Monday, June 1, 2009

An Introduction to Michelle Knudsen and a Review of Library Lion

This year children's author Michelle Knudsen is coming out with The Dragon of Trelian.  

This work of children's high fantasy represents a departure from Knudsen's previous works.  

In the past she has written mainly picturebooks for younger readers, featuring topics from religious holidays, to frogs, to bugs and (my personal favorite) mold.  Knudsen has even adapted a version of Raymond Briggs's classic The Snowman for Step into Reading with text (instead of the story being solely told in panels of illustrations).  She has crossed genres from fantasy, to realistic fiction, to information books.

To date, her most successful book has been Library Lion.  Published in 2006, this light picturebook documents the experience of a lion when he wanders into a library.  Since he's not a rulebreaker, the lion is allowed to wander the library, enjoy story hour and help out around the building.  

The kind and helpful lion is very child-like.  It checks out all aspects of the library (including the out-dated card catalog) and throws a tantrum when story hour comes to an end.  He even has traits of Lassie the dog when an emergency arises (No, nobody fall down a well).

The illustrator, Kevin Hawkes, lends very classic looking drawings (with some multicultural representation) to the mix.  

My one over all complaint (despite the fact that it contributes to the old school feel of the book) is the treatment of the librarians.  They have that stereotypical frumpy, past-their-prime, nerdy vibes to them.  Tres un-chic.

With a Chris Van Allsburg Jumanji feel, this book could prompt students to reexamine the ordinary space of a library, and create illustrations of various creatures in the building and play with a lot of fun "What if..." scenarios.  Since Library Lion does address some of the common rules in libraries across the country, a teacher could share this story before a class's first trip to the public library or even a school's media center.  For students who have already spent a great deal of time in libraries, a teacher or parent could urge them to compare their school or hometown library to the one depicted in the book.

In general, this book lends itself to discussion of rules and what to do in emergencies.

Among my favorite quotes were "One day, a lion came to the library."

"But there's a lion!" said Mr. McBee.  "In the library!"
"Is he breaking any rules?" asked Miss Merriweather.  She was very particular about rule breaking.
"Well, no," said Mr. McBee.  "Not really."
"Then leave him be."

"If he promises to be quiet, can [the lion] come back for story hour tomorrow?"


  1. Library Lion is one of my favorite kids books of all time! Horray for reviewing it.



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