The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell

The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell, illustrated by Davide Ortu. Walker Books, 2021. 9781536214932

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

 Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book?  Kit Spencer is pretty sure there is nothing special about her at all.  She is a middle child – younger than Perfect Older Sister and Wicked Older Brother, older than Toddler and Baby – and her two best friends, Josh and Alita, are both excellent students and very smart.  Kit likes to go exploring and get dirty.  So on the first day of summer vacation, when Josh and Alita want to go to the library, Kit agrees only if they agree to an adventure in a spooky old cemetery afterward.  The trio never makes it to the cemetery because, while visiting the library and browsing a book about dangerous animals, Kit learns that in fact she is quite special…she is a wizard!   The head librarian, Faith Braithwaite, is also a wizard and is excited to begin mentoring Kit.  Her friends overhear their conversation, and want to help Kit with her training.  Faith begins teaching Kit some basic magic, with Josh taking copious notes and Alita befriending Dogon (a dog-dragon hybrid), but they quickly need to take her instruction to a higher level as a villainous businessman is planning to buy and destroy the library.  When Kit discovers the source of the library wizards’ power – a dragon sleeping in the building’s depths that needs to hear stories being read – she knows she needs to do everything just right to save the library, and maybe the world.

Kit is a likable, realistic heroine with whom many readers will identify, as she deals with sibling rivalry, inattentive parents, and uncertainty about where she fits in.  She has supportive friends and an admirable role model to help her adjust to her new circumstances.  Set against these authentic characters and relationships, there are echoes of Roald Dahl in the description of her family life (her parents are so comically busy tending to Toddler and Baby they barely acknowledge Kit’s existence)  as well as in the depiction of the businessman Mr. Salt, a caricature of epic proportions.  Adding in the existence of dragon-powered magical libraries, through which wizards travel by way of enchanted books, provides for a fun and exciting fantasy that mixes humor and warmth as it celebrates the power of stories.  Tips on how to read to a dragon are appended.  

Anything you did not like about the book? Nothing!

To whom would you recommend this book?  Light fantasy readers in grade 3 and up will be excited for this new series, especially those who enjoy contemporary fantasy books like Upside Down Magic or Dragons in a Bag. It’s a great fit for those not quite ready for the darker, heavier wizard-in-training types of stories. And librarians will get a kick out of the tribute to our profession, as Faith makes it clear that Kit needs to learn library work to be a successful wizard, and puts her to work shelving books before she ever casts a spell.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Fiction

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review:  August 8, 2021

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