100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

The Strange Case of the Missing READ Poster

You see this?

This is the place where our brand new READ poster was hanging. The poster looked like this:

It was freshly laminated and hanging on the wall. I don’t have a photo of it when it was up, but this crime scene simulation ought to give you the general idea:

I was up for about a week when all of a sudden…

…it was gone.┬áThere was no sign of it anywhere. One day it was one the wall, the next day…

…it was not.

Was it a thief? The scene of the crime appeared to be untouched.

After a brief investigation, some thinking, and a hunch, we now think we know what happened. Something unexpected. Let’s zoom in a bit:

After a lot of thought, I think I have the answer.

And the anti-climax is…it fell down behind the bookcase.

This is…

A: Crazy, because the gap is barely a half inch wide, and…

B: Frustrating, because the shelves are bolted to the walls.

Questions! Has this ever happened to you? And, any ideas of how to get it out?

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Can you get a putty knife down in the gap and gently press the poster against the wall or back of the bookshelf as you pull the knife up?

    • Hi Kristin! I think the gap might be too narrow for the putty knife – I’ll test it out.

  2. Melissa (oddharmonic) says

    I’d try a yardstick, its end wrapped with masking tape facing sticky side out.

    • Thanks for the idea – crazy as it sounds, the gap might be too narrow for the ol’ yardstick. But I like how you’re thinking – I’ll give this a try.

  3. Oops! Use a thin/cheap yardstick with a piece of sticky double-sided tape on it. Pull the poster up. Hope it helps!

  4. I used to have a similar issue with puzzle pieces falling into the gap between the wall and the bottom shelf of one of the bookcases in the children’s section. We got rid of many a puzzle due to missing pieces before I figured out where they were going. My tool of choice was a ruler, but I was also prying up thicker items. Good luck getting it out!

    • Good to know I’m not the only person this sort of thing has happened to. I’m going to try the ruler move.

    • oh don’t get rid of puzzles missing pieces! use them in art and have students make pictures using a piece and expanding upon it.

  5. We have similar shelves. These are times we have our custodians get out the “grabbers”. Good luck.

  6. Once a year, I have a student or volunteer run a yardstick under all our shelves. We usually find a missing book or two, amongst other things.

  7. It does look extremely narrow – if yardsticks are too wide, you might try sticking some kind of adhesive strip to a flyswatter – nice and skinny for the first 4 inches or so.

  8. Use the force, you will.

  9. or instead of yard sticks, multiple unbent cloths hangers with tape blobs on them?

  10. I was going to suggest the yardstick idea too – but apparently you have lots of brilliant commenters who already suggested it! :)

  11. That’s…ridiculous. Poor Yoda. Could you cut a piece of cardboard into the shape of a yardstick and put tape at the end? It would be thinner than a real yardstock.

  12. Tom already told you what you need. Sticky stretchy hand!

  13. Oh no! Can you lower something sticky to grab it like a loop of duct tape on a string?

  14. The first year I taught in my library, I found a kitchen tong in the librarian’s desk. I had no idea why there were there until the first time display books and plushies fell down back behind the bookshelf. There was a gap of about 5 inches (wrapped steam pipes were behind the shelves) and there was no way of reading down to retrieve the books or plushies. That’s where the tong came into play… They were the only way to reach the fallen items. I still have the tongs but now with the library rearranged….. the bookshelves have been moved away from the pipes.

  15. Can’t you unbolt the bookcase? It’d be a pain, sure, but: ORIGAMI YODA!

  16. I’m sorry, but this thread and the responses are making me laugh out loud. I’m sure you’ve retrieved the poster by now, but if not, I wish you all the best in retrieving it undamaged. (I have a long stainless steel ruler you could use, but alas, I’m in California.

  17. Ever happened to me? YES! Unfortunately my shelves are way taller and once things disappear behind the shelves they are gone forever. :( I hope you’re able to retrieve Yoda.

  18. Plan A: Tape a few lengths of card stock (tag board) together, and affix a few inches of double-stick tape, send it down, and fish.
    Plan B: Tape a dime (or similar weighted thing) to fishing line with double stick tape attached. Fish.
    Plan C: Send Flat Stanley down after it!
    Plan D: Meet me halfway to Lansing and I’ll lend you my steel ruler.

  19. Any luck retrieving Yoda? If not, send me an email. ALA Graphics may be able to help! :)

  20. We’ve had student artwork (on loan from a nearby school) fall down the crack behind our shelves. Some is still there :( We’ve since stuffed the cracks with newspaper in an attempt to save future displays. We also have a shelf built in front of a picture window – tall, fixed shelves, not big enough to climb into, and we regularly have to retrieve lost books – it’s a new adventure every time.

  21. What about tunneling up from the basement?

  22. I’m not a librarian, just an enthusiastic reader/writer so I can’t relate exactly, but this post did remind me how many socks are currently hiding behind my washing machine. Good luck! :)

  23. I lost the poster from Mo Willem’s The Thank You Book the very same way. So disappointing.