Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer

I have thought of a dozen different ways to begin this review.  I’ve decided that cleverness (or an attempt at it) will not suffice.  This book is too sweet, too zeroed in on a particular feeling, for anything but my unreserved praise.

The Lonely Book is almost unfair.  The story, the tone, and the artwork all fit together perfectly – so perfectly that you don’t stand a chance.  The story concerns a new picture book in the library, a beautiful green book with a picture of a little girl standing under a toadstool on the cover.  Like many books, it is very popular and is checked out quite often.  Eventually, like many books, it makes its way to the regular shelves where it is still checked out occasionally.  Through the years it gets a little worn and faded but still enjoyed by children now and then.  I’m stopping there because I’m an adult and I am unwilling to admit the effect this story has on me.  Moving on…the tone suits the story so well.  It’s a bit too wordy for younger children to read alone but the sentences have a comforting rhythm and any parent could read it easily at bedtime.  The artwork is very soft; it’s like looking at pastel drawings through finely marbled glass.  It nails the overall mood of the story.  It’s warm and wistful in equal measure. 

If you have ever loved a book, you will probably love The Lonely Book.  And I don’t mean you loved a story, I mean you loved your copy of a book – the one that you dog-eared or dragged to the beach or the one you kept in pristine condition until your sister spilled nail polish on it.  If a book is more to you than words on a page or screen, then you will understand and relate to every word of this story.  A story that could very quickly be dismissed as saccharine or melodramatic is instead acute and heartfelt to book people.  And that makes sense, they get it.

For more from Kate Bernheimer you can check out The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair or The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum.

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