MOUNT VERNON — A mystery had been brewing at Centennial Elementary School. What was in the big, wrapped box outside the school library?

Measuring about 6-feet by 3-feet and wrapped in construction paper with a big yellow ribbon and bow, students made plenty of guesses about what was inside.

Based on the images of flowers at the bottom of the box — which could be seen while peeking through the wrapping paper — some suggested a big flower pot.

Based on the size of the box, others guessed a photo booth. And a popular guess was that school librarian James Coldwell found a time machine and sneaked it into the school.

While it was not any of those things, when the box was opened Thursday the students cheered as their school became one of the first in the state to get a book vending machine.

“It’s exciting,” Coldwell said. “I’ve never seen a book vending machine before and I think it’s a pretty cool thing.”

Paid for by personal donations and a large donation from T-Mobile, Centennial Elementary is now the proud owner of an Inchy’s Bookworm Vending Machine, which according to the manufacturer’s webpage can hold 200 to 300 books.

Using coins they earn through good behavior and hard work, students will be able to purchase books at the vending machine, and unlike the library books they check out, they will get to keep them.

“It’s really important for kids to read,” Coldwell said.

Kids who have books of their own are more likely to read, and to enjoy doing so, Coldwell said.

To help kids get excited for the new book vending machine, the school invited to the unveiling a special visitor who drew almost as much excitement as the book vending machine itself.

To allow for social distancing, the school held two assemblies with Seattle Seahawks mascot Blitz as the guest of honor.

Blitz helped the school’s student body representatives unwrap the book vending machine and give out some of the first coins.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141,, Twitter: @Kera_SVH,

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