I can’t believe it’s finally here!!!
The Dragon in the Library caught my attention on twitter at the start of the year simply for the incredibly imaginative context, I was drawn by magical realism and stories of witches, wizards and magical creatures.
However, the author Louie Stowell expanded on some details including the fact that the protagonist DOESN’T like reading and struggles to fit in. The Dragon in the Library became a book I was SO excited to get my hands on and when I did I devoured it quickly and I am so pleased that it is the first in a series.
I’m so glad to say it is everything I hoped for and more, perfect for the 7-9 age group and I cannot wait for Littlefae to be ready to meet Kit and her friends! Especially Dogon!
Kit wants to get dirty, she thinks books are torture because you have to sit still to read and sitting still is just not what Kit can do!
When her best friends Josh and Alita bribe her to come with them to the library she finds she is part of a magical secret, involving librarians who are really wizards, magic and the cutest dragon!
However, all is not well, someone wants to bulldoze the library for a shopping complex. But uninspired by books, reading and shelving does Kit care enough to save the library or will it take the awful truth that the property developer is really after the dragon and only she (and her friends) can save the library and in turn the world??
This book is a wonderful love letter to children’s literature and libraries with the twist that our protagonist is a tomboyish girl who seems and sees herself as quite unremarkable plus she hates reading, especially out loud.
Speckled and seasoned with references both implied and direct to classic, modern and recent children’s literature it warms the heart to spot the little references, nods and asides which may encourage reluctant readers like Kit to try them out once they’ve enjoyed this book.
Perfectly aimed at the young reader 7-9 age group with wiggle room either side. The language is perfectly pitched to the target age with a joyously youthful tone and nuances of childish innocence in thoughts, behaviours and language shown especially by Kit which is great to see her getting worried, frustrated and messing up.
The right intentions but not always the wisest choice shows how many children struggle and mess up but that things can be overcome.
A lovely touch is how the villain reminds me of Herod Sayle from Anthony Horowitz’s Stormbreaker in his Bond-like despicable villainy rendered with enough of a touch of silliness to suit the age group making him imposing but not scary like some real-life power crazed businessmen may be.
Inclusive on many levels including BAME leading characters this is a brilliant embracing book that will appeal to many different children, and if they don’t see themselves as Kit then there’s others to consider. Book loving, animal loving and curious children will find resonance with sweet Alita who may be little but she’s fiercely a friend or the intelligent and inquisitive Josh but there’s a special gap for those who don’t fit those expected qualities in Kit.
Many books claim to be about the odd child, about the child who is shy, bullied or quirky that turns out to be the chosen one, but Kit is more than these because she still doesn’t fit the mould of the usual hidden ‘Chosen one’ and certainly not for girls.
Ok she’s the middle child of 5, pretty much ignored and feels her needs are begrudged; she isn’t perfect like her big sister or cute like her younger siblings which so far is a familiar and real worry of children in this age group and characters written for them.
But she is also tomboyish and is drawn with short cropped hair – this simple fact made me step back and look at our books at how few girls featured have properly short hair. By that I mean not a bob or a coquettish pixie cut but short cropped hair that is properly androgynous and not because it’s been cut off on purpose to sell to feed the family or to resemble a boy like Mulan or as a plot point to cry over shorn locks/loss of innocence or beauty.
Particularly in Middle Grade or Young Reader. There are very few that jump to mind, George from Famous Five is one but that’s much more complicated middle grade and because she wants to be a boy, whilst Kit isn’t particularly feminine in the traditional tropes we don’t have an ‘I hate being a girl’ rant. A great comparison I can make is Nik from High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson who has a very close shaved cut but again it’s MG and is very recent too only published in April this year.
Furthermore Kit is boisterous but not in that ‘we love them because they are naughty’ way like we are expected to with say Horrid Henry. Kit whilst excited at the thought of fireball spells isn’t intentionally misbehaved.
She struggles with concentration but she isn’t like Percy Jackson struggling with dyslexia or similar as confesses she is so ‘average’ she doesn’t raise anyone’s attention to her needs; she likes mud to the disgust of others; she wants to climb trees and play with bugs; and she hates reading.
The last one is an important one as children who are reluctant readers like Kit are suddenly released from the pressure of ANOTHER perfect bookloving character they feel unable to live up to. She is such a wonderful character.
The artwork by Davide Ortu is playful and immersive and the balance between highly illustrated and longer stretches of text is an excellent compromise between engaging the reluctant reader, the lover of illustration and the lover of stories and hopefully blending them together.
This book is for particularly for the children who can’t keep still; the ones who feel like they can’t fit in; that whatever they try turns out wrong; for those who don’t want the same things they are expected to or that their friends aspire to and for those who even if they endeavour will never quite be Matildas or Hermione Grangers.
All those who need someone to believe in them or make room for them to be themselves, show that ‘success’ is relative and comes in many forms and to show others it’s perfectly ok to embrace your own kind of weird.
Oh and you are going to LOVE Dogon. Roll on more stories!!
The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell and illustrated by Davide Ortu is published by Nosy Crow books TODAY!!
I was incredibly lucky enough to be sent a copy by a Nosy Crow Books (thank you so much) opinions are completely my own.