Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Our Library

Bunting, Eve. 2008. Our Library.

Typically I love almost everything Eve Bunting writes. She's a prolific writer, and last year some of her books were among my favorites. But I must say that my impression of Our Library was...well, let's just say all aboard for dinkyville. I hope that doesn't sound too harsh. I do think *some* readers will read it and appreciate it for what it enthusiastic message-oriented book exclaiming the praises of books, reading, and libraries. And community activism. I do think, however, that there will be a few critics that think it crosses the line into both didacticism and dinkiness.

I love reading. I love books. I love libraries. So what's the problem? It's a bit silly, a bit unrealistic, a bit too gung-ho maybe.

Here's how it starts off,
Miss Goose stamped my library book. She leaned across her desk. "Our library is going to close forever," she whispered.
"Oh, no!" I said. "Why?"
"It's too old. It needs a new roof. And new paint," Miss Goose said sadly.
"Hmm," I said.
We turn the page...
We checked out two books. [How to Lay A Perfect Roof. Library Painting for Beginners.]
We read by day, and we read by night.
Turn the page...
The next morning, we got started.
We laid a perfect roof.
We painted the library buttercup-yellow, with sky-blue trim and a grass-green door.
But the library's problems don't end there. For each and every problem, there is a book that fixes it in no time at all. It takes complex issues--real-life problems--and simplifies them too much. It gives cutesy answers to actual problems. It's all about wish-fulfillment.

The library needs money to operate? Read "How To Make Money Fast." The land the library is built on is owned by a mean old goat who wants it back so he can do something else with it... Read "How to Move From One Place To Another." Find the perfect place for the library's new home...only it's owned by a grumpy beaver who just became a grandpa? Read "Read to Your Grandkids" and "How To Speak Wisely and Well To Grumpy Old Beavers."

The message of this one is that for every problem, you can read your way to a solution. And furthermore, not only will reading provide you with the answers and will guarantee success. Guaranteeing success and solving all of life's problem by picking up a book or two may be just fine in this fictional world where animals wear clothes, but it doesn't translate well into the real world. Life isn't that simple.

Not that I'm one of those party-poopers that demands realism in all books, I can suspend my disbelief a good bit of the time.

But it seemed a bit too sweet, too cute, too simple, too dinky for my own tastes. The book has its own logic. And it's cute enough. I'll admit some of the book titles the library has are cute and a bit funny. And some people earnestly do like simple and sweet and cute and good. So it's not that the book is badly written. It just didn't work for me personally. Though as I said earlier, her previous books often do. And the strange thing is that they some of them use cute clothes-wearing animals being sweet and lovey-dovey too. So I don't know why this one didn't work for me.

I did enjoy the illustrations by Maggie Smith. I thought they complimented the text well. And they were very charmingly done.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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