The Librarian’s Stories
The Librarian’s Stories
As Papa and I walk home, we hear words.
The words grow louder. They come from the square in front of our apartment.
It’s the librarian.
Papa shakes his head. “Foolish woman,” he says, but he stays to listen.
We don’t have much food to eat today. Mama stops me from watering the small plant on our kitchen table.
In the morning, gray light pours through the window. I crawl out from under my blanket and move the curtain aside.
I see my cousin, Anna, standing in the doorway like a statue.
Everything looks frozen - except the librarian.
Based on the story of Vedran Smailović, the Cellist of Sarajevo, The Librarian’s Stories follows a little boy who is living through a war. Much of the town is destroyed, including the local library, and everyone is scared. There is no electricity, running water, and little food. One day, while the boy is on his way back with his father from getting water, they hear words. The words are coming from a librarian who is sitting on a bench in the middle of the square. The children stay to listen, but the adults worry about possible danger.
Each day, the people wait until the soldiers and tanks pass by their houses, then they come out of hiding and wait for the librarian to tell her stories, and even the adults begin to listen longer. The words help the people of the town remember happier times without the soldiers and tanks, and the stories give them hope. As the librarian reads every day, it is a distraction that everyone looks forward to.
The beautiful ink and watercolour illustrations are dominantly in grey scale to show the doom and gloom of the town during wartime, but the pops of colour help create a glimmer of joy as readers are taken through the hardships of day-to-day life. The librarian on the bench is seen wearing a bright pink scarf so she is easily visible. Anna Wilson cleverly makes the librarian’s words swirl and flow across the pages as if reaching for anyone who will listen. Readers can see words such as ‘remember’, ‘music’, and ‘stars’, indicating that the stories that are being told are happy and encouraging.
Throughout the story, readers can pick up on the importance of the power of words. At the beginning, the town’s library is destroyed. Falcone wanted to stress the importance that libraries of the past and present have on a community and that those who sought to destroy them understood this importance and felt threatened by ideas and knowledge. In Falcone’s story, it is the courage of the librarian and her stories that gave the people hope and a renewed sense of purpose.
Young readers and adults, book lovers especially, will certainly enjoy this beautiful story. The short sentences and detailed pictures in The Librarian’s Stories will enable young children to easily understand, and it is a great transition for discussion on topics such as war, the importance of books, and hope.
Julia Pitre is a children’s librarian with London Public Library in London, Ontario.