Library Lion

Last updated on April 12th, 2023 at 05:05 pm

Flipping through the latest Library Journal last night, a blurb about one of their bloggers who are running a series about references to libraries in literature caught my eye. The mention made me think of an excellent children's book on the subject: Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.

Lions have always seemed an inveterate symbol of Library Lionthe Bibliotheque — consider the stone sentinels outside the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue as one obvious example. Perhaps it is cliché, but where there are books, cats never seem to be too far away. Among more than 50 colleagues and bookish-minded friends, I think I can count perhaps one or two who don't have or take a shine to felines.

Lionizing the library

In any case, it's likely that the book-cat continuum makes Library Lion almost perfect in concept. The storyline strikes just the right balance between the real and the absurd. A lion wanders into the public library and develops an unnatural attachment to story hour. Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, sees no problem, so long as the beast keeps quiet and follows the rules. No random roaring, in other words.

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Mr McBee, the circ-desk chief, isn't so sure. He's more of the hard-line librarian breed and sits back and waits for the lion to make the inevitable false step.

A crisis ensues, of course, and the lesson learned is a charming one in both tolerance and discretion. Along the way, Knudsen and Hawkes have great fun with the old-librarian stereotypes. Miss Merriweather has just the sort of severe bun and half-moon specs you've come to expect. But her wit and sensitivity will surprise. Mr McBee, well, he's the one who needs to break out of the dusty mould.

Happy reading

Elizabeth Frengel is a curator of rare books at The University of Chicago Library Book Arts and History


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