Midnight at the library by Ursula Dubosarsky

cover image

Ill. by Ron Brooks. NLA Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9780642279316
(Age: All) Highly recommended. Themes: Libraries, Books, History of books, Reading, Illustrative technique. This sumptuously created book, published to celebrate 50 years of the building of the National Library of Australia in Canberra, has brought together the talents of two of Australia's most creative artists in Ursula Dubosarsky and Ron Brooks. Dubosarsky's story charting the history of the book is riveting, taking the reader across the years through every story's beginnings as a head full of words to its being written down and printed. As a book it travels by horseback and train, it moves over desert and sea, it is opened and read, given, taken and sometimes forgotten. It is lost and found, buried, dug up and retrieved, almost burnt, but saved until it finally reaches the shelves of a library, safe for all time, available to everyone.
In telling this story in sparse, lyrical prose, with several lines repeated through the book, Dubosarsky extols the timeless quality of the book, its place in the human pantheon, its journey through the millennia being involved with people along the way: readers and printers, writers and lovers of books, but also those who would see it harmed.
Two children come into the library at midnight, walking up the stairs to a dark and secluded place where the book is kept high on a shelf, its gold gleaming in the moonlight, ready to be taken down and read. And it is pure gold, an item of the highest value, something to be treasured and shared, gold for all time.
Brooks' illustrations are there to be treasured, as he shadows well known artists such as Escher and Van Gogh, but brings his own award winning talents to the book with his depiction of the little gold book which he developed. He also shows the Nazi book burning, the development of the printing press, a man traveling by donkey in the desert, and on the last page but one, an image of the National Library of Australia we know so well from its logo. The marvellous endpapers will delight children and adults alike as they peruse the many shelves of books, while every page cries out for closer attention, the eyes taking in its overall impact, then looking at the detail and absorbing the minutiae of Brooks' imagination. Every reader will be engrossed by the wonderful world of the book within these pages.
Fran Knight