Once Upon a Time, the World of Picture Books Came to Life

On a crisp Saturday morning that screamed for adventure, a former tin can factory in North Kansas City, Mo. thrummed with the sound of young people climbing, sliding, spinning, jumping, exploring and reading.

Yes, reading.

If you think this is a silent activity, you haven’t spent time in a first grade classroom. And if you think all indoor destinations for young people are sticky, smelly, depressing hellholes, check your assumptions at the unmarked front door.

Welcome to the Rabbit Hole, a brand-new, decade-in-the-making museum of children’s literature founded by the only people with the stamina for such a feat: former bookstore owners. Pete Cowdin and Deb Pettid are long-married artists who share the bullish determination of the Little Red Hen. They’ve transformed the hulking old building into a series of settings lifted straight from the pages of beloved picture books.

Before we get into what the Rabbit Hole is, here’s what it isn’t: a place with touch screens, a ball pit, inscrutable plaques, velvet ropes, a cloying soundtrack or adults in costumes. It doesn’t smell like graham crackers, apple juice or worse (yet). At $16 per person over two years old, it also isn’t cheap.

Frances’s house features members of the badger’s family, a Chompo bar from “A Birthday for Frances” and a recording of a reading from “Egg Thoughts and Other Frances Songs.”Credit…Chase Castor for The New York Times
Visitors played in a kitchen inspired by “Blueberries for Sal.” From the stove to the lobster pot to the views from the windows, everything was designed to match Robert McCloskey’s illustrations.Credit…Chase Castor for The New York Times
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