Literary lieutenants

Laura Cooper

Behind the inflatable caterpillar costume is Decatur’s own Laura Cooper. She has also dressed up as a bear and a cat as part of her job at Little Shop of Stories.

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Next time you’re looking for a book to read, you might just want to walk across the Decatur Square to hear some suggestions from two Decatur students.

Freshmen Jenna Hanes and Laura Cooper both work at Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories. Cooper started working last summer “on a hot day in July,” and Hanes joined her a few months later in November.

Cooper already knew Diane Capriola, the owner of the bookstore, and landed an interview from there.

Like Cooper, Hanes had old ties with the store. “I always thought that Little Shop of Stories would be my first job,” she said. “I’ve been going to events and book clubs at Little Shop since it opened. I knew every person there on a first-name basis before I even submitted my application.”

Though familiarity drew her in, the job was the perfect match. “I love all the people there, and reading is one of my favorite things to do,” Hanes said. “I thought it would be fun to work somewhere that my talents and experience would be needed.”

Both girls say they now read about a book a week now that they’re in high school and have more commitments. Hanes estimates she read a book a day last year as an eighth grader.

The girls help with special events as part of their job. Hanes has worked several book events – her favorite of which was a Hunger Games party. At the party, kids ventured to different stations where they shot arrows, learned to make food from the forest and received bandages for fake wounds.

Hanes worked at the bandaging station. Her experience with the Hunger Games highlighted one of her favorite parts of the job overall. “Working there is great because I get to be a kid again,” she said. “I have a place where I know it’s okay, even expected, to have fun and act like I’m ten years old – that’s one of the best ways to connect to the kids.”

Cooper has also brought out her childish side. She works story times where she has dressed up as bears, cats and hungry caterpillars. “I freaked some kids out,” Cooper said.

Thanks to their own interests, both the girls particularly enjoy one aspect of their job: suggesting books. Hanes almost views the task as a puzzle to solve. “It’s really fun to try to match someone with their perfect book,” she said. Cooper added that she “[Wants to] keep them coming back for more.”

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