Brian Lies' Bats at the Library is simply gorgeous. Fans of libraries will find it heartwarming. I think that everyone will find it fun. This is one of my favorite picture books of the year. Bats at the Library is a followup to Lies' earlier book, Bats at the Beach, which I haven't read, but would now buy without hesitation.
The premise is simple. A group of bats are bored one night. They are thrilled to discover that a window at the library (their "favorite place") has been left ajar. They head right over, and the little bats visiting the library for the first time learn first-hand what a wondrous thing a library can be.
I love the idea of this book, the unbridled joy that the bats find in the library, and they way that they immerse themselves in stories. But what really makes the book stand out are Lies' luminous acrylic paint illustrations. Who knew that bats could be so lovely? The use of light, the attention to detail, the expressive faces of the bats, the detailed brushstrokes of the bats' fur - this is ART, people. I'd like to frame some of these pictures and hang them on my wall.
There are also amusing details to please children, like one small bat who has yellow floaties on his wings, and an older bat who wears eyeglasses. I had fun identifying the various book characters imagined by the bats near the end of the book (a bat as Little Red Riding Hood, another as Peter Rabbit, etc.), and I think that this section of the book would be exceptional for a shared read-aloud experience. I particularly loved the small sketch of several bats as the ducklings from Make Way for Ducklings.
The rhythm of the prose is lovely, too, perfect for reading aloud. For example:
"Then squeezed together, wing to wing,
we rocket through the opening.
We've waited for this night all year,
but this it! At last ... we're here."
"It's hard to settle down and read
when life flits by at dizzy speed.
But storytime is just the thing
to rest a play-exhausted wing."
Note the strong verbs, like "rocket" and "flit"? I like a picture book that doesn't talk down to the reader. Bats at the Library ends on just the right note, too:
Can it be true? Oh, can it be?
Yes! -- Bat Night at the library!"
Don't miss it! This book is one that I'll be keeping, and also buying for the kids in my life.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Publication Date: September 8, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: PlanetEsme, Bookends, The Bookworm's Booklist, BooksForKidsBlog, Lesa's Book Critiques, AScattergood, and Kid's Book Blog. Also seen on favorites lists for 2008 at Cynsations, SteveReads, Presenting Lenore and A Patchwork of Books.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.