National Library Lovers’ Month may be coming to a close, but it’s never too late to swing by your local library, call for curbside pickup, or log into your Libby/cloudLibrary/hoopla apps and put those tax dollars to good use. Whether you love the feel of a newly applied dust jacket, the swipe of a free and immediate ebook, or the thrill of pressing the play button on your audiobook, libraries have something for everyone. Yes, many even carry video games, hotspots, museum passes, digital streaming services, play kits, and things you would never think of like baking pans.
It’s no wonder so many people love libraries and it’s no surprise all of February is dedicated to those library lovers, but let’s take a moment to focus on some of the younger ones out there, the ones who dream of becoming a librarian and bettering a community, find solace hunched between the bookshelves and the pages of their latest pick, and pursue continual growth and improvement through expanding their world through books. Next time you check in at your library, see if they have one of these middle grade or young adult picks for a great story about the power of libraries.
The Library of Ever series by Zeno Alexander
For any kid who wants to grow up to work in a library, you’ll want to take notes while reading Zeno Alexander’s The Library of Ever series as Lenora very much embodies what it means to be a librarian. She assists others by not just solving their issues but by teaching them how to be self-sufficient, helping them in the now as well as the future, and she does it in the coolest of ways. She converses with penguins, rides both beluga whales and ants (think about that versatility), time travels with robots, and rockets to space with a tardigrade, all to find a path for those who are lost and to oppose the enemies of knowledge. If you like futuristic, mind-bending libraries with sky-reaching shelves, human-sized pneumatic tubes, shrinking rooms, and robot assistants, this is the library for you. Also pick this series up if your favorite type of humor is situational.
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Mr. Lemoncello's Library series by Chris Grabenstein
Think Willy Wonka, but instead of a chocolate factory, it’s the future public library of your dreams—oh, and also an insanely inventive escape room. That’s the focus of Chris Grabenstein’s Mr. Lemoncello's Library series. The first book starts out with famous game maker, Luigi Lemoncello, rebuilding his beloved childhood library, but now with VR and 4D interactive educational video games, holographic librarians from the past, hover pads that zip patrons to exact call numbers, animatronics of famous writers, and even mechanical geese in the children’s section that know exactly what to sing when you open a specific book. This story illustrates the exciting potential of future public libraries as well as their power to spark curiosity, imagination, and innovation.
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The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli
If you’re looking for a more contemporary setting or shorter stories to hop in and out of, Jerry Spinelli’s The Library Card includes four short stories of four separate kids and their individual experiences using a library card. One tells of Mongoose and how he combats peer pressure with the help of the card, the second shows us Brenda and her overcoming her TV addiction after discovering her love of books, the third focuses on homeless Sonseray and the refuge he finds in a library book, and the final follows April and a bookmobile experience that turns into a hijacking one. All stories emphasize the power of libraries to help overcome obstacles, especially for young people, and the lasting impact even one experience can have on a person’s life. They’re also told with care, humor, and relatability that allows young readers to see themselves in Mongoose and the others.
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Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes
Do you consider yourself a rebel librarian? June Harper from Allison Varnes’ Property of the Rebel Librarian sure does. After her parents label one of her school library books inappropriate, a full library upheaval is set into motion, calling for the suspension of the librarian, an event cancellation, and a thorough analysis of each book in the collection. Luckily, June stumbles across a Little Free Library (where banned books continue to appear), which in turn prompts her to start a banned book library in her locker, which then catalyzes a school-wide movement. An important message against censorship rings throughout this narrative and will inspire young readers and activists to fight for their freedom of speech and right to the pursuit of knowledge. Give Ban This Book by Alan Gratz a try for young elementary readers.
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Nightbooks by J.A. White
Come closer horror fans because this one’s for you. Nightbooks by J.A. White is a clever retelling of Hansel & Gretel blended with One Thousand and One Nights for an extra twist. When Alex finds himself imprisoned in the witch Natacha’s magical apartment, he must keep her and the hungry house entertained with his “nightbooks” (aka. his journals of original scary stories), and newly written tales. To spark his creativity Natacha sets him up in an old, expansive library of countless horror books, ones with secret notes from a past prisoner and her apparent escape (hey, don’t write in library books!). This tale is for those spooky fans, ones who dream of building their own horror library, but it’s also a great pick for budding writers who set themselves up at library desks as you’ll learn tips on how to combat writer’s block, develop twisty stories, and hone your writing skills.
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Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston
Similar to Nightbooks, Ashley Poston’s Bookish and the Beast is a retelling, a contemporary charming one of Beauty and the Beast, one of whose main settings is an old, personalized library of genre-specific books. Elias’ sci-fi collection is also set in a legitimate castle, so that earns it extra cool library points. There are three things that really make this book remarkable for library lovers: 1) the concept of building your own collection of signed, limited, and special edition books, especially of your favorite genres, authors, or series, 2) Poston’s beautiful, atmospheric description of dusty shelves, golden afternoon lighting, and faded books that are obviously loved, and 3) the emphasis placed on the ability of books to act as doorways inside your soul, to your loved ones, to unimaginable worlds, and to the past, present, and future.
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Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer
All right fantasy fans, here’s a YA to tickle your fancy. Yes, we’ve got another fairy tale retelling. Yes, it’s another Beauty and the Beast one, but the library in Joanna Ruth Meyer’s Echo North is set in a magical room in a magical house, and it’s filled with books that allow you to jump in and experience the stories firsthand. Although the new house attendant Echo’s main job is to deal with imploding rooms, like any good Belle character, she uses her spare time to read in this enchanted library. The imaginative thing about these books is that you can not only jump into them safely, but you can either choose to follow the main narratives or explore the rest of the books’ worlds/characters/subplots/etc., just as long as the writer developed those things further. If they mapped out the entire forest in an adventure tale, you can traverse it all, no matter if those details made it into the published book or not.
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