“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrate National Library Week, Day 3 (really): Librarians, Matchmakers

This morning, Rose Kent, author of the highly acclaimed middle-grade novel Kimchi & Calamari, and Rocky Road (coming in June for ages 9 - 12), gives us "Matchmaker, Matchmaker":

Swept back in time, I am nine years old. Small, freckle-faced and shy. Very shy. It’s a Saturday morning on a hot summer day and my father and I are walking into the public library, the smiles on our faces bright like the marigolds along the path. My father is humming a tune from “The Fiddler On The Roof.” We saw it last week. Wow was it good.

We drop our returns in the bin and turn right at the circulation desk as usual, past Biographies, past Reference and past the card catalog. My father stops and says what he always says. “Go on. Lose yourself.” Then he heads back to Biographies.

I step into the Children’s section feeling like Alice in Wonderland. Mobiles swing from the ceiling, brightly colored posters speckle the walls, and giant stuffed animals sit in rocking chairs, books open in their hands as if they are reading. Ceramic bookends shaped like fairies stare back from displays, and sunshine blasts through the wide windows, washing the bookcases in gold and making the air extra warm.

The regular children's librarian is here as usual, helping a boy carry a stack of science books to a table. She smells like the lilacs in our backyard, and she half-nods at me, as if she knows doing more might unnerve me. Back past three rows of shelving I go, breathing in the book-paper-ink smell. I like this smell.

I reach my favorite section. The Nancy Drew mysteries. Nancy Drew super sleuth who is clever, daring, and never shy. Everything I am not, yet somehow she is me when we meet on the page.

I am hungry this day -- not for food, but for a juicy new Nancy Drew adventure. There are only a few of the thirty-four mysteries that I haven’t gotten to, but they’re always checked out or listed as missing in the card catalog. My eyes scan the side-by-side titles. The Secret of Red Gate Farm. Nancy's Mysterious Letter. The Mystery of the Ninety-Nine Steps. The Whispering Statue...

Darn. I've read them all. I've read most of them twice.

I pull one from the shelf and put it in my bag anyway, along with a joke book and Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I’ve read this before too, but seeing the cover feels like meeting a good friend whose moved away. I look around. This room makes my heart happy, yet today disappointment settles under my shorts and T-shirt. I wanted something new.

My father waves at me through the glass door. Time to go. I turn to leave but my bag hits a display and picture books crash to the floor. A fairy bookend cracks and its wing lands by my sneaker.  Uh-oh.

"Young lady!"

I turn around. The librarian who smells like lilacs sits at her desk, gesturing for me to come over.

My heart pounds as I approach her. I feel my face redden like a tomato. I can hardly see her, what with how her desk and the space surrounding it is covered with boxes.

I should say I’m sorry. I should tell her it was an accident, but the words stay clogged in my throat. Being shy is worse than having the stomach flu. Why can’t I speak up like a normal kid?

“What’s your name?” she asks.

“Rose,” I say, as my hand trembles against my shorts.

“Well Rose, don’t worry about the books. Happens all the time in here.” She reaches in a box and pulls something out. “This just arrived. I was hoping you'd read it first and give me your opinion.”

I glance at the book. The Clue In The Jewel Box. Nancy Drew Book Number Twenty. I haven't read this one. I really want to!

Relief washes over me like a waterfall. “Sure. Thanks” I say, and I take the book and leave.

Driving home, dad hums another Fiddler on The Roof tune. This one is called “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” and I like it too. The matchmaker in the village finds men for the girls to marry.

But I’m not thinking of men. I’m thinking of books and the librarian who smells like lilacs.

How did she know I hadn’t read that book? How did she know I’ve read all those other Nancy Drew books? She’s not the one who checks the books out and stamps the due date.

That’s when I realize…she’s a matchmaker, that’s how. A book matchmaker with extra sensory powers to pair readers and books!

Today I will finish The Clue In The Jewel Box, I decide. I’ll write a book review and give it to her next Saturday. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the nerve to ask her to match me up with other books too.


NanC said...

This story brings tears to my eyes. What a wonderful memory, Rose! Of course, I can totally relate. Boy, did I feel the same way about those Nancy Drew's! I can remember every one! Thanks for sharing your story and that wonderful librarian - a true matchmaker!

Peaceful Reader said...

This is such a great memory! I have loving memories of my hometown library as well. Thanks for sharing.