cover image The Library Card

The Library Card

Jerry Spinelli. Scholastic, $15.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-590-46731-5

With this collection of four vaguely unsettling tales, Spinelli (Maniac Magee) offers a glimpse into the magical and unexpected ways contact with books can change lives. Many of the characters are less than likable, yet Spinelli tells their stories with sympathy and humor. The turning point for each of the troubled, lonely children comes with the discovery of a blank blue library card. In one story, a girl has ceased to exist on her own because of the endless hours she spends watching television. The blue card leads her to a library, where she finds the brief story of her life, prior to her TV mania, in the biography section. The details in the pages set her off on a frenetic search for the life she has lost. In another tale, a book-loving city girl has moved to farm country, where she meets an angry, confused teenager on a bookmobile. The blue card triggers an uneasy correspondence that eventually brings them together as friends. Spinelli's spare writing and careful pacing reinforce the dramatic nature of the events as they unfold. While the premise (the card) behind the stories may seem contrived, the author uses it effectively to take a close look at how young people deal with hard circumstances. Ages 8-14. (Apr.)