The Power of a Library

First, a question unrelated to this book review: I’m taking a trip to Washington D.C. next month, and usually when I go on vacation I like to read a book set in the place I’m visiting.  So I was wondering–any suggestions for books taking place in Washington D. C.?  Preferably something I can find at my library…

Which leads me to today’s book review!  It may be that I have a soft spot for Jerry Spinelli’s The Library Card because I’m so fond of libraries myself.  The book is a set of four long short stories (not quite novellas, so what do you call them?)  They’re only connected thematically, and by the presence of a mysterious blue card.  Each owner of the card sees it somehow as The Library Card, and in different ways it ends up changing their lives.

Mongoose and Weasel (not their real names) are on their way to being juvenile delinquents when Mongoose finds the library card.  It brings him to the library, which opens a whole new world of information to him.  This story is especially good because of the character development.  What’s happening to Mongoose is positive, but it’s also pulling him away from Weasel.  We see some of that from Weasel’s point of view, and can feel his pain at losing his friend.  I actually end up feeling sympathy for the kid who’s really trying to lead his friend down a bad path (though not malevolently).

Sonseray is another character who prompts unexpected sympathy.  On the surface of it, he’s a complete screw-up, apt to pick fights and get into trouble.  But the reader also gets to see how much he misses his mother, who died.  The library card leads him to a book that helps him connect with her memory.

I felt less sympathy for Nanette.  The library card helps her become friends with April, but I couldn’t feel the basis of their friendship the way I could with Weasel and Mongoose.  Weasel wasn’t deliberately a jerk, but I couldn’t really see Nanette’s redeeming qualities.  This story was all right, but my least favorite.

My favorite story was Brenda’s.  She’s so obsessed with television that she has a deep emotional crisis when her parents make her turn off the TV for a week.  This one is funny, and makes a very good point.  The library card helps her realize that she has been so busy living the lives of her TV characters, she’s stopped living her own life.

The stories are sweet, funny, sometimes sad.  And they all have a good message about the power of a book to change a life.

Author’s Site:

5 thoughts on “The Power of a Library

  1. ensign_beedrill

    I read The Library Card a long, long time ago; I loved this guy’s books when I was a kid. Maniac McGee remains one of my favorites.

    I don’t recall any books set in DC, but Google might help. My favorite place in DC is the National Air and Space Museum, so check it out if you have a chance.

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