Dragon Wagon bus to debut Saturday with cross county tour

Apr. 22—The Dragon Wagon bus will make its debut Saturday, April 27, with a cross-county tour of Delaware County in honor of Independent Bookstore Day.

The independent children's book store on wheels is scheduled to start in Hancock at the Louise Adelia Read Memorial Library at 104 Read Street and end its tour at Veterans Park at the corner of Main Street and Railroad Avenue in Stamford, Tracey West said. Each child who visits the Dragon Wagon can pick out one book free of charge, and books will also be for sale. West and her husband, Bill Hancock, will be in Hancock from 10 a.m. to noon. They will then drive to Stamford, maybe stopping in Delhi along the way for lunch, and be in Stamford from 3 to 5 p.m. Prior to the event in Stamford, the Headwaters Art Center at 66 Main Street will host a story crafting workshop with Rod Saquillo from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

Hancock said they chose the Hancock to Stamford route because it was the most unbroken route in the county. The route takes 1.5 hours non-stop, and the size of the county was one reason why they decided to make their bookshop on wheels, West said. "The county is so huge," she said. The couple chose to open the children's bookstore after a librarian in Margaretville complained to West that there were no children's bookstores in the county. Rather than open a brick-and-mortar store, they decided to place theirs on wheels so they could reach more children and their parents in the county.

West, author of the popular Dragon Masters series, started the bookshop in 2023, while the 1979 Dodge B300 school bus they inherited from John Voegeli was undergoing repairs to transform it into the Dragon Wagon. West and Hancock said four different garages worked on the bus, which included welding an awning base to the side of it to use as a shelter for the books during events, glass work and painting it purple and green. Dragon decals were attached to the side of the bus.

The bus will hold several rolling, three-tiered shelves filled with a variety of books for children of all ages, including board books for babies and graphic novels for teenagers. One shelf is devoted to all things "dragon." The shelves will be rolled out of the bus and placed under the awning and a colorful tent for children to look through before choosing their book.

"Their eyes go big like they're in a trance when they see the shelves and know they get to pick one out for themselves," Hancock said. "It's exciting to see. I love being able to do this." Hancock said he is "extra excited" to see how children react when they see the "big, loaded colorful bus."

West said she enjoys watching children pick out their books because she knows they will spend the afternoon diving into a story. Teenagers take the most time picking out books. "Teens are very cool," she said. "They walk around with their cellphones, type the titles into their cellphones and read the book reviews to see if it's something that would interest them."

West said one of her guidelines in choosing books is to make sure they mirror the lives of kids and open windows into other worlds. She said she asks children what they like and buys the newest and most anticipated books that are scheduled to be released.

During the 2023 season, West and Hancock went to six events in Delaware County, traveled 175 miles and gave away 450 books, she said. "We sold about as many," she said.

West said in addition to Saturday's event, they have committed to attending the following events so far this year: Pink Street Festival in Bovina on June 2, the Strawberry Festival in Worcester on June 15, the Summer Reading Series kickoff at Cannon Free Library in Delhi on June 21, and the William B. Ogden Free Library in Walton June 29, the Hamden Bicentennial Kickoff on July 13, the Hanford Mills Dairy Discovery Day on July 20 in East Meredith, and the Grand and Glorious Fall Fair on Sept. 8 at Neahwa Park in Oneonta. West said she has ordered books that will go with the dairy theme and they will all be placed on one shelf during the event at Hanford Mills.

West said after they visited the Summer Reading Series kickoff events last year, the librarians told her the participation in the series "doubled" from the year prior.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.