The Littletown Library had been around for so long that people almost forgot it was there. After a tornado blew through and "carried the whole thing away," residents weren't even sure they needed a new one. In the fanciful--yet eminently sensible--Nia and the New Free Library, one book-loving girl cooks up an imaginative plan, not only for rebuilding the missing institution, but for getting the entire town to value it as well.
Now that there's "an empty space where the library used to be," the builder thinks the town would be better off with another skyscraper, while the grocer is partial to a parking lot. Only Nia misses the old Littletown Library, which she visited every week. After giving the matter some thought, Nia gathers "a desk and a chair. And a pencil and some paper." She gets comfortable and begins to write. Days later, Nia has created enough books to fill a little wagon and she shares this New Free Library with people in town. The grocer thinks the words are wrong, so Nia gives out pencils. Pretty soon "the entire town was lending a hand." Before long there are "enormous piles of freshly written books."
Ian Lendler (The Fabled Life of Aesop) deftly concocts a tale of kid-friendly activism, demonstrating how one person might achieve outsize results by giving the whole diverse community a stake in the dream. The sketchy line work and pastel washes of Mark Pett (This Is My Book!) bring to mind the picture book art of David Small. His loosely defined panels give a graphic novel feel to some spreads, with the sequential art allowing the illustrations to propel the story forward. Nia and the New Free Library demonstrates how spreading the love of reading might well elevate an entire community. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI