The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara
The Midnight Library only opens at night. Then a little librarian and her three owl assistants help all sorts of animals find the right books. The library was quiet and peaceful until a band of squirrels showed up looking for a place to practice. Luckily, the library had an activity room where they could play music without disturbing anyone else. It was quiet again until it started to rain, but it was raining inside the library. It was Mrs. Wolf crying about something she read in a book. The librarian and her assistants helped her finish the story and reach the happy ending. Finally, it was time to close for the night and there was one very slow patron who would not leave, but the little librarian solved that situation happily too. This is a clever and creative look at libraries and their services in a way that children will easily relate to.
Kohara is author of several other picture books all done in her signature style. Here she cleverly takes a library and adds mystery by making it open at night. The addition of animals as patrons also creates an interesting twist. I also appreciated a library being depicted as a place that you can play music. So often the focus is on the quiet and solitude, but this is one happening library!
Kohara uses the colors on the cover of the book throughout the story. The deep blues and blacks are enlivened by the bright yellow-orange that forms most of the background. Her use of printmaking techniques creates thick lines with an organic dappling effect. These prints feel like woodblocks but have lines that swirl and curve unlike most block prints.
Clever, lively and great fun, this picture book is perfect for sleepy library fans. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from library copy.
Leo Loves Baby Time by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Ruth Hearson
A follow-up to the wonderful Lola series, this new book aims for a slightly younger audience. It focuses on Lola’s little brother, Leo. Leo loves going to Baby Time at the public library. He gets to play games, sing lots of songs, play with animals and make friends. The book also focuses on Leo getting ready to go. He has breakfast, sits in his stroller and heads to the library. Families who go to similar programs at their public library will enjoy seeing the familiar games and songs here. Those who haven’t tried it yet, may be inspired to climb into their strollers and head on over.
As someone who works in a library, McQuinn clearly understands how programs for babies work. She highlights all of the positive things that the programs do. She also limits the words on the page to make this book ideal for very young children who are just heading to their first library programs. Hearson’s illustrations have a cheery warmth to them that really capture children interacting in a program and connecting with one another too.
Printed on sturdy pages, this book is safe to hand to very small children who are progressing past board books. It would also be a great one to use with families just starting to use libraries in your community. Appropriate for ages 1-3.
Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debbie Atwell
Annie Carroll Moore grew up in Limerick, Maine in a time when girls were not encouraged to be opinionated but she had her own ideas. Children in that time were also not allowed in libraries, especially not girls, because reading was not seen as important. Annie had always loved stories and books and though she thought at one time of being a lawyer like her father, she decided to become a librarian. She studied in New York City, living alone even though others thought it was dangerous. Miss Moore became a children’s librarian at the Pratt Free Library, with a room designed just for children. She had new ideas, of course, like letting children take books home and removing the large “SILENCE” signs from the libraries. As her new ideas took hold, Miss Moore changed library service for children into what we love today.
Pinborough clearly admires Miss Moore and her gumption and willingness to approach problems with new ideas. Miss Moore’s life work is detailed here but we also get to see to her personal life and the tragedies that marred it. Perhaps my favorite piece is the ending, where Miss Moore retires in her own special way, on her own terms. Don’t miss the author’s note with more information about Miss Moore as well as a couple of photographs of the woman herself.
The illustrations by Atwell have the rustic feel of folk art. It is colorful, vibrant and lends the entire work a playfulness that is entirely appropriate to the subject.
A celebration of one woman who changed the face of library service to children around the world, this book will be welcomed by librarians and children alike. Appropriate for ages 6-8.
Reviewed from library copy.
Hands around the Library: Protecting Egypt’s Treasured Books by Susan L. Roth and Karen Leggett Abouraya
Told from the point of view of one of the protesters in modern Egypt, this is the true story of how the Alexandria Library was saved during the protests. As the crowd moved toward the library, which was built on the same ground as the ancient Library of Alexandria, the library director came outside and spoke to them. He pointed out that the library had no gates to lock and no way to protect the large doors made of glass. It was up to the people to save the treasures inside. The crowd pressed on and the shouting grew louder. But then one young man ran up the steps of the library and joined hands with the library director. Then more and more people joined hands, a living barrier protecting the library.
The writing here tells the story clearly and concisely. There is fear of the mob mentality woven into the story, a trepidation at what could happen with that many passionate and angry people in a large group. The energy of that mob and that mood carries the book forward. That moment of decision by the crowd hangs jewel-like in the book, the one person who does the right thing first and then those who follow. It’s a book and a story that pivots in a moment of bravery.
Roth’s collages capture the press of the crowd and its passion, but also the fact that these are regular people who were creating change. The illustrations have a flatness to them that works well much of the time. It is particularly effective when hands are joined in a chain.
A powerful look at the importance of libraries and the bravery of a few, this book is also a reminder that we are witnessing history being made. Appropriate for ages 5-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.
The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Chris Sheban
When the book first arrived at the library, it was shiny and new. It was placed on display and a long list of children waited to read it. Then the book was moved to the regular children’s shelves with other books that were not so new too. It was still happy, since it got checked out often. But as the book grew older, it got checked out less and less. It had a tear and was missing its last page. Then one day, a girl found the book, read it and loved it. She took it home, carried it to school with her, and even shared it at show and tell. The book felt loved again. But the next story time, the girl chose a different book and forgot the special book. She remembered when she got home, but the library was already closed. Then when she got to the library a week later, the book was gone, withdrawn and meant for the book sale. This is a sentimental but gorgeous book that every person who has ever loved a book will enjoy.
When I started this book, I was not a fan. I worried that it would tip into the saccharine and overly sweet. It is sentimental, as I mentioned above, but it never tips too far into that mode. Instead I found myself reading a book that brought me back to the joy of discovering books as a child and finding myself closely attached to them. I still can’t have a logical discussion of the Little House on the Prairie series, since I read them to tatters as a little girl. I love this book for bringing me back to that.
Sheban’s art is soft and dreamy. There are often books that glow with the wonder inside of them, something that book lovers will really appreciate. This is a quiet book, and the art supports that, depicting quiet time reading and bonding with a story.
A great gift for any book-loving child, I think this book will speak most to adults who look fondly back on the books of their childhood. Perhaps a holiday gift for your favorite librarian or reading teacher. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.
Muktar and the Camels by Janet Graber, illustrated by Scott Mack
Muktar lives in a Somalian orphanage after his parents have died. His parents had roamed Somalia with camels before the drought and war changed everything. Now all Muktar has of his old life is a withered root that his father gave him and told him to use wisely. Then one day, a man arrives with three camels loaded with books. Muktar is asked to help unload the camels and as he does, he notices a wound on the foot of one camel. The librarian is too busy to listen to his concerns, so Muktar creates a poultice with the root his father gave him. By the time the librarian discovers the problem, the camel’s foot is better and Muktar has impressed him enough to offer him a job with the camels.
This book is based on the library service of the Kenya National Library Service which has camel convoys of books eight times a month that serve schools and orphanages in the outlying areas. Muktar and his love of animals shines in this book. His skill with camels is impressive as is his strength in the face of such overwhelming change in his life. Graber’s text tells the story plainly, not dwelling too long on the loss but more on the present. Mack’s illustrations, done in oils on canvas, show a land dried and hardened, but people who are surviving despite the obstacles.
Recommended as a window to another way of living, this book is appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.