Project OpenBook: Introducing ‘The Yeti In My Freezer’

First Project OpenBook book drop

Seven years ago, just two months after launching MarbleSpark, we announced the launch of an experiment called Project OpenBook.

Our idea was to create a crowd-sourced, illustrated children’s poetry book and give it away to deserving kids… especially kids who lacked access to books they could call “their own”.  

I’m excited to announce that we recently finished The Yeti In My Freezer, our first Project OpenBook book. And we’re even more stoked to announce that we did our first book drop!

The Yeti in My Freezer

Where Project OpenBook Started

When we announced Project OpenBook seven years ago, we often called it an “experiment in doing good”.  In many ways, we were clueless about what we were getting into. But one thing I got right was calling it an experiment.

After launching, we got an outpouring of support. But like all new ideas, after the initial flurry of interest and excitement, we soon had to get down to the hard work of creating a book.

We told the Project OpenBook story whenever and wherever we could. I filled notebooks full of poems. We received hundreds of poetry submissions from people all over the world.

Some were aspiring authors…others had scores of published children’s literature. And a bunch of truly amazing artists from around the world illustrated the poems. Some of these illustrations came in on their own…other artists were recruited by yours truly.

Through it all, we were all inspired and encouraged by the contributors, by our followers (who donated over $2,500 to support Room to Read’s girls’ education program), and by the vision of creating a book worthy of the kids that were going to receive it.


After a few years of chasing this experiment called Project OpenBook, the idea got stuck. There’s no way around it: the idea got stuck because I got stuck.

I have a million excuses. Life happened. Three kids happened. There were creative obstacles. Our rhymes were amazing…but we needed help from an editor to make them extraordinary.  Our art was beyond wonderful…but, we needed help from a designer to create a common visual thread. 

Then there was the cost.  It’s just waaaay more expensive than I anticipated to print and ship (and re-ship!) an 80-page book that lives up to our quality and craftsmanship standards.

Our dream was to give a book away for every personalized book we sold… but after scouring the market for printing partners… we began to wrestle with the possibility that our book-for-book dream might just put us out of business.

But among all these challenges, the biggest problem was me. I froze. I felt an enormous responsibility to create something amazing, something worthy of the kids we wanted to serve. I was paralyzed by fear…. that I would run our little business into the ground… that I would let the kids down… let our contributors down… let you down.

Getting Unstuck

There were many months (OK, OK, years…) of feeling paralyzed and stuck, but my wife’s patient counsel finally turned into “real-talk”. She told me to “just get over it, already”.

So we found an amazing editor in one of our talented contributors, Jesse Anna Bornemann. We found a world-class designer to help us craft a visually-stunning book, the talented Joe Sparano. We found a book bindery willing to work with us on price. We printed some samples… and they were beautiful.

We were ready to go!

Only one problem… the kids. I always assumed that would be the easy part. We’ve read the stats. We understand the need. So we assumed getting the books into the hands of kids who need them most would be easy.

But you can’t just waltz into schools or after-school programs and hand out books. We realized we were going to need partners…both local and national.

Finding a Partner

Lucky for us, we found an amazing partner right in our neck of the woods to help us get The Yeti In My Freezer into the hands of deserving kids. After digging into the work of a local nonprofit called DIBS for Kids, we knew we had found the perfect match.

DIBS stands for “Delivering Infinite Book Shelves”. Their mission is to support schools to ensure every student has a great book to read, every night. DIBS for Kids has set up mini libraries in K thru 3rd grade classrooms where students can check out a book to bring home every night.

Book sorting at DIBS

Staff showed us first-hand how the students use the check-in/check-out system in the classroom. DIBS has made this process seamless and easy through technology. It’s an amazing organization doing amazing things.  

DIBS for Kids currently serves 1,000 students.

So in late 2017, we ordered our first run of 1,000 copies of The Yeti In My Freezer. Do you know what 1,000 books looks like?  A shipment of one thousand books doesn’t arrive in an Amazon Prime box. Our first run of 1,000 books arrived on a pallet on the back of a flatbed truck!

Image of book pallet

Our First Book Drop

In December 2017, DIBS helped us schedule school visits with Omaha-area schools.  We loaded the books into our trusty minivan and the DIBS team helped us sort and carry them into the schools.

We visited 1st or 2nd grade classrooms (as advised by each school’s reading specialist) and got to meet some amazing students and their teachers. We treated it like an “author visit,” and read a number of the poems and answered questions about how we made the book.

Image of author reading poems

The kids were amazing. They laughed. They asked cute and profound questions.

Finally, after they were good and excited, we would spring the secret: “Guess what!?!? You get your own copy of this book to take home and keep.” There were fist pumps. There was dancing. I wish you could have been there!

It was awesome. That word gets overused. But it fits here… it was awe-inspiring.

Reading poem

Where We Go From Here

A second pallet of 1,000 books arrived last month. These books sit temporarily in our garage, safe and dry, while we look for another great local partner that can help us connect with 1,000 deserving kids.

Beyond that, the future gets a bit hazy. If I told you we had it all figured out, I’d be lying.

One thing I know for sure: after spending the past few years paralyzed by a hazy future, our plan for now is to just keep moving forward one step at a time.  

Where You Can Get a Copy

You can download a copy here.  

We’ve already received lots of questions about how to buy a real-life copy.  For now, we’re unable to sell the book but we’re hoping to get permission from the contributors to do so, with 100% of profits funding future Project OpenBook book-drops, of course.  Stay tuned…

Finally, Big Thanks…

…to ALL the Project OpenBook contributors. Whether your words or art are in the book or not, thank you, thank you, thank you!

…to Jesse Anna Bornemann for her selfless work in editing the book and being a source of encouragement and inspiration.

…to Joe Sparano for his excellent design, patient problem-solving, no-ego approach and ongoing friendship.

…to our MarbleSpark faithful for all your encouragement and support.

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