Reading is a fun ride for Ilsley's Tricia Allen

ILSLEY PUBLIC LIBRARY'S Tricia Allen prepares to ride her bike — in costume — to deliver free books to kids at the free summer lunch at Middlebury's rec park. Independent photo/Megan James

WHEN TRICIA ALLEN arrives at the Middlebury rec park, kids swarm her bike and dig into the stash of free books. They each get one per week. Independent photo/Megan James

MIDDLEBURY — Children’s librarians wear many hats. They are storytellers, teachers, mentors, performers, listeners, event planners. Ilsley Public Library’s Tricia Allen wears many literal hats, too. Every Thursday through the summer she dresses up in a homemade costume — sparkly house fly, rainbow unicorn — loads great piles of books into a trailer and lugs them across town on her bike.

She calls it the Book Bike.

When she arrives at Middlebury’s rec park, children and their caregivers are milling around the entrance to Memorial Sports Center, awaiting the free lunch provided to kids under 18 each weekday through the summer. Allen knows almost all of them by name. Kids swarm her as she steps off her bike and unloads her book trailer. She gives high fives and hugs. Little kids reach out to touch her costume; older ones can’t wait to tell her what they’ve been reading lately.

Each child is allowed to take one book from the trailer home — to keep. Books have either been donated by community members or weeded from the Ilsley collection. Some are “brand new shiny books,” Allen says excitedly, that Ilsley buys with grants and donations.

After loading up plates with pizza, veggies and ranch dressing, kids take a seat on the grass, and Allen starts up her storytime. On a recent Thursday she was dressed as a fly. She read a “Fly Guy” book and the much-loved pop-up book “The Wide-Mouthed Frog.” She is an animated storyteller, and the kids are spellbound.

And then she packs up and rides back to the library.

Allen, a mother of three, says she wouldn’t consider herself a bike person. “My first year doing this, five years ago, Bram was 1, Reed was 3 and Lily was 5,” she recalls. “I had not ridden a bike since I was in college.”

But she rides with ease and style, waving to folks as she passes through town.

Catch her one more time on Thursday, Aug. 15, same time, same place.

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