I remember the moment very distinctly. I was in fifth grade and it was our regular library time. My teacher was tucked away at a table, ignoring all of us students, and I was looking through the shelves of books, not knowing what I wanted to read. Previous to this point in time, most of the books I had read were typical childhood classics such as Charlotte’s Web, The Giving Tree, various Dr. Seuss books, and any book by Patricia Polacco.
I decided, maybe after seeing the librarian talk to another student, or maybe in a fit of emotion, to ask the school librarian for help in finding a book. This was the first time I had ever asked for a book recommendation. Up to this point I had either chosen all my reading books by myself, or they had been assigned to me by teachers or other adults in my life.
I can still remember her surprise, her joy, and her attempt to find me a book. We walked up and down the shelves, her pointing out books, me turning them down, until she came across a book that appeared to be somewhat scary and completely unfamiliar, The Goblin Wood by Hilari Bell. The librarian had never read the book, but offered it to me in an attempt to find something that I would like to read. I took it with the idea that at least I would be able to tell the librarian about it if it wasn’t a good read.
Taking the book home, I settled down and gave it a go. What I found was a book that challenged what I had come to expect. It was dark and mysterious; it dealt with complex emotions. The characters didn’t fall in love, and the main character, who was in fact quite powerless in the face of her enemy, didn’t win. The enemy, in turn, wasn’t really evil, just passionate and misinformed (a combination that could lead anyone to do something bad).
I fell in love with both the book and what it represented. Librarians had the power to introduce me to something new and passionate, books could explore themes and ideas that were about things that I had never experienced in real life, and I could read ANY book, not just the ones that were familiar and sweet.
The Goblin Wood changed the way I interacted with books, which changed the way I interacted with people, which helped me decide on a career path and helped to develop a lifelong love of libraries and librarians (and all the magical books they can recommend).
Written by Nora (General Reference)