshelves. Tourists make the store a must-see stop on their Minneapolis trips and locals bring their out-of-town families. The store was also recently named the best children’s bookstore in the country by the Women’s National Association. To families everywhere, it feels like home.
Nestled between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet in Linden Hills, Wild Rumpus has been giving children and families a place to foster a love for reading for more than 20 years. Co-founder Collette Morgan says she didn’t want to follow business conventions, but rather design the store specifically for kids. The unconventional approach worked: the miniature front door, the canoe breaking through an icy lake on the ceiling, and reading nooks with overstuffed poufs and child-size chairs make the store look like something out of a child’s imagination. “But I didn’t want to work without animals,” Morgan adds.
Bookstores typically don’t have cats rubbing against customers’ legs or birds chirping in every corner, but the animals are commonplace to Wild Rumpus’s regulars. The furry (and not-so-furry) family now includes ferrets, cats, chinchillas, a tarantula, birds, a few fish, and a chicken. Almost all are rescues or were donated by local families. Some stay secured in cages throughout the day (though, ever so often a ferret darts out the front door). The cats just might curl up next to you and let you read to them. But don’t worry, the tarantula will always stay in its cage.
The animals are generally mellow and relaxed, as they would have to be in such a chaotic environment, but some have strong personalities. Morgan said they used to have a litter box-trained potbelly pig named Norman, but he had so many litter box wars with the cats that they had to give him away. Norman moved to the nearby quilt shop’s pet, and eventually grew to be about 200 pounds. “Imagine having that running around a bookstore!” Morgan exclaims.
As if the animals and frozen-lake ceiling weren’t enough, the amount of books in the store could keep any child or young-at-heart adult busy for days. The books range from classic bedtime stories to off-the-wall baby books (favorites include A Is For Activist and a board book version of Pride and Prejudice) to the newest teen and adult fiction. And something truly magical happens to children when they walk through the door that’s just their size: they don’t care that the store doesn’t carry the newest iPhone, or that they won’t find a Netflix movie anywhere. They wander through the store, picking up stacks of real-life, hardcover books, and sit down and read.
“Reading early on in life opens horizons,” Morgan explains. “The store gets kids to read outside the box. It makes them better people.”
Wild Rumpus, 2720 W. 43rd St., Minneapolis, 612-920-5005, wildrumpusbooks.com