What starts as a punishment becomes a refuge and second home in this kindhearted first novel. When 13-year-old Jamie violates her school honor code and steals an annotated book for her crush, Trey, not only must she write an apology letter to him (which his mean sister posts online), she must also spend her summer doing community service at the local library. Tan warmly sketches the library community, including über-organized and dedicated director Beverly, charming staff members Lenny and Sonia, and the cast of regulars, including homeless young man “Black Hat Guy,” who comes for a nap every afternoon, and movie buff, Wally, who always brings a fresh flower when he arrives to check out the “flicks.” The stakes elevate when the new mayor threatens to cut the library’s funding, and Jamie goes from rooting for its closure and the end to her service to championing the importance of the institution. A good-natured debut that will appeal to young lovers of books and libraries. Ages 8–12. (Apr.)
This middle-grade debut is a heartfelt but quiet love letter to libraries, and a book for book-lovers.
An unforgettable tale of friendship, self-acceptance, and the redemptive power of forgiveness—all found within the walls of a quirky, small-town library. A joyful, heartfelt debut!
If I wasn’t already madly in love with that sacred space known as The Public Library, I would be after reading this celebration of the lives of those who enter its open doors and leave changed forever.
[A] heartwarming story of redemption, and a celebration of the power communities have to lift us up, help us heal, and shape our dreams.
This middle-grade debut is a heartfelt but quiet love letter to libraries, and a book for book-lovers.”
Gr 4–6—As a consequence for breaking her middle school's honor code, Jamie must volunteer in her local library all summer. Initially disappointed to miss out on her usual poolside summer plans, Jamie eventually develops meaningful relationships with library staff and patrons and feels valued for her work. Tan uses Jamie's first-person narration to illustrate the important role the library plays in the town and slowly reveals the details of the girl's past indiscretions. The frequent back-and-forth between daily activities in the library and Jamie's memories slows the pace, and the secondary characters, seen only through Jamie's eyes, can lack depth. Jamie's own development is the strongest component of the book, and her sense of self as someone who has made a mistake but is also kind and capable will appeal to readers who are growing to see themselves in a similar light. VERDICT Not necessarily a first purchase, but recommended for collections where young readers seek a quiet, nuanced coming-of-age story.—Gesse Stark-Smith, Multnomah County Library, Portland, OR
A warm homage to libraries, the people who work in them, and their power to affect people's lives.
Thirteen-year-old Jamie violated her middle school's honor code and has now been assigned to community service at her local library over the summer. "And I had to write an apology letter to Trey." As the book unfolds readers find out what caused her to spend the summer at the Foxfield Public Library—and also how her letter of apology to her crush, Trey, is posted for the whole school to see and smirk at. But more importantly, readers are introduced to the different characters that populate the library. There is Beverly, the dedicated and committed director; Sonia and Lenny, the two other staff members, who are patient and understanding of all their patrons; Wally, the older patron who comes to the library every Tuesday to borrow movies and bring a fresh flower; and Black Hat Guy, a homeless young man who shows up every day around 4:00 in the afternoon. As the summer progresses, Jamie's connection to the library goes from enforced to enthusiastic. And, as with all books where everyone is nice, there is a happy ending. Most characters default white except for Sonia, who is Latina, and crush Trey, adopted as an infant from Korea.
A charming book that will appeal to library lovers. (Fiction. 9-12)