Muse du Jour

My name is Marianne Plumridge. I am an artist of mythic fantasy works and fine art images. I also satisfy my creative muse with sewing, cooking, writing and reading. These are my thoughts and adventures with whichever muse drives me each day. You can find more of my art at www.marianneplumridge.com

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Location: New England, United States

Friday, January 25, 2008

Library Lion...a Book Review

Two dreams emerged from my childhood: one was to be a science fiction book-cover illustrator; while the second was to write and illustrate children’s picture books. The first dream I gave up on a few years back. It changed me in a lot of ways, including my perspective on genre fiction. I read a lot more mystery fiction than science fiction or fantasy; I read a bit more young adult fiction; and I always find that I am reading and buying new additions to my childrens picture book collection. The thing is - I don’t have kids. But that doesn’t stop me from liking their perspective on life, their unbridled imagination and ‘what if?’ way of seeing things. Books created for young children know no bounds when it comes to the imagination. Even rules are simple and uncomplicated by the adult world. This is an incredible gift, to re capture a sense of wonder in pictures and so few words - to make even a harried adult stop for the ten minutes it takes to read one of these books, and bring a goofy smile to his or her face. The Library Lion does exactly this. I received it for Christmas, and it appealed to not only the librarian in me, but the memory of hours I spent joyfully roaming our local library’s shelves when I was young. As ever, books have been my way of escaping the rat race, and this is no exception…


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LIBRARY LION

By Michelle Knudsen, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

A Picture Book from Candlewick Press, 2006.
Hardcover – ISBN: 978-0-7636-2262-6; 48 Pages; Dust Jacket.
For ages: 4-8



A book review by Marianne Plumridge.


I’ve never really given up my fascination for children’s picture books, even now being all grown up. Only now, I collect them – and on occasion, write them. Sometimes the artwork is gorgeous and artistic; sometimes the artwork is just too charming; sometimes the story is irresistible and fresh; or sometimes a book hits just the right place in the heart. But the best books are all of these things. Award winning, New York Times Bestseller, ‘Library Lion’ happens to be one of the best ones.

It’s a simple story. A lion walks into the library one day. Just like a child in a new place, he likes to look around. Then satisfied, he settles in for nap. A wondrous thing called ‘Story Hour’ wakes him up, and he sits just as entranced as the children and listens to each book the Story Lady reads aloud. People are a bit nervous and wary of this large furry visitor, but as he seems to be behaving himself, they go on with what they were doing. Mr McBee from Circulations is incensed. There are no rules about lions in the Library. He complains to the Librarian, Miss Merriweather. She asks if the lion is doing anything against the rules. Mr McBee says no, so Miss Merriweather tells her colleague to leave him be.

Things go well until Story Hour ends. The lion, upset, roars and roars, bringing Miss Merriweather from her office. She sternly tells the lion that if he can’t follow the rules, then he’ll have to leave, which makes the lion even more upset. Finally a child pipes up with an idea: if the lion is quiet, then he could come back tomorrow. The tension is palpable until Miss Merriweather graciously agrees.















The lion comes back the next day – early. Miss Merriweather gets him to help with a few things, and then ensuing days, the lion helps out on his own. People grow to love him and wonder what they ever did without him. Mr McBee is not happy: the Library did quite well without a lion in the past. One day, Miss Merriweather has an accident and sends the lion for help. Mr McBee ignores him and is cross with him until the lion ROARS in his face. Knowing he has done wrong, the lion slinks out the front door, while Mr McBee walks swiftly to Miss Merriweather’s office yelling about the lion breaking the rules. When he gets there and finds Miss Merriweather lying on the floor, she tells him that sometimes there are very good reasons to break the rules. The next day, things are back to normal – almost. Miss Merriweather was looking forward to her lion helping her with her work, because her arm is broken. However, there is no lion. He didn’t come back. Day after day, people look for him, and the children miss him, but Miss Merriweather is the saddest of all. She really misses her furry friend and helper. Mr McBee witnesses this. He is not an unkind or mean man, and so to make Miss Merriweather feel better, he goes looking for the lion. When he finds him sitting in the rain and looking woefully in through the library window, Mr McBee informs the lion of a new library rule: “no roaring allowed, unless there’s a very good reason…say, to help a friend who has been hurt.” The next day, Mr McBee reports to sad Miss Merriweather that there is a lion in the library. She ups and runs – breaking several library rules herself – to joyfully greet her friend. Everything is now happy in the Library.

