The Wild Rumpus Bookstore

photo: linda stack-nelson

I did not have an “outdoorsy” childhood. Homeschooled and incredibly bookish, I experienced trees through paper and water through ink. Because of this, I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of regret and excitement when I visited Wild Rumpus, not as a child growing up in Minnesota, but as a college student on a winter-break scouting mission.

Wild Rumpus is a specialty bookstore nestled in a boutique-saturated corner of southwest Minneapolis. Based on The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer, the design of the inside of the store is magic itself. The Salamander Room tells the story of a young boy whose bedroom dissolves when he brings home a pet, a transformation wrought by his mother’s questions and his answers. 

Even if you don’t know the book the store was drawn from, however, when you first approach the storefront it is immediately clear that this is no ordinary shop. Within the purple, adult-sized door there is a child-sized door inset, showing immediately that this store’s focus is clear: books for all but children first. From front to back, the store progresses from picture books to classic novels and from formal indoors to constructed outdoors. A canoe is attached to the ceiling, seeming to spearhead the crack that opens the white ceiling into an artificial sky. The back of the store is done in exposed brick with tree and vine motifs and even a “spooky shed.” Scattered throughout are reading nooks and story-time spots. Most notably and memorably, the store is constantly moving, not only because of the energetic child customers but because animals roam throughout the store. 

While many bookstores may feature a live-in cat or dog, Wild Rumpus goes further. Given free reign of the floor are four Manx (tail-less) cats and several chickens who live in apparent harmony with shoppers and employees alike. Given their own shelf space in the back half of the store are all manner of rodents, reptiles, birds, and fish. Each has its own cage or enclosure with a sign detailing what type of animal it is, its name, and how the patrons can get to know them. With tenants ranging from the expected (rats and fish) to the exotic (cockatiels and tarantulas), Wild Rumpus is a trip to the zoo and the library in one, and it is no surprise that the store has been charming readers young and old for over twenty-five years.

The presence of animals is not the only thing that makes the store unique. Jane Ernst, who has worked at Wild Rumpus for twenty years, said that the store can be difficult to keep up with because it is constantly changing—and never in the directions people expect. In addition to a broad selection of children’s literature, Wild Rumpus focuses on local authors and unique books instead of carrying Disney imprints and character series. With titles spanning so many age ranges and genres, the employees say it’s an enjoyable but exhausting marathon keeping up with what their young patrons are reading next.

Still, Heather, a Wild Rumpus employee of four years, said that her favorite thing about the store remains the atmosphere: “Both kids and adults feel like they can just have fun here. It’s not just for kids. Adults feel like they can let their inner kid out, kids are having fun, it’s a space for literally everybody.” Like Heather, I wish I had come here when I was a kid. Nevertheless, I feel lucky to see it today, and I hope someday my own children can experience the magic of Wild Rumpus.

Linda Stack-Nelson is a WLT intern studying English literature at the University of Oklahoma. After graduation, she plans to work in publishing and looks forward to increasing her book-buying budget.