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18 Aug, Thursday
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Montreal Families

Uplifting stories about libraries

A visit to the library can be a magical, even life-transforming experience for a child. There are rows upon rows of books, each one available to be taken home and read over and over again. Children also get to meet the librarians who are often eager to recommend new titles. For some children, however, the staid and hushed atmosphere of some libraries may feel intimidating or too serious. But with many libraries having special sections just for kids, it is a lot easier today for children to discover the treasures waiting on the shelves. For a good introduction to the library, expose kids to books that demonstrate how libraries can be whimsical and stimulating places where anything can happen. Here are a few suggestions.

Bats at the Library
(photo above – Houghton Mifflin, $21.95) by Brian Lies – Ages 4-7

When a band of bored bats find an open window at the local library, they quickly swoop in and take over the place. They flip through cookbooks and pop-up books before getting into mischief with the photocopier and the water fountain. But eventually each bat finds a book to read. Author and illustrator Brian Lies creates frames of the bats as they imagine themselves in classic stories such as The Wizard of Oz and Little Red Riding Hood. Told in short rhyming couplets, the book illustrates the wonders of the library, which are enough to entertain even a bunch of bored bats, who, as the sun begins to rise, hope that there will be other opportunities for them to pay a visit to the library in the moonlight.

Library LionLibrary Lion
(Candlewick, $18.50) by Michelle Knudsen – Ages 5-9

Librarians have long had a reputation for not tolerating any noise or raucous behaviour on their turf, giving exaggerated shushes to any patron who dares to speak louder than a whisper. But is this still really true? In this book, a lion decides that he wants to visit the library, and despite some initial worries and hesitation by the staff, the lion becomes a regular patron. One day, he lets out a few enormous roars, is scolded and becomes too embarrassed to return. His presence is missed and everyone at the library learns a few lessons about how libraries can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age, race, gender, class or even whether they are human or not! While the book’s tone is a tad didactic, its message is an important one.

The Librarian of BasraThe Librarian of Basra
(Harcourt Books, $21) by Jeanette Winter – Ages 5-9

Based on the real-life story of librarian Aria Muhammad Baker, this book describes her mission to save the books of the public library in Basra after the war in Iraq was launched in 2003. This involved transferring 30,000 books out of the library to safer places. The author provides the context of the conflict without delving too deeply into the horrors of war. Young audiences gain an eye-opening look into the realities occurring in other parts of the world, and parents should be prepared to answer questions regarding the war in Iraq. But the story is also full of hope for a better future for the country, when a new library can be built and its precious books can again be shared with all.

Please bury me in the libraryPlease Bury Me in the Library
(Harcourt Books, $18) by J. Patrick Lewis — Ages 6-9

This collection of poems celebrates the joys of reading, with the title poem paying tribute to the awe-inspiring nature of libraries and the lifetime of good reads they hold on their shelves. Lewis, who is a professional poet, honours the many forms of literature that can be found at the library. He gives a nod to the importance of a good title, introduces readers to the flea Otto, who is writing his “Ottobiography”, and includes a Haiku (a form of Japanese poetry) as well. The poems are full of wit and humour and the wordplays are cleverly illustrated by Kyle Stone. His drawings suggest that reading is done best when alone in the cloak of darkness when the mind is still and can run wild with the stories flowing from between the covers.

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