Curator Commentary: In Love at the Library

by Rebekah Kotlar

I fell in love with books at the library. We lived in a tiny town where families volunteered to run the library for the entire community. While my mom volunteered in the library, processing and shelving books, I kept myself busy de-shelving books. I loved selecting books and curling up with a pile of books I couldn’t read, turning pages and gazing at magical words I was unable to decipher.  It was there I met a Poky Little Puppy, a Tawny Scrawny Lion, Richard Scarry, Nitter Pitter and Fred and Ted. I’d drag home more books than my mother could read to me before the due date. A few years later, when I finally learned to read, I fell in love with them all over again. In a new city, with my first library card, I was thrilled to find my friends at the public library.

I checked out dozens of my old friends at a time and met many new friends. One year, I determined to make new friends by reading all of the biographies at the public library. It was then I met O. Henry, Langston Hughes, Arthur Miller, James Thurber, Mark Twain, and Maria Von Trapp. Years of dragging home half of the library led to years of working and volunteering in libraries. I spent entire days introducing students to my old friends and talking about the books we were reading, the books we had read, and the books we planned to read. Now, back in the classroom, I spend entire days discussing books with my students.

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Books live with us. As with friends, we can carry on a conversation with books. When we jump into the conversation, we have a lot to talk about. Beyond who is in the book, and where the action takes place, books talk to us about the big ideas of life and literature. We’ve been having these conversations a lot lately, as we read Zoobean recommended books. While reading “Big Mean Mike,” we had a long conversation about friendship.

In “Big Mean Mike,” Mike, the dog, is rough and tough. Through the persistence of a fuzzy, furry, little rabbit and his friends, Mike gains four fluffy little rabbit friends, even though he’s big and tough and they’re little and fluffy. Of course, talking about the friendship between a dog and four little bunnies led us to talk about the friendship between Fancy Nancy and Bree in “Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet.”

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Nancy and Bree dream of parts as mermaids in the upcoming ballet. They’re sad that neither of them gets the part. When one of the mermaids is hurt and Bree is called on to become a mermaid, Nancy learns to let her love for her friend melt away the jealousy she feels over the part in the ballet. From Fancy Nancy, we learned that friends are friends even when they receive something we want. The children’s classic, “Thy Friend, Obadiah,” taught us how to become friends.

Obadiah is followed everywhere by a seagull whose company he does not welcome. After helping the seagull, Obadiah realizes that the seagull is his friend. The conclusion we came to is that friendship knows no boundaries.

Joining Zoobean this year allows me the luxury of reading beautifully written and illustrated children’s books. They remind me of my dear old friends and I’ve made some new friends. And when I visit the library, I still drag home more books than I can read before the due date.

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