Back-to-school is just around the corner, so this month I’m reviewing books about books. Let’s start with a book for those who are just discovering the joy of reading or who are struggling to find that joy in reading. Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp follows Madeline Finn, a girl who absolutely does not like to read. She tries and tries, but she’s just not so great at it. Then one fine day at the library, her librarian, Mrs. Dimple, introduces Madeline Finn to her four-legged, furry reading buddy, Bonnie, and Madeline finds that she does rather like reading to Bonnie, who never admonishes her for getting a word wrong or reading too slowly. By reading to Bonnie, Madeline becomes more comfortable reading aloud and her success carries over into her school work as well. This sweet and sassy tale has beautiful illustrations and is great for reluctant readers and dog lovers. It also highlights a program we offer at some of our libraries. If you’re interested in having a child read to a licensed therapy dog, ask me about Tail Waggin’ Tutors. It’s one of my favorite library programs we offer.
For many years, librarians around the world have been asked a nearly-impossible question: “What’s your favorite book?” While I can’t narrow it down to one, I’ll gladly tell you this next book is in my top five for sure. Matilda by Roald Dahl is the purely magical story of a clever girl named Matilda, who learns to read at a very young age and proceeds to read her way through her local library. When Matilda begins school, it’s evident to her teacher, Miss Honey, that Matilda is quite advanced, but her terribly awful headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, refuses to recognize Matilda’s giftedness, which extends beyond her academic abilities into telekinesis. Using her brains and her super power, Matilda sets out to save Miss Honey and her school from the cruel ways of “The Trunchbull.” Like others of Dahl’s works, this one has a bit of quirkiness, a touch of naughtiness, and a whole lot of comedy. I adored it as a child, and I often find myself reading it again as an adult too. If you’ve never read it to your kids or read it yourself, now is the perfect time because it’s the ultimate back-to-school book. I recommend reading it aloud, and when you do, be sure to give Miss Trunchbull a deep and scary voice.
If you’re reading these reviews, I’m assuming (hopefully) that you’re of the opinion that libraries are wonderful places, beacons of light in communities, strongholds of free speech and creativity, and all that jazz, but what if libraries were the sole hoarders of information in the world and dangerously controlled what the public could and couldn’t access? Such is the world of The Great Library series by Rachel Caine. This series written for young adults explores the idea that The Great Library controls the dissemination of all information and declares it illegal for anyone to own an original book. Instead The Great Library sends out only the information it wants people to have access to through tablet-like devices for personal use. In this world there lives a boy named Jess whose family is in the black market bookselling business, and when Jess applies to work for The Great Library, he discovers its deep, dark underbelly and must fight to protect those he loves and the works of literature he cherishes. This fast-paced adventure examines how censorship hurts society and how important books truly are all while whisking you away on a wild ride. It’s set to be a five book series, beginning with Ink and Bone, Paper and Fire, and Ash and Quill.
Speaking of the dark underbelly of the book world, I recently finished John Grisham’s Camino Island, in which a team of thieves pull off a heist to steal the five original F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from a library at Princeton. The manuscripts end up on Camino Island in Florida in the hands of a charming bookstore owner who also collects black market first editions. A private security company hires a recently-fired professor from UNC Chapel Hill to move back to her grandmother’s beach cottage on the island to work on her next book and spy on the bookseller and his friends in hopes of recovering the stolen and priceless manuscripts. I haven’t read a Grisham book in years since I’m not a huge fan of legal thrillers, but this one was just the right amount of action, intrigue, and bookishness.
Finally, if you’re looking for something lighter (and maybe wishing for cooler weather), you may like Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge, a romance set in a bookshop in Franklin, TN around Christmas time. A tragic flood brings two lovers back together to attempt to save their favorite bookshop from closing for good. This is your standard romantic dramedy that’s full of sweet moments, second chances, heartache, and hope. It’s the first and only Karen Kingsbury I’ve read, and I found it adorable, but then again, I may be a bit biased. What librarian doesn’t get a bit misty-eyed about two people falling in love in a bookshop?
Enjoy these books about books, fellow book lovers, and happy reading!