The themes in this book are ostensibly about ‘rules’, and when to obey them, when you might not have to obey them, and when, most importantly, the rare times when they might be broken. This sets up behavioral patterns for children and adults alike – since Library rules apply to both. The fact that it is a LION, a very unusual visitor, that comes to the library, even the library staff are unsure what to do. In the end, they treat him just like all of the other library visitors – as long as he obeys the rules. One could very easily replace the lion with any new stranger-child and the story would still read true. Just not as interesting or fun.

Underlying the obvious theme, there are a couple of others whose subtlety places them under the ‘radar’. I refer to ‘acceptance’, ‘tolerance’, ‘jealousy’, ‘courage’ and ‘knowing when you’ve been wrong and doing something about it – another kind of courage’. All of these things are deftly woven into the fabric of the text: as much to underline the fact that there is more going on around you than meets the eye, as well as tell a story. The whole thing is very well rounded.

This is a wondrously positive book, and deserving of all its awards and large readership. The narrative is well paced and lively – for a library. The plot about a friendly lion volunteering in a library just to be allowed to listen to stories, and make friends along the way just tickles the funny bone. The accompanying illustrations by Kevin Hawkes are just as charming. Beautiful and so, so nostalgic, they engage the reader equally as much as the text does. And so it should be in a great picture book…

I highly recommend this to readers of all ages – but especially those who love libraries..


Marianne Plumridge

More about the illustrator can be found at: www.kevinhawkes.com
More about the writer can be found at: www.michelleknudsen.com

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4 Comments:

Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Welcome back! I've missed you.

I love kids' books too. I was a children's librarian for a while. This book sounds like a sheer delight. I'll look out for it.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

Welcome back Darling One!

This sounds **great**. I must try and track it down for the kids. I love the books that have a message, but in a more subtle way.

At the moment Gracie is following in my footsteps by reading whole sets of chapter books in one sitting, rather than the more sedate one a day that I was hoping for.

I can't wait 'til they both get back to school, as both their schools have libraries that we would have KILLED for in the Hunter Vally!!!!!

Our local library annoys me because the kid's fiction is all over the place like a dog's breakfast, and you acn never find the book that you're looking for. Oh yes, and ne releases? Ha! Roll on Term One!

7:36 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Hi Rosemary!!

Thanks so much. Sorry I haven't been commenting on your poetry blog, but the last several months have been indescribable. I've been helping my hubby, Bob midwife a dinosaur children's book called "If Dinosaurs Lived in My Town". I wrote it. :-D I signed off on it back at the end of November, but have done endless research and technical computer stuff for the publisher and our cohort in book crime, our photoshop guy, Cortney Skinner, before that and since then. Sigh. It'll all be over in several weeks, and then off to the printers. It's coming out next year.

However, I've written another about a stegosaurus that's more fun and am in different stages of development for two others that feature BOb's artwork. Back on the 4th, we went to New York City to pitch a whole heap of stuff to Sterling Publishing which loves Bob to distraction. His books sell well. So I hope I'm on to a new career thing. :-D It's much more satisfactory than I'd imagined.

Now, if life can just slow down to 90, I'll be happy. :-D I really, really want to paint a Puffin...

Cheers,
Marianne

9:40 PM  
Blogger Marianne said...

Annie!!

I'm so sorry, sweets! I haven't gotten to answer your lovely email from - urp - two weeks ago. Urp. Read the previous comment, and you'll get an idea of what I've been doing. It's hard not to go bury one's head in a book and tell it all to go hang, but the inspiration is glowing at the moment. :-D I've been working on one of my more recent dragon kiddies books ideas this week, between scribbling notes for others on file. I'd die happy if I knew I could sell some more of these. :-D

Oh, old libraries! Some of my happiest time as a teen was spent in the Kurri Kurri library - both serving behind the counter and also trolling the shelves for things to read. :-D I remember coming home with a pile of 20 or so books and finishing them in a week! Gracie has our genes, m'love!

I make up for those lacking libraries of our childhood, by wallowing among the shelves of our local big book chains, Borders and Barnes&Noble, and trolling a big secondhand book shop down in Connecticut. I even expanded my antique LadyBird book collection whilst in London last year, by about 30. Sigh. It looks like we shan't be going back this year, mores the pity - the convention hotel was sold. Gad they had brilliant parties. Instead, I'm going to the mystery worldcon - Bouchercon - in Baltimore later in the year. :-D

Anyway, more soon. Another kiddies book review, anyhoo...

Love
Mari

9:50 PM  

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