With her parents off traveling the globe, Lenora is bored, bored, bored—until she discovers a secret doorway into the ultimate library. Mazelike and reality-bending, the library contains all the universe’s wisdom. Every book ever written, and every fact ever known, can be found within its walls. And Lenora becomes its newly appointed Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian.
She rockets to the stars, travels to a future filled with robots, and faces down a dark nothingness that wants to destroy all knowledge. To save the library, Lenora will have to test her limits and uncover secrets hidden among its shelves.
An Imprint Book
An Amazon Best Book of the Month
“Full of whimsy and pluck, The Library of Ever is a total delight!” —New York Times bestselling author Wendy Mass
“Zeno Alexander's The Library of Ever reads like someone mixed Neil Gaiman with Chris Grabenstein, then threw in an extra dash of charm. Reading it is like getting lost in an entire library full of books, and never wanting to leave!” —James Riley, New York Times bestselling author of the Story Thieves series
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Lenora was wretchedly unhappy.
She was wretchedly unhappy despite the fact that she was lounging in the back of a giant limousine, so wretchedly unhappy that she had thrown herself across an entire leather seat and was kicking away at one of the doors. She was wretchedly unhappy despite having incredibly rich parents and an inattentive nanny, despite everything. They'd stuck her with this nanny while they were gone. Normally an inattentive nanny would be wonderful, but this nanny insisted on dragging Lenora all over the city in her parents' limo so the nanny could see her friends and shop and do every boring thing an adult could possibly want to do. Lenora had to go along for all of it, and she was BORED. BORED. BORED.
She'd tried everything to make it an interesting summer. "Look!" she'd said to her mother, who was selecting her most glamorous dresses for the trip Lenora wasn't going on. "The planetarium is hiring an assistant. I could apply!"
"Nonsense, Lenora!" her mother had said.
"But why not? I love the stars." And she did, even though she could hardly see them, living in the big, bright city her entire life. "How about this? The art museum is hiring a tour guide!"
"And the zoo's big cat habitat is hiring someone to feed the tigers ..."
"But WHY?" asked Lenora, sure that she could do any of these things if given the chance.
"Because none of those places is going to hire an eleven-year-old," stated her father, who was in the other closet trying to decide which of his five hundred ties to bring. "Now, stop being silly and do try to get along with the nanny. She comes from a very good family."
And so Lenora found herself lying flat on her back across the incredibly comfortable limousine seat and staring up through the window at passing skyscrapers. She thought about how bored she was and kicked at the door of the limo again.
"Stop that," said the nanny as she tapped away at her phone. She was sitting several feet away on her own seat.
Lenora pushed herself up enough to look out at the passing city, its museums and parks with trees for climbing and sculpture gardens all blurring by. So many wonderful things out there in the vast world, and she was exploring absolutely none of them. All this on a day when she'd worn her favorite loose, comfortable dress, hoping for some excitement. "Where are we going now?" she asked. The nanny had spent the morning rushing from one horrid boutique to another, buying herself dresses for parties while Lenora sprawled on chairs with nothing to do. Yesterday it had been perfume shops all day long. Lenora wanted to know what fresh nightmares awaited her this afternoon.
"To the library," said the nanny. "Now shush, I'm one marshmallow away from winning a gold sparrow."
Lenora perked up. "The library? You? Why?"
"I'm checking out a book to impress the friend I'm visiting later."
Lenora sat up completely. "Can I go to the children's section?" With a stack of books beside her, she thought, she wouldn't be bored for days and days.
"No," said the nanny.
We'll see about that, thought Lenora. The nanny was, after all, quite inattentive.
Their chauffeur let them out on the front steps of the library and leaned back against the limo and unfolded his newspaper.
"Don't get comfortable," the nanny warned him. "We won't be long." She pulled a candy bar from her purse and began to munch.
Lenora and the chauffeur exchanged sympathetic eye rolls as the nanny marched up the steps (the nanny chomping on her candy bar as they passed a NO FOOD IN THE LIBRARY sign) with Lenora in tow. But she was only in tow at first, then gradually less so as they climbed the stairs. By the time they reached the front desk, she had gotten herself completely out of tow. At that point it was easy to slip away.
She raced down one row of shelves and then another, putting distance between herself and the nanny before she could make a beeline for the children's section. Lenora loved the children's section. She loved libraries and being surrounded by silence and people reading. She threw her arms wide and inhaled deeply. This particular library was very new and did not smell enough like books yet to suit Lenora. But it did have lovely, large windows through which sunlight poured in eagerly, and beautiful cedar beams that stretched up to the high ceiling. Her parents hardly ever brought her here, and Lenora was determined, when she grew up, to go to the library anytime she wanted.
Her evasive route took her around the long way. She was in a section with books on philosophy (I'll read those when I'm older, she thought) and then books on math (she adored math but wasn't here for that today). She turned down a row she was certain led to the children's section, but instead it turned into a room full of books in a foreign language. She ran back and ended up surrounded by poetry. She flew past history and theater and hung a left at biology. The children's section was nowhere to be found. Instead the stacks and shelves seemed to get taller and taller and the rows longer and twistier.
She was lost. This gave her a jolt of pleasure.
As she stood contemplating everything she knew about how to escape from mazes (you could try taking every right-hand turn, for example), she suddenly heard voices. She rounded a corner and found a younger boy trying to get into a small room full of complex-looking books on astrophysics. But a man blocked his way.
The man had a fat, purplish face and looked quite angry. His head was jammed into a bowler hat and his body was wrapped in a too-tight overcoat, quite odd for a warm summer day. On his coat was a badge that said LIBARIAN. "You can't go in there," he told the boy.
"But I just want to see," pleaded the boy.
"You are far too young for those books. You wouldn't understand them. Besides, they're full of lies. Now go away!"
Lenora spoke up. "Really? They're all lies? Then why are they in the library?"
The man's head turned slowly toward Lenora. The rest of his body was perfectly still. Then something moved under his overcoat, like a snake wriggling across his stomach. She felt a tremor inside and took a step back.
"They won't be for long," the man said softly, his eyes narrowing. "I'll be removing them soon."
Lenora gulped, then looked at the boy, who was gazing at her with hope. "But you're not even a librarian," she said to the man, her voice hardly shaking at all.
"Of course I am," the man murmured. Lenora thought something flickered behind his eyes. He pointed at his badge.
"That's not how you spell librarian," said Lenora.
The man's eyes flickered again, like a snake's tongue. "It's an alternative spelling."
"I'm going to find a real librarian," replied Lenora, taking the boy by the hand and turning away. Partly she wanted to find a real librarian, and partly she wanted to get away from this man as quickly as possible. But then she heard a rush of air, and when she turned back, the man in the bowler hat was nowhere to be seen.
The boy looked up at Lenora. "What should I do?"
Lenora was resolute. "You should go on in and read whatever books you like."
"But the man said I was too young, and the books are all lies."
"Hmm," said Lenora. "A real librarian wouldn't tell you something like that. I think if a librarian were here, she would tell you to go in."
"Really?" said the boy, gazing at Lenora with wide eyes. "Are you sure?"
The boy dashed off happily and was soon immersed in a book on Einstein's gravitational lenses. Satisfied, Lenora returned to thoughts about alerting a real librarian to the man's presence and also finding the children's section before the nanny could chase her down.
A great thundering, like a granite boulder splitting open, startled Lenora. It echoed from the direction she'd just come.
Curious, she went to see what it was. And it was something that Lenora was sure hadn't been there before. Where there had been a regular, blank wall, there was now a towering wall of old stone. Into it was carved an enormous archway. Above it, a phrase had been deeply chiseled:
KNOWLEDGE IS A LIGHT
Lenora's skin prickled at the words.
She stepped forward cautiously. The hall beyond the arch curved away into darkness. She couldn't see where it led. But she could smell something wonderful — the scent of many old books, a musty and thrilling odor, the sort of thing you would love to sniff if you poked your head up into an unfamiliar attic. And she could hear sounds, clacking and squeaking, but nothing she could identify.
