The Library Card
Ages 8 to 11
Scholastic, 1997, 0-590-38633-6
Mongoose and Weasel are sure that they have the whole thing sorted out. School is dumb, playing by the rules is dumb, and breaking the rules is extremely cool. They aren't kids anymore and cannot be scared into cooperation by teachers and principals. When Mongoose rips off the Mini-Mart for the first time he feels like a king and he joins Weasel in discussions of what they will both do when they get their first cars and when they leave school at the age of sixteen.
Then Mongoose finds a library card. On a whim Mongoose goes to the library, something he has never done before and he discovers something extraordinary. He finds out that there is an enormous world out there full of remarkable things and all he has to do is to open a book and he can read all about animals, people, places, distant galaxies, and so much more. In short Weasel's narrow little world of fancy cars, petty theft, and vandalism starts to loose its attraction.
For another child, Brenda, a library card frees her from an all consuming addiction with television. Brenda's family are participating in the "Great TV Turn-Off" and she really starts to think that she is going to loose her mind if she can't watch TV again and soon. Then a small blue library card turns up seemingly by magic, and Brenda discovers that there is another Brenda somewhere inside herself, a Brenda who loves the color yellow and whose favorite snack is Rice Krispies treats.
For Sonseray a library card gives him the chance to find something he has been looking for for years and perhaps, now that he has found it, the rage and anger within in him will recede and let him have a normal life.
Finally there is April who is given the small blue library card by a girl who is on the verge of losing herself. On it April writes her name and address and the girl, Nanette, uses the card to ask for help when the world seems very dark and lonely.
It is remarkable to see how Jerry Spinelli can make a library card suddenly seem so much more than a rectangle of blue card. For these four children it is a lifeline, and for all of them it gives them something that they all desperately need. Beautifully crafted, moving, sometimes disturbing, and always thought-provoking, these four stories are a joy to read.
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