|"In a quiet street of tall trees |
there is a library with a thousand rooms...
When the library is closed and the night watchman has
fallen asleep in his big armchair,
the shelves come to life."
~ Colin Thompson, How To Live Forever.
Colin Thompson is a master of his genre. His illustrations, so vividly soaked in every color imaginable, his stories mangled with a uniqueness so potent I hardly have words to describe it. I was fully contempt staring at this book for a good three solid minutes - after reading it. Every page held secrets, every book he drew whispered in its vibrance. For I am a large fan of the weirdly grotesque, and Colin Thompson delivered! Not only did I re-read the book twice more after the first reading because I was so transfixed by its eccentric nature, but I was elated that his book How To Live Forever was hauntingly unfamiliar. I'd never read a children's book with a plot such as his before and I absolutely love when I am surprised by something new.
The books are alive their whisper when the night guard sleeps. The largest library in the world holds every book in the world and they're ready to start talking. When the doors close, sealing the last remaining night guard in for his graveyard shift, when the lights dim, when the silence echos off the exquisite grand moldings of this outlandish library cuts through the air just right you can hear it. The shifts as the books come alive, the music wafting from a Beethoven's concerto pamphlet, stairs connect every shelf, and a very new sort of mystic light comes over the library. The stories of the books play out in windowed bliss behind the books, and its characters come out to play; if only for a little while.
It was on a normal average day when a boy chased his cat who chased a mouse into a crack near a filling cabinet. The boy resided in a cookbook with a strangely always serious sister and his parents, the boy that night found a card. This card would teach him the very value of life and spontaneously make him make a choice that effects his livelihood.
A book was missing. That is what the card lead Brian to find out, when he followed its index number to the spot, on the shelf, in the designated area the book was to be. But the book was gone, a thick layer of dust marking its spot and illustrating just how long the book had been missing for. How To Live Forever would never be read by tourists with polkadot fanny packs, bystanders would not gaze at it in contemplation and then replace it back on the shelf, scholars would not use it for knowledge, the book was gone and nobody had even noticed.
Well that settled it then! Brian went back to his cookbook in the Q section and forgot all about the book, right? Wrong. Who would do that? Especially when the book had such a title. Brian sets out on a grand adventure, asking every one if they'd seen the book, checking every shelf, vigorously and then later dubiously skimming through every one of the thousands of rooms, holding Cowboy novels of Butch Cassidy, memoirs of peoples lives, through the worn spines of the classics and what have you.
Peter then comes across four old men, each four standing on one leg, each as straight and solid as statues, only three awake. These men couldn't possibly know of the book! But they did, and Peter before he knew what he was getting himself into followed one old man through a Chinese garden that took his breathe away and to a pale small child, his body as young as Peter, his wistful child's soul long lost through the bitter taste of the livelihood he's lead. This boy had read the book, this boy had became immortal, he had grown old inside while his loved ones grown old on the outside.
"To live forever is to not live at all." so says the Ancient Child to Peter. Peter walked through the garden taking in the Ancient Child's words, of his sorrow and while sitting on the bank of the river Peter had finally made up his mind. He wouldn't read the book.
I had promised my mother's kindergarten class that I would read them a book because of how they did on there Spanish test with me, this was the chosen book. Read as they laid down for there afternoon nap they were transfixed by the colors of the illustrations and when the story was finished and one student only remained awake he proclaimed 'That was a good book Miss Anna, I really liked that book.'