We go to our local library pretty much every week, and sometimes more often than that. It’s a lovely place to spend some time, with great staff, comfy seats and a very welcoming space for the kids, with toys interspersed amongst the books. It’s a perfect place for meeting up with other parents and kids, the only downside being that when we leave, the pushchair is always *much* heavier, loaded up with books on our maxxed out library cards.
Our most recent trip to the library netted us, appropriately enough, a book about being in a library: Delilah Darling is in the Library, by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Rosie Reeve. Only a few pages into this book it became clear it was going to be right up M’s street – it’s about a little girl, Delilah, who has a vivid imagination and whose own world is in some ways like the one you and I inhabit, only much more exciting.
Delilah and her brother get taken to the library by their au pair and it soon transpires that in Delilah’s imaginary world libraries operate by rather different rules than those we think of as normal; where Delilah comes from you get given free sticky buns in the library, and everyone is allowed to run about. There are trapezes to reach the books on high shelves and in fact books don’t get borrowed from libraries at all, instead everyone brings their blankets and bears and listens to stories until they fall asleep.
M loved the cheeky inventiveness of Delilah, who reminded me of Charlie and Lola, and in fact M herself said Delilah was a little like Pippi Longstocking. The truthful observations and linguistic puns made me giggle as I read the book to M – for instance the discovery of a library book with a squashed baked bean on an inside page, or the fact that the au pair is actually called an Old Pear by Delilah. The colourful illustrations contain plenty to enjoy on top of the text eg the au pair writing an email on the library computer to her boyfriend back home whilst the kids run riot in the library. If your kids like Tony Ross’ illustrations of the Little Princess stories you’ll probably like Rosie Reeve’s style here.
So yes, we’ve enjoyed this book. The only downside is that this story (slightly) implies that libraries in the real world (as opposed to Delilah’s) are rather stuffier than they actually are – at least in my experience. There are several Delilah Darling books by the same author/illustrator duo, but it is not necessary to have read any of them to enjoy this one (indeed, we haven’t yet read any of these other books, but we shall be on the look out for them now).
With this book on our regular reading pile and with the rain (again) outside we decided to turn our kitchen into a library so that M could act out Delilah to the full (well, not quite to the full – we didn’t install any trapezes…). We gathered together all the books M and her sister like from the various shelves around the house and then organised them according to whatever criteria took M’s fancy (some groups were subject related, other groupings were based on size, language (Dutch or English or “Other”), or even colour). In fact we only started organizing the books because once they were all around us we kept finding old favourites or ones which previously haven’t piqued the girls’ interests but suddenly in this new setting were very interesting. This getting side-tracked is actually at least half the fun of playing Library (we’ve done this several times previously on rainy days, before we knew about Delilah). It’s a great way of rotating books around the house – new books on the bedtime reading shelf, different books in the bathroom or by the kitchen table.
M said that we needed some nice seats and pictures on the wall to make it more like a real library, so we used the beanbags I finally managed to make having made a public promise to do so, and then created some large pictures of a few different book characters. You’ll see I’m not very gifted in the illustrative department but fortunately the girls don’t seem to mind. We draw/coloured in our pictures on a roll of thick wallpaper backing paper – one of my favourite buys this summer holidays because it was so cheap and a great canvas for large scale art projects which both girls can get involved with at the same time (I’ve seen lots of projects which call for Butchers paper, but we couldn’t get hold of any such paper, so this is where lateral thinking brought in the backing paper).
We chose our favourite books for display around the library and set up a desk for Library Anne (Geddit? – another of the puns from Jeanne Willis) to date stamp the books (lots of strips of paper and a pencil, having decided that putting a stamp and ink near the books was just too risky). I pulled out our old (and broken but don’t tell the girls) laptop for the desk – every librarian needs access to the catalogue after all and then we were pretty much set up for spending the rest of the day lounging around reading books all together. Bliss.
Whilst we’ve been building and playing in our library we’ve been listening to The Library Song by Tom Knight. I’m now finally going to get my act together to subscribe to Books for Keeps. And I’m also going to seek out Colin Thompson’s How to Live Forever – another, but very different book about libraries that we’ve had out once before but I now want to return to. This also seems like an appropriate post to link to some other kids’ books blogs that I enjoy reading: