Pack’s (Evangeline’s Ghost, 2013, etc.) compilation includes the first five stories in a whimsical series about a library where books come to life.
Seventeen-year-old Joanna Charette is addicted to books. She loves reading them, repairing them—even smelling them. As an orphan, she lives alone in a ramshackle apartment and works at Book Services as a delivery girl. Her dreams of owning a beautiful library and handling treasured manuscripts seem impossible, until one day she’s summoned to an address she can’t quite find. Believing herself to be at the right spot, Joanna walks toward an old library called the Library of Illumination. As if destined to do so, she gains entrance and meets the curator, Malcolm Trees. Joanna soon learns that when this library’s enchanted books open, characters suddenly appear. Eventually—after some exploits involving Tarzan and Dr. John Watson—Malcolm is convinced that he’s found his replacement and retires. Joanna moves into the library, hires a teen assistant named Jackson and proceeds to have her own series of increasingly epic adventures. Will she grow into the levelheaded librarian she knows herself to be, or will this fantasy job ruin her real life? Pack cheerfully runs an inventive marathon with this anything-goes premise. The biggest questions readers might ask are addressed in each of the five stories presented here, starting with “Doubloons,” in which Jackson accidentally lets Treasure Island pirates loose. When the book shuts and some gold coins remain behind, the resulting narrative fallout charms and thrills in equal measures. Similarly, stories such as “The Orb” and “Casanova” flaunt Pack’s literary brilliance and her ability to grow the world and characters episodically; watching Jackson woo Joanna will entice audiences just as much as the adventures. Pack also offers a great reminder: As Jackson knocks fairy tales, Joanna replies that they “have a long tradition of entertaining children while teaching them all things are possible—if they’re resourceful.” That goes for adults, too.
Come for the literary sights and sounds, stay for Pack’s miraculously fine-tuned imagination.