I haven’t spent time with children for the longest time. Not since I was one, all those years ago.
Imagine then, their strangeness for me- the sparking, the delicateness, the wildness. This is a story about something I saw this past month. It has children, and dinosaurs, and the Library where they came together.
Bookworm is a bright place. Arts and crafts, laughing adults stomping up the stairs, a liquid sunlight, books bursting off the shelves like ripening fruit. If you are reading these words, you probably know this.
Yet, within its curls and crevices lurk monsters too: giant birds, lizards, red cars, half-people, mythical creatures – all awaiting the moment that their stories will be discovered and lived again.
Sometimes they hide in the unlikeliest places.
Opposite the desk where I sit watching benignly, Under the stairs, Behind the Books of the Month, there are Boxes.
In these boxes lie Toys.
Brightness again. Wood and plastic and shiny little dolls. Much of this is made up with donations from the community, but that only increases their lustre, the mystery. Most users of the Library tend to gallop to this corner under the stairs as soon as they enter. It is a matter of no small uncertainty for us that the least “book-place” in the library is the most popular.
Two new children enter the library. A brother and sister. They are only here for a month. They have nowhere else to go in the mornings. They listen uneasily as I take them to shelves, and babble recommendations at them. They fidget as I hand them fairy tales and adventure stories and comics.
Eventually I leave them alone.
Quiet children. Self-contained. If they speak at all, it is softly. They thumb through books, they walk around in a lost way. I wonder how long they’ll be able to sustain this enforced ‘learning’ period.
Eventually, like most people here, they respond to the draw of the Toys.
Suddenly there is animation. Wooden blocks come out, then an ambulance (complete with an injured lego-man inside it), then a kitchen set. The children are jumping and tumbling – still quiet – but full of a liveliness I hadn’t seen before. The zenith of the excitement is when they pull out a squishy plastic beach ball and start to play with it.
The ball is painted with tiny dinosaurs.
The children biff the ball, they punch it, they fling it and hug it, they catch it, they snatch it, they kick it, and watch it. When tired, the small(er) girl drifts away and returns to a picture book. The boy is still holding the ball. He sits on the ground then, and stares at it for the longest time, as if in a trance.
Something begins to happen. A magic. The monsters waker up, stretch and yawn and their eyes gleam with fire. An ancient power flickers in the air. Deep roars can be heard rolling across the expanses of the green earth. They echo in the corners of the library.
The boy comes up to me, after carefully replacing the ball in its place. His voice is hesitant.
“Excuse me…do you have any books on dinosaurs?”
I take him to the shelf with old dusty encyclopedias. One is a green thug of a book about the “Wild World”. The first section is about dinosaurs.
The boy cradles the book carefully, finds a corner to sit. He is enrapt. He reads it and reads it and reads it until it is time to leave.
Later it seems as if there’s a hushed croaking laughter coming out from the box of Toys Under the Stairs behind the Books of the Month. ‘Dinosaurs are extinct’, I tell the boxes sternly. But the Library knows better. The Library knows the truth.
Obviously, dinosaurs live on.
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Alia (Library Program Coordinator)