Thursday, April 7, 2011

Library Lion

As a librarian, I love books about libraries or even books about books. The same way I'm drawn to art about reading or books, I'm drawn to books that talk about libraries. So the moment I saw Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Henkes, I knew I was going to own it eventually. Then I read the story and saw the illustrations, and I bought it immediately.

Library Lion tells the story of a lion who wanders into the public library and decides to stick around. The librarian, Miss Merriweather is okay with the lion staying as long as follows the rules: no running and especially no loud noises. The lion can visit as long as he stays quiet. The lion loves story hour and in the morning he helps Miss Merriweather around the library. Everyone loves the lion expect Mr. McBee. One day, Miss Merriweather falls and hurts herself. The lion runs for help but the only way to get attention is to roar. He roars loudly causing Mr. McBee to go searching for Miss Merriweather to tell on the lion. But the lion knows he's broken the rules. He leaves the library. When Miss Merriweather returns to work and notices that the lion is missing, she becomes depressed. So Mr. McBee goes out to find him and return him to the library.

I tear up every time I read this story. It's at the end when Mr. McBee invites the lion back to the library. And then when Miss Merriweather runs down the hall to greet him. I am so in love with this story. It's not just sweet pages like this: "Soon the lion began doing things without being asked. He dusted the encyclopedias. He licked the envelopes. He let small children stand on his back to reach books on the highest shelves. Then he curled up in the story corner to wait for story hour to begin." The image at the bottom of the page is of the back of the lion when he's sleeping. A young boy is gently resting against the lion's back while reading. It's just a perfect pairing of words and picture. Knudsen's story makes me cry and laugh and smile and cheer. That's an awful lot for a 32 page book to do.

As if this story couldn't get cuter, Henkes' illustrations will make fall in love all over again. His acrylic and pencil images use subdued colors to create the kind of library you would want to visit, and a lion you would want to curl up with. I'll even forgive him for making Miss Merriweather wear a bun. The lion is imbued with so much emotion. You quickly fall in love with him. The image of him sprawled across a pillow in the children's section with a slight smile on his face, is so wonderfully sweet. The humans are all well created but it's the lion that will make this book a favorite for children. He's realistic but not scary. Beautiful images and a sweet story. A must have.

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