Putnam Juvenile, 2010. 978-0399250965
Synopsis: Elizabeth Rew is the new girl at a new school after her father remarries and their money has to go toward her stepsisters’ tuition. So when her teacher offers her the chance to work at the New York Circulating Material Repository, she jumps at the opportunity to get some extra cash and make new friends. The Material Repository is home to hundreds of objects from knight’s doublets to Marie Antoinette’s wigs, and the holdings include The Grimm Collection, a storehouse of mysterious fairy tale objects collected by the Grimm Brothers. Turns out, there is more to the collection than meets the eye, and someone is stealing the objects to try to turn a profit and Elizabeth and the other pages have to find the thief before the collection gradually disperses.
Why I picked it up: The New York Circulating Material Repository sounds like the kind of library that I would want to work in.
Why I finished it: The book is given a modern setting, but it draws a lot on the European fairy tale tradition and makes the story seem almost like a fairy tale in and of itself. It’s easy to see the Elizabeth is a sort of modern Cinderella, being made to wear hand-me-downs and do housecleaning while she deals with not having many friends at school. She’s also an ideal heroine because she is equal parts, brave, curious, and vulnerable without being a damsel in distress. She plays to her strengths and uses her passion for myth and legend to solve the mystery of how to catch the thief stealing from the Repository. The Repository is arguably one of the most extraordinary libraries that I’ve read about and it follows in the grand tradition of being full of treasures of all kinds. While Schulman describes the Repository as a place not full of books but of objects, it still demands the sort of reverence of its patrons and staff as a traditional library or even a museum. Mystery and magic abound in this story about finding your place, friendship, and finding the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Other related materials: The Wells Bequest: A Companion to The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz; In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz; The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz; The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Peter Ferguson; The Books of Elsewhere books by Jacqueline West; Secrets of the Book by Erin Fry; Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein; Wonderstruck by Brain Selznick; The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler