Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Lost Library

Stead, Rebecca and Mass, Wendy. The Lost Library
August 29, 2023 by Feiwel Friends
E ARC Provided by Edelweiss Plus

Evan lives in the same small town, Martinville, where his father grew up, and is finishing fifth grade. No one in his class is looking forward to middle school, including Evan and his friend Rafe. On his way to school one day, Evan finds a new Litte Free Library, and takes two of the smallest books home with him. He shows them to his parents, and one has his father's name in it. His father, who works as a rather unsuccessful exterminator (he drives mice to the other side of the mountain, but they always seem to come back), doesn't want to talk about it. We have met the women who put up the library; Al, who was the assistant librarian at the Martinsville library before the fatal night in 1999 that it burned down, claiming the lives of her supervisor, Ms. Scroggins and the custodian Mr. Brock. They are living with Al in the local History House as ghosts, and Al is responsible for keeping them fed with apples, potatoes, and cheese. Al has a cat, Mortimer, who is alarmed that Al has made the library, and has stocked it with a cart of books that were all that survived from the basement of the library. The town has never had enough money to rebuild, so the Little Free Library sees some action, and several people add books to it. There's an egg crate, a suitcase, and even a sturdy umbrella to keep everything dry. Mortimer (whom people know by different names, as he travels around town a lot) stays with the books. Evan also sees that a famous local author, H.G. Higgins, checked out one of the books, and even left a Polaroid picture in it. Evan writes to the author and his teacher, Mr. O'Neal, mails the letter off. When Evan finds that his father was a library intern and was blamed for the fire, although nothing was ever proven, he is determined to find out what really went on. Meanwhile, Al struggles to keep her ghosts happy, but they are becoming more and she is worried that they will leave. 
Strengths: Since this is written from several perspectives, we get an interesting view of what happened at the library from someone who was there, someone who didn't even know the library had existed, and also a cat, which makes this very intriguing. There's a nice mix of mystery, book lore, and philosophical musings on the importance of books. Evan is a bit shy, but steps out of his comfort zone to exonerate his father, who has other secrets. The cover is very appealing. 
Weaknesses: Since this is clearly a book that librarians and teachers will adore, I will share the very nitpicky things that bothered me: I was a little confused as to why a library book was signed out by H.G. Higgins, but that later is proven to be a pseudonym. There is some talk that the whole cart of books was returned on the same day, the night of the fire, but I can't think of any library stamping system that would record when a book was turned in. Maybe they were all DUE on that date and thus stamped with it? Also, Evan approaches the school librarian and she is reading a magazine at her desk. Was the entire school on a field trip? Because I can think of very few school librarian who ever have time to do that. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like these authors, or books that celebrate libraries. There aren't a lot of middle grade books that do that, although there are any number of picture books.  Teachers who are fans of Mary Oliver's poetry will want to use this as a read aloud. 
 Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment