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30 days of pbDay Twenty-EightThe Midnight Library

By Kazuno Kohara 

Roaring Book Press 2014

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“Once there was a library that opened only at night.”

The Midnight Library’s hours are dusk to dawn and its serves an adorable population of animals. The librarian? A young girl assisted by three owls. The picture book has a fairy tale opening, “Once there was…,” and the reader is enchanted and amused by the young librarian and the patrons whom require a bit of extra attention: like the squirrel band, the crying wolf, and the visiting tortoise.

The Midnight Library portrays library life as growing readers will hopefully come to know it. The library is interested in serving its community by providing different spaces whether the needs are for quiet reading, band practice, or story time. I love how Miss Wolf is encouraged to finish a sad book. The librarian reassures her it will be worth it (knowing that it has a happy ending) and helps the Wolf through it.

There are behaviors that are appropriate to spaces, but in the library in general: like considering how your noisiness might affect others; depending on the librarian for help/advice; observing closing hours. And could we really leave this children’s picture book before learning about how to get a library card for borrowing books?

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Kazuno Kohara applies her training in printmaking to create illustrations that beg for more surfaces than just the pages of her book. Her images are charming, the black ink bold against harvest moon yellows and midnight blues.

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The only false notes for me will likely not bother most; comic book readers may find an irritation. The images span a double page layout, and the movement of the composition draws the eye along left to right; even when the reader wants to follow the upper left text by reading (in sequence) the next set of lines below on the left page. The occurrence is limited to a couple pages. And if one limits their view to only the left page (like the above image, nothing appears out of order). Another double-page, late in the book, I began to wonder if the text and images were created separately and not revised into companionship. The illustrations do evidence a crafting with the other mind. The troublesome moment comes when I read upper left, then force my gaze back to read the lines on the bottom left, “one by one, the animals left the midnight library.” I’d already observe the animals exiting the library and would’ve preferred to read the text waiting on the right page bottom, “All except one new visitor…” Reading the book aloud, the narrative is smooth, and if I were reading to a child untroubled with the need to follow text, only image, I would confirm what it is they are seeing on the page. As it is there is a redundancy that limits its audience to the youngest of us; which is fine, of course. I just wish the design allowed for more.

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Such notes do not keep me from recommending The Midnight Library as a charming addition to every young child’s reading lists. No doubt, their eyes are more patient with the text and leisurely in their perusal of truly lovely illustrations. Preparing your child for a life-long love of the library? The Midnight Library is not only a wonderful educational tool, but an entertaining picture book as well.

Now to figure out how to order excerpted images for t-shirts and totes…

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Kazuno Kohara grew up in Japan and moved to the U.K. as a student. She studied at Anglia Ruskin University from 2005 to 2008, and received MA Children’s Book Illustration and MA Printmaking. She is the author of Here Comes Jack Frost (2008), Ghosts in the House! (2009) and Little Wizard (2010).She lives in London, England.

{images belong to Kazuno Kohara}

 

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