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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Mysterious Librarian (The)
by Dominique Demers
Age Range: 6-8
The mysterious and eccentric Miss Charlotte, a kind of modern-day Mary Poppins, turns up again after her adventures in The New Teacher; this time with a new identity as a librarian.
When Miss Charlotte, arrives in the village of Saint-Anatole to take over the tiny library the locals are surprised to find out that she does things rather differently. The portly mayor Mark Peevish, with a partiality to ginormous pastrami sandwiches, tells Miss Charlotte that there is no money to buy books for the library so she takes matters into her own hands by walking up and down the high Street with a sandwich board on which is written in large letters – ‘HELP! THE LIBRARY IS DYING OF HUNGER’. Although this isn’t exactly successful as a fundraising exercise, it does attract the attention of a journalist from the Daily Chronicle which results in a front page story that forces the mayor to backtrack.
Sometimes Miss Charlotte gets so caught up in the magic of the stories she shares with the children that she forgets all sense of reality. She often takes books for a walk in a wheelbarrow and keeps a pet spider and mice in the library. When concerned parents pay a visit they find all manner of things from beach umbrellas, garden chairs, blankets, cushions, torches, candles, food and animals, but the most important thing of all is that every child is reading.
The Mysterious Librarian is the second title in Canadian writer Dominique Demer’s ‘Adventures of Miss Charlotte’ series. Although very funny to read, it does carry a serious message highlighting the threat to public libraries through lack of funding, particularly relevant in the UK. Miss Charlotte is ‘flabbergasted’ when she discovers there is no money to buy books, exclaiming “But… but books… books are essential!” And no one could argue with that! This is a delightful celebration of books and libraries enriched by the amusing pen and ink illustrations of Tony Ross.