Her heart pounded. Beyond this arch lay something she had never seen before, something new. If the nanny were here, she would order Lenora to turn back immediately.
Lenora stepped through the arch.CHAPTER 2
Lenora Enters the Library
Lenora crept through the dark, running a hand over the cool, weathered stone. The exhilarating smell of old books got stronger. Soon she noticed a glow ahead of her and heard the murmur of many echoing voices. Lenora walked faster and the light grew brighter, and then she could see the end of the tunnel ahead, and an immense stone bridge beyond. She began to run and emerged onto the bridge, nearly falling to her knees.
The bridge spanned a vast, round tower. On either side of Lenora, two soaring walls of books curved around to meet again in the distance, on the faraway end of the bridge. All along the walls were hundreds of those rolling ladders people use to reach tall bookshelves. The ladders clacked and squeaked, sliding along busily, with librarians climbing up and down them and plucking books from the shelves or putting them back. They were coming in and out of doors, thousands of doors, set in stone walls between the unending shelves. Here and there were broad balconies with librarians hurrying along past circular windows the size of Ferris wheels, their arms full of books. None of them took any notice of Lenora as she gazed at all this in astonishment.
She threw back her head. The shelves rose higher than the eye could see. Sunlight beamed in from more giant windows set haphazardly in the walls. There were more bridges, too, like the one she was on, arching gracefully between the walls in all directions. She could see round shapes floating past the shelves, too far away to make out exactly, but they reminded her of balloons.
Gathering herself, she trotted to a railing and leaned over to look down. There was no end to the walls below, either, but she could see more stone bridges, down and down, with specks crossing the lowest ones that must be other people. She staggered back dizzily as a blimp rose into view, with an elegant wooden cabin attached beneath. Through its portholes she could see it was full of bookshelves, too. A librarian navigated the blimp by a wheel like a sailing ship's mounted at the helm.
Lenora walked a little farther along the bridge, until she got to a place where she could have a good look through one of the gigantic round windows in the tower's walls. She saw the outside walls of several more towers — like the one she was in, she supposed — and besides those, the tops of all kinds of other buildings, like pyramids and stately, columned edifices that looked like ... like ... well, she couldn't recall the name, but it was a building on a hill in Greece. All these were closely connected by bridges and webs of strange glass tubes through which dark shapes — she couldn't tell what from this far away — sped along.
She was trying to make sense of this startling view when motion at the other end of the bridge caught her eye. A thin, very tall librarian with dark skin was striding through the opposite archway. The woman came swiftly toward Lenora and soon was towering over her. "You!" the woman said, pointing down. "You are not allowed in this part of the library!"
Lenora leaned back to look up at her. The woman was at least ten feet tall, and she wore tall heels and carried a load of books under one arm. Everything about her was thin and sharp, from the sharp tips of her high heels to the point at the end of her nose. There were even two sharpened pencils thrust through the perfect bun of brown hair on top of her head. Her lips were pursed and she looked very stern.
"Why aren't I allowed?" asked Lenora.
"Because," the librarian replied, "you don't work here. You're only allowed in this part of the library if you work here."
Lenora thought about the nanny and shopping and the unending boredom that lay ahead of her in the back of that limo. "Can I have a job, then?"
The librarian eyed Lenora carefully. "Tell me — how did you even get in here?"
"There was a loud crack, and an archway appeared." Lenora gestured over her shoulder. "And I just walked in."
The librarian raised her eyebrows ever so slightly. "I see." She looked at the arch, then back at Lenora. And after a moment's thought, she asked, "Do you swear to follow the librarian's oath? Do you swear to work hard? Do you swear to venture forth bravely and find the answer to any question, no matter the challenge?"
Lenora stood straight as an arrow. "I do."
The librarian drew herself up even taller. "Do you swear to find a path for those who are lost, and to improvise and think on your feet and rely on your wits and valor?"
Lenora couldn't help but hop up and down with excitement. "I do! I do!"
"And," said the librarian, fixing Lenora with a severe stare, "do you swear to oppose the enemies of knowledge with all your courage and strength, wherever they might be found?"
