A good old-fashioned book

Boy, I am finding as a new blogger that the problem is that one week you have no ideas and then suddenly you have six! So now I have found some things to talk about but I’m going to dole them out.

In looking for books to put on my best of the year list for Reading Today, I came across a new picture book…new, and yet it could easily have been written forty years ago. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen features a library with a card catalog–literally, not the computer one that people still call the card catalog. There’s a computer at the circulation desk, and a computer on the head librarian’s desk, but this lady with her hair in a bun and glasses and sensible flat shoes is from another era.

I would expect to be fairly offended by this old-fashioned portrayal of a library and especially of the librarian–she lectures about rules and says repeatedly, “No running!” And yet it’s an irresistible book, which begins with a magnificent lion walking into the library and liking it so much that he sticks around for storytime, and roars his disappointment when the stories are over: “RAAHHRRRRR!

The look of the book is also very old-fashioned. There isn’t a speck of gold on the cover. Nothing is embossed, no holes are cut into the pages, and there isn’t a huge gatefold anywhere in sight. There’s just thick, cream-colored paper with a touching story and acrylic and pencil artwork by Kevin Hawkes with just the right amount of detail. Gatefolds aren’t necessary when the white space on the page is used so effectively, as in the last two pages where the picture extends over both pages and almost bursts off of the page to show a very happy reunion between a once-stuffy librarian and a lion.

What a treat to see publishers like Candlewick going back to making books with great stories and elegant, restrained design!

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