Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies

The word spreads quickly from afar.
A window has been left ajar.
Can it be true? Oh, can it be?
Yes! Bat night at the library!

Bats and libraries seem an unusual combination, but in the hands of talented illustrator-author Brian Lies, creator of the earlier New York Times best-seller, Bats at the Beach, it's a natural.

In Lies' amazing chiaroscuro paintings, bats swoop through a crack in a casement window and exult in the chance to enjoy all the wonders of a darkened library, a library with stately dark wood vaulted ceilings and oaken shelving bulging with volumes, all lit with the glow of a single table-top lamp. The young ones, new to the library experience, zip about, printing their images in the copier, splashing in a drinking fountain turned into a baby bat water park and pool, and making shadow figures on the wall with a handily placed overhead projector.

But soon the young ones follow the example of the veterans and settle down to the pure enjoyment of literature. It's story time for the batling newbies, and the little ones experience the classics of children's literature anew, visualizing the stories in their own terms--Make Way for Batlings, Pippi Longwingling, Goodnight, Sun, Winnie the Bat, Alice and the Cheshire Bat, and Chitty Chitty Bat Bat. Some hang upside down beneath heavy wooden tables, while one "toddler" bat, wearing a pair of "air wings," leans back in his mother's lap as he becomes lost inside the stories.

All too soon their time is up.

What's that light? A lamp? The moon?
Our bookish feast can't end so soon!
It feels as though we have just begun,
But now we have to leave our books half done.

But there's always hope for the book-loving bats.

But maybe a librarian
Will give us bats the chance again,
And leave a window open wide
To let us share the world inside.

There's so much to see inside Bats at the Library--visual jokes to make us chuckle, the glorious lure of being in a daytime public place by night, the charm of the faux-medieval hanging chandeliers and the soft stuccoed walls setting off the joyful bat invasion of this oh-so-human haunt, all set forth in amazing art. And, for the literary, there is the welcome celebration of the joys of books which beckon, like the beacon of the golden table lamp, through a window which leads to a rich world inside.

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