A few things happened when I read (re read actually I bought this book in Canada in 1994 and my copy has an author signature) this book. Firstly I have been thinking about the culling or weeding we recently did in our school library. While I know we need space and bulging shelves are not attractive I also hate the idea of removing gems from our collection. While I was thinking about this I heard a radio program about the culling that recently occurred in a University library. The speaker described how libraries are places where it is fun to simply discover things. If everything is in a stack or only available if you know the title then you cannot serendipitously stumble upon treasures. His arguments related to research but I think this is equally true for fiction and for young library users.
This is the process described in Nicholas at the Library. Nicholas and the head librarian randomly search through the library discovering all sorts of wild tales.
Nicholas is not keen on the library at all. He loves to build forts so while his mother is occupied in a different part of the library, Nicholas piles up books from the A, J and O sections. As he moves twelve books from the O section he spies a little chimpanzee “the kind that could ride in a pencil case or bathe in a cereal bowl.” Nicholas tell his mother but she takes no interest, he tells the check-out man but he cannot deal with items that do not have a book card so finally Nicholas tracks down the head librarian.
She is sitting on a pile of books on top of her desk reading a book. What a delightful image. The head librarian immediately recognizes that this is a lost story-kind of chimpanzee. She shows Nicholas a magic ring and together they embark on a wild adventure through the pages of books like Robinson Crusoe, Goldilocks, and more. “They raced through Christmas books. They climbed mountains and drove trucks and rode in covered wagons. They sailed through ocean books. They sped through books of colour and shape. They traversed whole alphabets and went to bed 127 times. Some books felt scary the moment Nicholas jumped into them, and others were like a hot summer day, or a song, or the smell of pepper.”
It seems they might not be able to find the right book in time. Nicholas even wonders if the book they need has been checked out or discarded! Naturally enough they do find the right book which they then settle down to read together. Thank goodness it had not been discarded.