Read or Die: Book Reviews by Emily

"Here Lies the Librarian" by Richard Peck


(Grade 3 and up). Eleanor McGrath (better known as PeeWee) is more comfortable wearing overalls and working in her brother’s garage than she is in the dress she has to wear to school; after all, PeeWee knows she’s good at getting an automobile to work, but since her brother Jake practically raised her, PeeWee is less knowledgeable about the finer points of being like other girls. In 1914, PeeWee and Jake know that the automobile is well on its way to replacing the horse, even in rural Indiana, and despite the fact that their main competitors (the boorish Kirby family) keep trying to sabotage them, PeeWee and Jake are determined to have their garage up and running when the road is paved. Jake also wants to have an automobile ready to race in time for the county fair, even though that means building the whole thing himself. But after a tornado touches down nearby and damages the public library (which was closed after the last librarian dropped dead beside the card catalog) Jake and PeeWee’s plans for the summer change dramatically.

When a new generation of librarians comes to town to reopen the library, led by Irene Ridpath, who Jake may or may not be smitten with, the whole town is turned upside down. The four young librarians bring with them modern ideas about books (as in, the library could use more of them), electric lights in the library, and even a flush toilet, which is the first one that some library visitors have ever seen. Though PeeWee is suspicious of Irene at first, she soon overcomes her jealousy of the older girl’s big city ways and fancy clothes and finds that Irene is generous with what she has, and is eager to be friends with the McGraths. And when Jake is injured during the auto race at the county fair, it is Irene who shows PeeWee that being feminine doesn’t have to mean sitting on the sidelines.

The audio edition of this book was really a lot of fun to listen to. As a librarian, I really loved hearing about trailblazing librarians and how, at the beginning of the last century, they started to transform the libraries of the past, which were strict, silent places in which the protection of books was tantamount, into the libraries of today (where, at mine at least, we hold video game tournaments twice a week). Honestly, my only misgiving about this book is that thought I enjoyed it as an adult, I got the sense that if I’d tried reading it as a kid, I wouldn’t have been interested. (3.5 out of 5 stars).

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin (September 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142409081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545046619 (Source of Publication Data: Amazon.com)

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