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Children’s books for adults, too

One of the library staff came into my office. She said, “A book you placed on hold is here.”

“Yay!” I shouted, because I knew exactly which book it was.

She frowned: “But you don’t really want it. It’s a children’s book.”

I learned a long time ago that if you are a manager of people, it’s never a good thing to frown at your staff. I frowned at her.

“What do you mean?” I scowled.

“The book you have on hold is The Aurelia Curse. It’s a children’s book by Cornelia Funke,” she replied.

And she was serious. She honestly thought that I had made a mistake (I placed my own book on hold by mistake!) and that I couldn’t possibly want to read a children’s book.

I sighed, looking at her over the rim of my glasses.

“No mistake. I want it. And I want it now.”

I sounded like an irritable child but if I could have gone home early to start reading it, I would have.

This is a great metaphor for many of our patrons. Many patrons like the look of a book when they see it on the library’s online card catalog. But, when they realize it’s a book for children, they are too embarrassed to read it.

To be honest, children’s books are awesome. They’re short, for the most part (Cornelia Funke’s books can be long), they can be touching and funny at the same time. The characters are often quite the character.

Take Cornelia Funke, for example. She’s written many books, including the Aurelia Curse, which is the third in the Dragon Rider series. The first book, Dragon Rider, is such a fun book. I couldn’t put it down when I read it in 2011. It’s what I call a Journey Book. The characters set out on a journey and the whole way through the book, they meet new and exciting characters.

Firedrake, one of the main characters, fears that humans are coming into the Valley of the Dragons, which will lead to discovery and to the hunting of dragons. The other dragons are afraid but refuse to leave. So, Firedrake sets off with his grouchy friend Sorrell, who is a furry magical brownie creature, to find the mysterious Rim of Heaven, the birthplace of all dragons. But Firedrake is warned by one of the oldest dragons to beware of the Golden One, a horrible creature who hunts dragons.

Along the way, Firedrake and Sorrell meet Ben, an orphan boy who accompanies them, and Gilbert, a genius of a rat who gives them a map. They travel from Europe to Egypt where they encounter a homunculus (a tiny little man-made mechanical man), a basilisk, a genie, another rat who can fly an airplane and another brownie (but this one with four arms) before they finally find the Rim, somewhere in the Himalayas, one other dragon and the Golden One.

Can they defeat a monster so terrible, made of metal stronger than anything on earth?

This book had scary moments and heart-breaking moments and at 544 pages, a lot more happens than what I’m writing about here. Funke wrote a second book in the series, the Griffin’s Feather, in 2019. In the stories, only two years have passed instead of eleven.

If you are looking for something different to read this summer, I encourage you to read this series; in order is better — that way you are introduced to all of the characters. And read this series even if you are a grown-up.

If you aren’t a fan of fantasy, maybe you’d like to read a different children’s book. You may be glad that you did.

•••

Susan Miriello is the Executive Director of the Mifflin County Library. She is currently reading Dragon Rider No. 3: The Aurelia Curse by Cornelia Funke.

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