The Lost Library by Rebecca Stead
The Lost Library is a charming middle-grade mystery that celebrates the magic of books and the power of libraries. Told through the alternating perspectives of a ghost librarian, an inquisitive boy, and a library cat, the story centres around a little free library that mysteriously appears in the small town of Martinville, guarded by a fluffy orange cat named Mortimer.
Fifth grader Evan McClelland is drawn to the little library and selects some curious old books that contain clues about an unsolved mystery - a fire that destroyed the town's library twenty years prior. Evan teams up with his loyal best friend Rafe to investigate, slowly unravelling a puzzling connection between the fire, the town's history, and a famous author. However, the closer they get to the truth, the more resistance they face from the tight-lipped townspeople.
While the central mystery and its ultimate reveal feel a bit predictable at times, the book's strength lies in its quintessential heart and charm. Evan is a relatable and tenacious main character, while his friendship with kind, brave Rafe is endearing. The authors subtly explore many relevant themes for middle grade readers, from nerves about starting middle school to learning to accept help from friends and family.
The whimsical supernatural elements add intrigue without becoming too complex or frightening. And the pervasive, palpable love of books throughout provides a unifying thread - the story is as much a tribute to the power of libraries as it is a mystery. While the pacing suffers occasionally as various narrative threads come together, patient readers will find the payoff satisfying.
With its optimistic tone, quirky characters, and subtle life lessons, The Lost Library casts a magical spell. It is a love letter to libraries and literature that celebrates connection, community, and owning your truth. Though the story skews younger in its simplicity, mystery-loving bibliophiles of any age will find something timeless in this heartwarming tale. It serves as a reminder that books have the power to transport us to new worlds and change our own.
Reviewer: Chris Reed