Nine-year-old author Ricketts (Where Are the Animals, 2010) returns with the adventure of Lyla Lyte, a young girl who rescues books from obscurity.
Lyla is desperate to use her imagination, but she doesn’t know how. Several attempts end in failure before Lyla’s mother reveals that, before Lyla was born, there were objects called books that helped people learn how to use their imaginations. But the Mayor banned all books and ordered them to be buried. Despite promising to keep this newfound information secret, Lyla tells all her friends. They join her in a quest to find the buried books, but their search instead turns up a seed. Lyla plants the seed, and an unusual tree sprouts—one that grows books. The kids take to referring to the books as “li’berry fruits” to disguise their true identity, but soon, everyone in Lyla’s class knows. Eventually, the li’berry fruits spread across town through a series of sweetly hopeful book exchanges and strategic drops around the community. The children’s increasing engagement with these illegal books—and, as a result, with the world around them—ratchets up the suspense in an already fast-paced and well-written novel. In a fresh and frank way, never betraying the youthful naïveté of a child, Ricketts addresses sophisticated issues of personal freedom and the longing for change. Why a town of readers would willingly surrender their books and not fight back may be a question that strains readers’ credulity, but Lyla’s mission is noble nonetheless. Although the characters remain single-minded and often seem a bit flat, Ricketts' tale has much to teach about the redemptive power of reading and imagination.
An impressive story about a girl whose courage transforms a town.