Emily Rose Johnston checked her favorite book into the library this month.
“You Can Travel Anywhere,” the triumphant debut novel by Emily Rose Johnston. Handwritten, illustrated, stapled together and snuck into the stacks at the Hardwood Creek Library in Forest Lake by Emily Rose Johnston, age 9.
Library services assistant Tiffany Christian was tidying up the children’s section when she spotted what looked like a discarded stack of papers in a corner of the juvenile graphic novel section. But when she picked it up, she saw a title page, with “I just snuck this book into the library” written boldly across the cover.
Charmed, she started reading.
“I was just standing back there, by myself in the back corner, giggling the whole time,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is adorable. We have to share this.’ ”
That, Emily’s mother says, is exactly the reaction the author was going for.
“It was her idea to create her book and hide it for someone to find,” Shelle Johnston explained in an e-mail. “I think the idea came from hiding positivity rocks during the pandemic. She loved to paint and hide those.”
Positivity rocks are colorful little acts of kindness hidden in the landscape. Artists paint small rocks with bright designs or encouraging slogans — “You Rock,” “You Matter,” “Don’t Take Yourself for Granite” — and leave them for strangers to find.
The Washington County Library is spreading Emily’s message. The staff photographed the book, page by page, and posted the story on Facebook, essentially turning “You Can Travel Anywhere” into an e-book.
Part call to adventure, part pep talk for anyone trying to learn a second language, Emily’s book takes its readers around the world: the pyramids of Egypt, Big Ben and the London skyline, the Colosseum in Rome and the Eiffel (“eyefell”) Tower in Paris, and on to Guangzhou, China, and the busy streets of Tokyo.
Emily, a fourth-grader at St. Peter School in Forest Lake, is studying Japanese and put extra work into those illustrated Tokyo street signs.
“She is interested in learning different cultures. She is especially interested in Japan right now,” Shelle Johnston said. In addition to weekly Japanese lessons with a tutor, she said Emily is learning Ukrainian. “She wants to speak as many languages as possible.”
So, when Emily tells you that learning a new language is difficult, please believe her. When she tells you you can do it, believe that, too.
“Learning a language is hard … don’t give up,” Emily writes. “It’s overwhelming. Don’t give up.”
“She just really loves creating different stories and characters,” Shelle Johnston said. “She was born an artist. I love her creativity and kindness.”
Like all great authors, Emily knows how to leave the reader wanting more.
“See my other book,” she writes on the final page. ” ‘How to Draw Humans.’ “
Her story has drawn humans in droves to the library’s Facebook page over the past week.
The likes are piling up for this positivity rock of a book — a sweet surprise Emily Rose Johnston hid in the stacks to remind us the world is full of places to go and people to meet. Don’t give up. Don’t give up.