Monday, January 25, 2010

Library Lion

Library Lion
by Michelle Knudsen
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Ages : 4-8

There is something about animals in improbable everyday settings that just raises the gentle humour quotient and makes the story a surefire enterprise in enjoyment, and Library Lion is no exception to this genre.

Ms. Merriweather, the head of the library is very strict and particular about rules, topping which are two particular ones : no running in the library, and no noise. Fair enough, one would think. Except when it comes to lions. What are the rules about lions in the library anyway? No one knows. So when a lion turns up in the library one fine day, everyone is surprised, some nervous even, but they let it be, because he is not breaking any rules. And moreover, this is one conducive lion. He fits right in, and proceeds to make himself useful in many ways. He dusts off the encyclopedias with the furry ends of his tail, he licks the envelopes for sending notices, carries the children on his back so they can reach the top shelf...and the best thing of all is that he is a nice cosy backrest for the kids during everyone's favorite story hour.

So everything is going well, until one day when things go wrong. The story twists as the lion has to jump to the rescue in the only way he can. Which means that he has broken one of the cardinal rules. What happens that day? What does the lion do? What happens now that the rule is broken? This is what forms the rest of the story and in a way that has your emotions hanging on your sleeve, until you can be at ease on the last page that everything is just as it should be, that the shelves will once again be dusted, and the envelopes licked, and children hoisted up to reach the shelves and everyone cuddling up close to our beloved friend during his beloved story time....

Its a simple story, of an fantastic situation, with gentle humour to keep a smile always handy and the victorious exhilaration of everything being alright again in the end. And the illustrations tell this story perfectly. Kevin Hawkes' eye for creating just the right facial expressions, and the underlying current of persistent humour, makes you fall in love with the characters right away. The rule-wedded head librarian Ms. Merriweather, the sincere assistant Mr. McBee, the slightly nervous storyteller at story time, all the numerous kids who look like they have found a second home in this magical setting and our highly entertaining, unlikely-gentle, books-loving lion....you have a place in your heart for them all, when you get to know them through the book. And he adds little touches, like all the kids reading books with pictures of a lion in them, when the lion goes missing, to create the mood of his absence and their missing him. Or the way, he shows the entrance of the library with two imposing lion statues on either sides....much like the lions at the New York Public Library...tying in the theme cohesively.

With its warm and familiar theme of unlikely animals in improbable settings, this is a book that appeals to all ages, and I wouldn't be surprised if I caught myself daydreaming about a lion at the library the next time I go!

9 comments:

ChoxBox said...

This is an all-time favourite with us!

And what a lovely review!

sathish said...

A great fav @ home.

sandhya said...

I like the way Tharini has recreated the atmosphere at the library. It will interesting to read this one.

Playing by the book said...

Sounds great to us especially as my 5 year old is currently quite preoccupied with when it may or may not be ok to break rules. One of our favourite picture books about libraries is Delilah Darling is in the Library (we've reviewed it here:http://www.playingbythebook.net/2009/08/29/going-to-the-library/).

Praba said...

We love the library lion, Mr.McBee and Mrs.Merriweather. I showed K your review, T. Her instant comment, "Oh, I LOVE that book. It's funny. Mrs.H, the librarian read it to our class in my kindergarten year!"

And I have such fond memories of listening to this story at the school library along with the kindergarteners...(while strategically shelving books, close to the "storytime area"..:-)) I remember thinking gosh, it must be such a hit with all librarians considering it lays out the rules to be followed in a library in a humorous, non-preachy way and with a very unusual character - a lion!! Isn't that something? :-)

What a charming pick! Lovely attention to details and beautiful choice of words to describe the setting and the mood. A treat as always. Thanks, T! Will check it out for S.

Tharini said...

Chox, Sathish : I am glad to have discovered it too. :)

Sandhya : Thanks. It really is. Hope you do read it.

Playing by the book : I loved your home library. What an exciting idea. Hope you all enjoy this one! :)

Praba : Looks like its a huge favorite everywhere. I am glad I finally stumbled upon it. I read it for S here too first, and he was completely still for the entire book, so I am sure your S will gobble it up! :)

Sheela said...

Lovely review, T, thoroughly enjoyed your presentation of the book! The NY Public Library reference was neat 'coz as soon as I read the title "Library Lions" that's what popped into my head as Ana likes Between the Lions show on PBS :)

Meera Sriram said...

We have not read it, together at least! How wonderful it is when books have neat messages tucked in well under all the humor! I loved the part where you have described what the lion does at the library (dusting with the tail and such)..even I could not help but smile..I can imagine the giggles it can evoke. Will hunt for this book. Thanks T!

Aathira Nair said...

This looks like a wonderful book, especially for kids who love library visits and their parents have to keep reminding them about being silent in a library!

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