March 31, 2021

The Librarian's Stories

Written by Lucy Falcone
Illustrated by Anna Wilson
POW! Kids Books
978-1-576879450
32 pp.
Ages 4-8
February 2021
 
Though many young readers will recognize the name L. M. Falcone as the writer of supernatural mysteries like Walking with the Dead (Kids Can Press, 2005), Lucy Falcone has recently pursued writing emotionally-charged picture books like I Didn't Stand Up (Clockwise Press, 2018) that remind that what really counts, like justice and compassion. In The Librarian's Stories, it's humanity and literacy.
From The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Anna Wilson

Though life in this town was once a typical one for children of play and birthdays, the greyness of war settles over the community in which a library is destroyed, scattering pages, words and letters out and away. Life is now one lived in fear, of long lines for water, of cold rooms without electricity, and sparse food availability.
 
Then one day there are spoken words sprinkled in the air from the local square. Papa may call the librarian who sits there reading aloud foolish but they stop to listen.
From The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Anna Wilson
Without much food and only the cold and grey as backdrop, the child joins others watching from their own windows and tucked into doorways and against walls, all listening.

Her words carry me back...

Briefly, the boy remembers his birthday, with balloons and kites and even birds flying.
From The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Anna Wilson
But even as he and other children and adults listen, the reality of their lives, from the danger of standing in open windows, tanks in the streets, barbed wire and marching soldiers, encroaches back in. Still the librarian returns and reads aloud.
From The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Anna Wilson

Eventually the soldiers are gone and the town repairs itself, including the child helping by reading aloud himself. But the best thing to help the goodness return is the rebuilding of that library.
From The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone, illus. by Anna Wilson
War and conflict bring hardship and destruction but it is often seen in terms of shortages, deaths and injury, and the ruination of structures. But Lucy Falcone reminds us that the extinguishing of hope offered through literacy can be just as traumatic. The librarian knows the power of words to renew and enliven, and her perseverance and determination herald the new spirit for the town. By choosing to show us what is impactful for a child, Lucy Falcone gives a perspective that is elementary but profound by contrasting the darkness of conflict with the light of literacy.
 
New Zealand illustrator Anna Wilson similarly accentuates the anguish of a community in strife with the brightness of children and the luminosity of stories. In The Librarian's Stories, she gets the tone right for transitioning the story from one of the grim reality of war to one of hope and brightness, and her depiction of darkened letters fractured from the library's ruins and of blue or white words wafting from a reading are especially telling.
 
Most readers know the healing capacity of books and words but The Librarian's Stories reminds us that they can do much to restore communities from trauma as well.  Without words, without stories, without reading, we are all desolate.

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