Does a lion belong in the library? Library Lion is a timeless classic that will align children with the lesson that sometimes, there is a good reason to break the rules. Author Michelle Knudsen and illustrator Kevin Hawkes’s collaboration celebrate the irrepressible joy of visiting the library. Knudsen’s idea to introduce children to the idea of a protagonist and antagonist is brilliant. Hawkes’s use of pencil and soft water colors, along with detail in facial expressions, enhance the reader’s imagination response to the story.
Miss Merriweather who is the head librarian, is particular about rules. Definitely no running and you must be quiet. As long as you follow the rules, you are welcomed to stay in the library. Mr. McBee, who we know by the detail of the illustrations, works at the circulation desk, does not approve of the lion’s presence.
The lion’s character seems well suited for the library. In fact, he is quite fond of story hour, but his roar imposes a problem. It breaks one of the rules. The author emphasizes from early on that the lion’s roar is the best way he is able to communicate.
Story time is over,” a little girl told him. “It’s time to go. The lion looked at the children. He looked at, the story lady. He looked at the closed books. Then he roared very loudly.
The children were naturally unsure of him at first, but grow to love the majestic creature. He becomes quite helpful to Miss Merriweather after she makes it clear that he can only stay if he follows the rules, which entails no roaring. The lion helps to dust encyclopedias, lick envelopes for overdue notices, and allows children to stand on his back in order to reach high shelves. He even becomes a comfy backrest for children at story hour. One day, Miss Merriweather asks the lion to bring a book for her into the stacks. As she stands on the step stool to reach the highest part of the bookshelf, she stretches too far, and falls off. She asks the lion to go get Mr. McBee. The lion whines and attempts various methods to communicate with Mr. McBee, but to no avail. Mr. McBee tells him to go away and ignores him and that is when the lion resorts to his best method of communication; HE ROARS!
Mr. McBee gasped. You’re not being quiet!” he said to the lion. “You’re breaking the rules! Mr. McBee walked down the hall as fast as he could. The lion did not follow him. He had broken the rules. He knew what that meant. He hung his head and walked toward the doors.
As Mr. McBee walks into Miss Merriweather’s office and calls for her, she introduces the lesson to the reader.
“Sometimes”, said Miss Merriweather from the floor behind her desk, “there is a good reason to break the rules. Even in the library. Now please go call a doctor. I think I’ve broken my arm.
The people in the library missed the lion, except for Mr. McBee. The reader will see this displayed in Hawkes illustrations as children peek through and above shelves, as if searching for their furry friend. While Mr. McBee carries on cheerfully with his work, pushing the cart of library books with his head held high. Miss Merriweather’s detailed somber expressions allow the reader to understand her affection for the lion and the sadness of his departure. The turning point in Mr. McBee’s antagonistic character comes when he recognizes how unhappy and quiet Miss Merriweather is. He decides to search for the lion one evening before going home.
Finally he circled all the way back to the library. The lion was sitting outside, looking in through the glass doors. “Hello, Lion,” said Mr. McBee. The lion did not turn around. “I thought you might like to know,” said Mr. McBee, “that there’s a new rule at the library. No roaring allowed, unless you have a very good reason – say, if you’re trying to help a friend who’s been hurt, for example.”
The author’s message, storyline, development of characters, and the illustrator’s use of exemplary detail, is the beginning foundation for a young reader’s further understanding of literature. It aligns the building of characters to the moral lesson of the story, creating the opportunity for an open discussion.