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'Here Lies the Librarian'          Send a link to a friend 

[JULY 19, 2006]  "Here Lies the Librarian," by Richard Peck, Dial Books, 2006, 145 pages, ages 9-13

Review by
Louella Moreland

What librarian could resist a book with this title? Certainly not I when I heard the author was Newbery award-winner Richard Peck. Once again Mr. Peck brings to life early 20th-century life in a small rural community, with the release of his newest novel, "Here Lies the Librarian."

The time is early 1900s, when the horse was first being replaced by the automobile. Small family enterprises were springing up along dirt roads to service these fragile, unreliable machines as quickly as pavement was laid across the prairie.

We meet up with Peewee and Jake McGrath at their struggling roadside garage in Indiana. On this particular day, at the beginning of the story, a big tornado was headed their way. It did little damage to their garage, but it did succeed in "unearthing" a number of residents in the Beulahland Cemetery.

Peewee noticed that the grave of the late librarian, Miss Electra Dietz, remained untouched. It did not surprise anyone that even a tornado wouldn't cross swords with Miss Dietz, who had been found dead two years earlier under the library catalog with a fist full of catalog cards. Peewee (who had been banned from the library for life) had not been sorry to see the board of trustees close the library and save the $650 salary they had been paying Miss Dietz. Peewee wasn't a lover a books.

The tornado was just the beginning of the changes that take place in the lives of Jake and Peewee. In fact, the next day, four young ladies from Indianapolis motor out to the country to see the damage and share a picnic lunch. These young sorority sisters just happen to be students in the library science course at Butler University. So begins a tale of libraries, young women with unconventional thinking and the early years of automobiles.

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If you think Mr. Peck's book to be full of zany characters and unexpected twists of fate, you must also be a reader of his past offerings. He has a natural way of weaving a story with humor that will have you laughing out loud (oops!) in the library.

Peck's characters are drawn with an expert brush that paints them three-dimensional in your mind. All of us have known an older person short on memory and long on love, or a sibling who looked out for us when we were young and whom we worshipped with all our heart. We can remember the experience of going to a dress-up occasion for the first time, the pride when we accomplished a job worth completing or the loneliness of someone leaving us.

Action does not take a back seat to cleverly built backgrounds, however. We can see the tornado barreling across the fields, taste the dry dirt thrown up by the wheels of the automobiles, smell the gas fumes from pre-muffler tailpipes, touch the filmy cobwebs of the root cellar and hear the roar of the motors as they whip around the track at the county fair.

For young or old, male or female, "Here Lies the Librarian" will leave a lasting impression in your mind. So slow down a little, come into the Lincoln Public Library, pick up this book or another by this talented author, and take a stroll down a rural Midwest country road in a time when life was a little less complicated and had time for a lot more fun!

[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public Library District]

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