Pearl Moran spends much of her free time in the Lancaster Avenue library, a run-down branch of the New York Public Library where her mother is the circulation librarian. Pearl was actually born in the library, and loves books and reading, but she and her mother are forced to face the fact that the library is failing, and may not be their true home much longer. Local interest is way down, patrons are scarce, and a crushing blow is dealt when a statue of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay that’s the star attraction of the library’s small green space suddenly loses its head. When Pearl sees this, her scream brings a crowd, and it seems like the end of their cherished library is nearer than ever.
Pearl decides to fight back with every resource and idea she can muster. She is helped by a growing number of friends, each of which contributes ideas, and even the reporter who at first makes things worse comes round to her plans and tries to help, as do the other employees of the library. Pearl and her friends put on entertainment at the foot of the headless statue, and gather library patrons there and at her school, but there are still many who want the library to go for their own reasons, including a pair of developers who want to turn it into apartments. Pearl’s allies include a family of raccoons who live on the grounds, and who seem to have an uncanny amount of wisdom and intelligence, some of them can even read and write, and they help in their own way, but will all this new interest be enough to hold off the library’s impending demise?
I enjoyed this book and its clever and appealing characters and plot. There are sidebars throughout written by another unknown writer that were distracting at times, but eventually they dovetail into the main plot in a satisfying way. There are also lots of footnoted references to other fine books I like and some I don’t know, which is an appealing idea, though again the footnotes were sometimes distracting. The illustrations by Bagley are appealing, and there’s just enough fantasy to make the story work without it becoming too unrealistic. Recommended.