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Newport Beach

Volume 6, Issue 84  | October 19, 2021


The Newport Beach Book Fairy explains herself

By AMY SENK

There’s a Book Fairy in town, and I tracked her down. It wasn’t hard, because I’ve known her for years through her various volunteer roles in the community, including co-PTA president for Corona del Mar High School back when my youngest was a student there.

Fiona Ivey, a former schoolteacher, has always loved books and is probably one of the most voracious and open-minded readers I’ve ever met. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that her social media accounts often will show a photo of a book being held up at a different location throughout Newport Beach. 

“Loved this recent release, Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty,” one recent post said. “I Book Fairy’d it at Sherman Library & Gardens for a lucky reader to find.” Before that, she had dropped books at the CdM fire station and library, by a Chinese restaurant and outside a movie theater.

“There are Book Fairies all over the world,” she told me recently over a cup of green tea near her Newport Coast home. “I think you could call it a movement. Emma Watson is a Book Fairy…Kate Middleton has been one, too.”

The Newport Beach Book Fiona

Photo by Amy Senk

Fiona Ivey

According to the I Believe in Book Fairies website, the project was launched in 15 countries in 2017 and has grown to more than 100 countries with more than 10,000 book fairies who leave “books in plain sight for lucky strangers to find, read and then share again.”

Ivey heard about the movement and wondered if there were any Book Fairies in Newport Beach, or in Orange County, or even in California.

“There are,” she said. “But I thought, ‘I’ll be a Book Fairy in Newport Beach.’ It started as a non-random act of kindness, but it’s been so good for me.”

She began fairy’ing in 2017 and has given away about 60 books since then, all books she has read and wanted to pass along. Sometimes, she will leave a book in an intentional spot. A book about a girls sports team was the book she left by Newport Harbor High School’s fields. The recent CdM library drop-off was a book with a main character who obsesses about drought and fire. She currently has two books in her car to drop off, but she’s waiting to find the right place for them, she said. 

“I’ll put a note in there that says to find it, read it, share it, with a hashtag (#NBBookFairy),” she said. She adds a ribbon and posts photos that include a brief synopsis and the drop-off location. But, she adds, “I don’t think there are rules.” 

Sometimes, she will see a person pick up the book, but she doesn’t stick around and spy. Once, she left a book on Balboa Island while she took a walk, and by the time she walked the loop, it was gone. Some books she likes more than others, but they are all well-written and worthwhile. Some are for teen readers and others for adults. Most are new releases, but sometimes she will buy and pass along a copy of Where the Red Fern Grows, one of the books that turned her into a lifelong reader as a child.

The Newport Beach book free book

Courtesy of Fiona Ivey

One of the many free books you might spot around town, courtesy of the Book Fairy

Ivey said she grew up around books and newspapers in a family of readers. When she was an elementary schoolteacher for 10 years in Tustin before having kids herself, she taught reading, writing and history, mostly to sixth graders.

“If I could turn a kid into a reader in sixth grade, I could create a lifetime reader,” she said. Even in her retirement, she wants to pass that onto as many people as possible.

She adores Free Little Libraries, and she regularly stocks the one in her parents’ yard. Her HOA doesn’t allow the structures, but she’s working on that, she said. 

She and her husband also are mentoring an 8 year old as a “Big Couple” through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and they recently treated him to a copy of Captain Underpants after a trip to Barnes & Noble. He read it at the table during dinner, and she was thrilled. She’s also written her own young adult novel and is sending out publication queries. 

And all the while, she’s reading new books. We spent less than two hours together; her reading list is set for the next several months, with Daisy Jones & The Six at the top. 

So, when you’re out and about in Newport Beach, keep your eyes peeled for a treat from the Book Fairy. I have yet to discover one, but maybe one of my readers will have more luck. If so, please let me know – and if you’re inspired to become a Book Fairy yourself, Fiona Ivey would be a good role model.

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Amy Senk has lived in Corona del Mar for 20+ years and was publisher of Corona del Mar Today, an online newspaper that ran daily for seven years. Senk, a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, is involved in the Corona del Mar Residents Association. She and her husband have two children attending college at the University of Missouri and Duke University. She is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.

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