Thursday, August 14, 2014

Picture Book Review - The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara

One thing that I think is often overlooked in the discussion about diverse books for kids is that we need to be reading books by diverse authors. Of course kids need to see a wide representation of individuals as characters in books, but they also need to know that children's book creators themselves come in a wide variety of shades, genders, abilities and so forth.

It's especially great when you can flip to an author photo and show your child someone who looks like them, or read about someone who was born in another country like they were. This might require us as parents and educators to look beyond our familiar stable of authors and illustrators, but I promise you, the results are worth it.

Get a load of that cover! Tonight's pick, The Midnight Library, is written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara, a very talented author/illustrator who just happens to be from Japan. Sprout has a soft spot for the country since one of his favorite adults, Miss Yuki, is also from Japan -- in fact, for a while he was telling us he wanted to be an astronaut and live in Japan when he's a grown-up. (Not sure how active the Japanese space program is, but he likes sushi so I think he'd be happy there!).

Sprout loved the other Kohara book we read (Ghosts in the House!), and naturally I wanted to read The Midnight Library because, hello, library. I'm pleased to report that our expectations for this one were met and even exceeded. Kohara's managed to create a book with a very classic feel but that's also got modern sensibilities. The story centers around a little girl who runs, with the help of three owl assistants, a library that opens at midnight. Why midnight? Who knows, who cares - it's charming enough of an idea that it doesn't need explaining.

The patrons in The Midnight Library  have various issues, all of which the little librarian and her assistants handle ably and efficiently. Book too sad? They all read the book together to get past the sad part. Can't leave the book behind when it's time to go? Sign up for a library card. No matter the problem, the librarian has an answer -- reinforcing all the myriad ways that libraries can meet people's needs. That's a message I never get tired of hearing, and I love that Kohara has reinforced it in such a sweet title. And those illustrations. . . the woodblock technique coupled with the retro color palette makes for a real winner in our book.

Check out The Midnight Library for a title bursting with whimsy and sly bookishness - it's a great way to end any evening storytime!

The Midnight Library by Kazuno Kohara, published by Roaring Brook Press
Ages 3-5
Source: Library
First lines: "Once there was a library that opened only at night. / A little librarian worked there with her three assistant owls."

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