As the subtitle indicates, young bookworms are invited to “Explore the Amazing Collection of the British Library.”
“Explore” is the key word here, as the table of contents lists 21 potential discoveries among the library’s holdings. In its tour, the text capitalizes on the human-interest aspects of the collection, such as the facts that Shakespeare’s First Folio is kept in a bombproof, underground room and that the oldest surviving book produced in Europe, St. Cuthbert’s Gospel, was found in a coffin. Other monuments to the (mostly) English masterworks surveyed include Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species, Handel’s handwritten sheet music, and the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Questions to readers provide segues from one entry to the next; “Are you hungry after all that drama?” leads them from Shakespeare to the section on cookbooks. The watercolor-and-digital illustrations lend a fanciful, hodgepodge effect to the collection of literary tidbits. Varying typefaces play to the topics, as with the use of a Gothic type for The Canterbury Tales and a delicate scriptlike type for Jane Austen. The book effectively demonstrates the role of the British Library as custodian to a broad swath of British literary history. The question here is, who is the audience on this side of the Atlantic, particularly at a time when concerted efforts are being made to create a more diverse and inclusive canon? The Inside-Outside Book of Libraries, by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Roxie Munro (1996), is a little old but still provides a better introduction to the concept of libraries.
Beautiful and reverent but perhaps not particularly relevant. (thumbnail bios, glossary) (Nonfiction. 8-12)