HarperCollins, 2008. 978-0380709236
Synopsis: Emily lives in the small town of Pitchfork, Oregon and she is intrigued by the stories of a library in the town of Portland where her cousin Miriam lives. Determined to bring a library to her small town, Emily enlists the help of her mother to write to the state capital in order to get some books and the help of the townspeople to help raise some money for a space. Will Emily’s enthusiasm and spark be enough to help make a dream come true?
Why I picked it up: I loved Beverly Cleary as a kid, but somehow skipped over this book when I was eating through her body of work.
Why I finished it: This story has Cleary’s trademark quirky main character with a big heart and the desire to do the right thing. Set during the 1920s, the story has an element of historic fiction to it, detailing life during the decade before the depression and a little bit about the early free library movement. Emily is clearly enamored with the idea that one can borrow books as often as they like and then bring them back. Having a library in her small town would mean that she would be able to read about the things her cousin talks about in her letters. Of course, having a highly active imagination also helps keep Emily’s life interesting: she dyes a horse white with bleach, feeds fermented apples to the family pigs, and even manages to accidentally win a costume contest. While readers might not relate to the times in which Emily lives, they will be able to identify with Emily’s curiosity and desire to spice up life in her small town where nothing too horribly interesting seems to happen. Emily likes to think outside the realm of the ordinary and it encourages readers to create their own adventures and find what makes their own towns special. Filled with humor and heart, this story is perfect for a summer read or even just a good choice for curling up with a cup of tea on a cold day.
Other related materials: Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Tracy Dockray; Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Tracy Dockray; Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary, illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers; Henry and the Clubhouse by Bevery Cleary, illustrations by Jacqueline Rogers; Lumber Camp Library by Natalie Kinsey-Warnok, illustrations by James Bernardin; Black Beauty by Anna Sewell; In Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, illustrated by Patrice Barton; More Stories from Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson, illustrated by Patrice Barton; The School Story by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick