Kit has a problem. A big one. She’s being dragged to the library by best friends Josh and Alita because the new Danny Fandango book is out and they CANNOT miss it. Kit just wants to hang around graveyards, get muddy and fall out of trees. I mean, it’s not like she’s asking the world.
When they get to the library, all the copies have been checked out. Worse, Kit doesn’t get to climb any trees. Because she’s fallen into a book. Kit discovers she’s a wizard, chosen very very young by wild magic. Faith, the librarian, is also a wizard and decides to train this super enthusiastic new recruit.
There’s just one problem: the library is about to be bought and demolished…
Stowell does that thing that truly excellent children’s authors do, playing to multiple audiences at once. The story of Kit, Josh and Alita is the cliffhanger-a-chapter stuff of every bored locked down child’s dreams. Kit is sporty, physical, uncoordinated and worries she gets in the way. Josh is very smart and a little worried if that’s going to work for him. Alita is pragmatic, sensible, and loves animals. Together they fit best when they’re with each other: even when Kit makes bad choices, she does so for excellent reasons that she, and we, understand.
Better still, so does her mentor. This is a book crammed with incident and action, but where the characters are all either on the same page or have only skipped one or two ahead. Presumably to look at Davide Ortu’s exuberant, energetic illustrations. There’s none of the staid dusty majesty of Hogwarts here. This is a living, literally, working library used by wizards of every age, gender and nationality.
Which is a roundabout way of saying Faith, the hard-working and cheerfully honest librarian, is my favorite character. She has no problem saying when she’s made mistakes, is learning just like Kit, and is both super cool and a great role-model for kids and parents.
Which brings us to the book parents will read, as opposed to the book they’ll read to their children. That book is about the critical importance of libraries in our communities. That book skewers the banal ‘human stock’ fascism of capitalism at its most feral with kindness, intelligence and compassion. It subtly tells every kind of child that they aren’t just one thing. Sporty Kit is a wizard. Bookish Josh thinks surprisingly well on his feet. Sensible Alita can lie like no one on Earth and may be on her way to becoming a dragon tamer.
Not only does Stowell show us the wonder in this universe for the magical and non-magical alike, she also shows us the wonder within those people. Because if they aren’t around, who else is going to read to the dragon?
The Dragon in the Library is both a great MG standalone and a cracking start to a series, one Stowell cleverly weaves seeds for throughout this first book. Energetic, honest, kind and fun it’s definitely worth fighting an evil property developer for.
The Dragon in the Library is available now, as is the sequel, The Monster in the Lake.
This piece originally appeared as part of my weekly newsletter, The Full Lid . If you liked it, and want a weekly down of pop culture enthusiasm, occasional ketchup recipes and me enjoying things, then check out the archive and sign up here.