There is no library in the small town of Martinville. Twenty years ago, it burned to the ground, and nothing was ever built in its place. But one day in the waning months of spring, a little free library appears overnight in front of the town’s History House, guarded by a large, purring, orange sentinel named Mortimer.
Fifth grader Evan is one of the first to discover the new library and take some books. He also seems to be the only one to notice that most of the books are from the old Martinville library, where they were all returned on November 5, 1999—the same day the library burned down. Not only that, but the famous mystery writer H.G. Higgins appears to have been the last person to check some of them out.
As the little free library grows, so does Evan’s list of questions. Why did the old library burn down? Why didn’t they build a new one? Did H.G. Higgins live in Martinville? Did he set the fire? With the help of his best friend, Rafe, Evan investigates the expanding number of clues. But Martinville isn’t ready to give up such big secrets so quickly.
Written by two powerhouses of children’s literature, Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass, The Lost Library is a charming love letter to libraries, stories and life’s little mysteries, told through the alternating perspectives of Mortimer the cat, Evan and ghostly librarian Al. Stead and Mass provide all the tools required to solve the book’s multilayered mysteries—but rather than make the reveals too obvious, they create an alluring trail of breadcrumbs, inviting readers to leap to each discovery by themselves.
The story is relatively small in scope but speaks to the wider importance of connection. Throughout the novel, characters shine through their relationships with others, and the overarching lesson is clear: People need each other, and this is a good thing.
Though readers might expect something on a slightly grander scale from the combined powers of Stead and Mass, The Lost Library’s whimsical simplicity is a delight. It is subtly magical, sweetly optimistic and above all, kind. The Lost Library reminds us that each book contains an entire universe, and the next one you step inside of could be the one that changes everything. The next time one of its readers walks past a little free library, they might just stop to look inside.