Before writers become writers, they’re readers. So it should come as no surprise that so many writers, in their own books, wax poetic about the wonder of books and the joys of reading. In The Library Card, Jerry Spinelli does so countless times, and in all different kinds of ways. The book, a set of four loosely interlinked short stories, is, among other things, a love letter to libraries, the books such buildings contain, and the reading encouraged and celebrated by them.
Below is a passage from The Library’s Card’s first story, “Mongoose.” It may very well be the most spot-on and delightful description of the wonder of books and the joys of reading that I’ve ever come across. Every reader will recognize and relate to the heady hunger Mongoose experiences, and feel a kinship with Spinelli himself, who we can tell is writing here from firsthand experience. And how can you not feel grateful and reassured that there are authors out there like Spinelli, adding volumes to our library shelves, bringing a bit more wonder and joy into our world?
From The Library Card, by Jerry Spinelli (p. 22-23)
They were walking to school a week later, being cool, being twelve.
And Mongoose had just lied. A lot was up. So much was up he was practically twitching. He had finally made his way to the front of I Wonder. He had tried numerous times to read it straight through, but he just couldn’t do it. He kept skipping ahead, skipping back, jumping all over the place. Same problem he had with a banana split. Each of its many parts was so tempting, he barely nibbled at one before being lured away by another. Different though, because when he finished a split, he was stuffed, felt like he’d never eat again. With this book, he could wolf it down at breakfast and be ready for more before lunchtime. Wherever I Wonder was going, it wasn’t to his stomach.
Another difference: banana splits made Mongoose greedy. No grizzly bear ever guarded her cubs more ferociously than Jamie Mongoose Hill guarded a split. But with this book, appetite seemed to move in more than one direction. His hunger was to feed not only himself but someone else, to both take and give, to share. Which is what he did all week to his mother and father and older brother – till they were stuffed. But Weasel, he wasn’t biting.
And now, on this bright cold December morning, Mongoose had reached the end of his patience. Right there on the sidewalk he grabbed his best pal’s arm and said, “Weaz, listen to this.”
Weasel frowned. “You look goofy.”
Mongoose felt goofy. “You ain’t gonna believe this.”