Lenora ceased her hopping. That last part sounded like the most serious promise of all. "I do so swear," she said solemnly.
"Then you're hired," said the librarian. "Come along."CHAPTER 3
Lenora Takes Over
Lenora trailed after the immensely tall librarian. She seemed to be steeped in authority, and as other librarians passed by they bowed their heads in respect. Though Lenora was used to being short herself, next to this woman she felt positively miniature. Together, the librarian and Lenora went through the archway on the opposite end of the bridge, leaving behind the bustling tower of books. Lenora turned around for one last look at the spectacle.
"Come along, Lenora," the librarian said. "There's no time to waste in this job."
Lenora came along. She wanted to make a good impression on her first day at work. "How do you know my name?"
"It is on your badge," came the prim reply.
Lenora looked down. On her chest, right in front of her heart, there was a small and exquisite name badge.
FOURTH ASSISTANT APPRENTICE LIBRARIAN
The badge made Lenora feel very professional, though she was nervous about the Fourth Assistant Apprentice part. It sounded like a rather lowly position, and she sensed she'd need to work hard to move up.
They were in a stately, stone-walled hallway now, big as a subway station and lined with carts covered with jumbled loads of books. Librarians hurried by, pushing more carts, bowing their heads at the woman. Everything was lit by huge skylights overhead. Lenora ran ahead to peer at the tall librarian's badge. The woman took very long strides, and Lenora had to march double-time just to keep up. She peered at the badge far above her.
Lenora was impressed. She wondered if she had what it took to be Chief Answerer someday. "Malachi," she said. "That's an odd name for a woman."
"Indeed," replied Malachi. "Very." She seemed to be thinking hard. "I'm trying to decide where to place you, Lenora. Tell me, what happened in Spain on October 5, 1582?"
Lenora was crestfallen. "I don't know," she confessed. Her first question, and she had already failed.
"Then we'll start you off at the Help Desk for calendars," Malachi said. "You'll be answering any and all calendar-related questions."
"But wouldn't it make more sense for me to work on things I already know about?" Lenora asked.
"Not at all!" Malachi arched one eyebrow. "Whyever would you want to do THAT? You'd learn absolutely nothing!"
Lenora supposed Malachi had a point. If she never had to answer questions about things she didn't know, she'd never get better at her job. She'd be a Fourth Assistant Apprentice all her life. Horrifying visions of her gray-haired self plodding these halls as an elderly Fourth Assistant were interrupted as they emerged from the hallway into a corridor as long as the previous room had been tall. It was like a subway tunnel, but ten times as big. All along it in both directions sailed balloons of all colors. Stacks of books tied with string dangled from them. Lenora gawked at this as Malachi hurried her along to the left and down a spiral staircase.
"May I ask a question?" asked Lenora, panting a bit from the hurry.
"Always," came the crisp reply.
"There were words above that archway I came through — 'Knowledge Is a Light.'"
"Yes, there would have been. And as a curious librarian, you are wondering what they meant."
"Oh ... yes!" said Lenora, wondering just how many of her thoughts Malachi knew.
"It would be best if you figured that out for yourself, Lenora," Malachi said, and nothing more.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Library of Ever"
Copyright © 2019 Zeno Alexander.
Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Lenora Arrives,
2. Lenora Enters the Library,
3. Lenora Takes Over,
4. Lenora Ventures Forth Bravely,
5. Lenora Saves the Day,
6. Lenora Takes to the Skies,
7. Lenora Sails the Seas,
8. Lenora Travels the Globe,
9. Lenora Ascends the Summit,
10. Lenora Tackles the Unknown,
11. Lenora Dodges Danger,
12. Lenora Gets It,
13. Lenora Leaps,
14. Lenora and the Enemy,
15. Lenora and the Dark,
16. Lenora and the Light,
17. Lenora Leaps into Action,
18. Lenora Races Across the Sands,
19. Lenora Falls into a Trap,
20. Lenora Goes,
21. Lenora Leaves,
About the Author,