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Book Review: Where Are My Books?

By (August 5, 2015) No Comment

Where Are My Books?where are my books

By Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015

Where Are My Books?, the first children’s book that celebrated illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi has also written, is the story of a young boy named Spencer, the proud owner of a budding bedside library. His library features such titles as Ookla the Octopus, Send in the Clown Fish!, Beluga Beluga!, Space Frog Sam, and Night-Night Narwhal (Spencer wears narwhal pajamas, and he’s never far from his stuffed narwhal). His mother and father read books to him every night, and sometimes he reads along out loud.

where 1He’s a born librarian. Every night he replaces his books back in correct order on the shelf by his bed (it’s not correct alphabetical order, but he’s young yet). But one morning he wakes up to a disturbing find: Night-Night Narwhal is gone!

Spencer is naturally despondent, but his parents try to recover his spirits with other books from his collection. He appreciates the gesture, but unfortunately he also has the budding bookish obsessiveness of a librarian, so the substitutes don’t really work:

That evening, he chose Tenacious Todd. It was okay. But Todd was a toad, and toads were amphibians, and amphibian books were supposed to be for right-after-lunch story time.

And the problem persists: one by one, his books keep disappearing at night! Finally, only Space Frog Sam is left, and Spencer comes up with a plan: he ties his stuffed narwhal to the book with a string, places the book back on the shelf, and goes to sleep, confident that the book-thief will fall for his little trap. And it works – off goes the stuffed narwhal, with Spencer in hot pursuit.

What he finds surprises him: the squirrels in the back yard have been stealing his books. Not towhere 2 eat them or use them for nesting material, but to read them (they’re not bad squirrels, however; in a neat little visual move, Ohi ‘reminds’ us to look back and see that sure enough, every time a book went missing, something – a flower, a loose bolt – was left in its place).

Spencer is understandably surprised, but he takes the where 3situation in hand:

Spencer didn’t know squirrels like to read. It gave him a great idea. Spencer told the squirrels they could borrow his books. But there would be rules.

The scene where the squirrels go from dancing and rejoicing that they’d be allowed to borrow Spencer’s books to sitting attentively at the mention of rules is indicative of the rest of this delightful little hymn of praise to readers and, ultimately, libraries. Ohi’s artwork is plain and very effective, with warm, rough outlines serving to make her characters stand out from soft crayon-style backgrounds. And Spencer’s, shall we say picky relationship with his books will have every book-person who sees it nodding in agreement – and smiling at how sympathetically the book portrays it all.

And the book will help to make more book-people, which is always a good thing – even if those young book-people grow up with badly optimistic ideas about the civility of squirrels.