I’ve been seeing The Lonely Book featured in quite a number of posts by book-blogging friends, and I thought that I might as well check it out as it seems perfect for our current bimonthly theme until the middle of November as we celebrate Books about Books and the River of Words.

I could easily see how this book is so popular among avid bibliophiles. The lyrical narrative (which thankfully does not follow the stringent 300 word rule) and the muted/soft illustrations can not help but whisper breathy sweet-nothings to a book-lover’s ear. Much of the setting in the narrative is inside the library – one of my favorite places in the world. The Lonely Book did not start off being ‘lonely’ as this green book with “a picture of a girl in the forest under a toadstool” was one of the more popular books in the library.

The library was busy every day with children looking for books about everything in the world, and the moss-green book about the girl in the forest was often chosen and taken home.

Whenever the book was returned, it was placed back on the shelf where the newest books lived. There was a long list of children waiting for the book, and it hardly ever slept at the library.

After awhile though, this well-loved book predictably got tattered, less in-demand, and completely forgotten “dropped in a dark corner by a daydreaming child, and not even the librarian found it.” Until a golden-haired girl discovered this book, rescued it from obscurity, brought it home, and enjoyed its soft whisperings.

I’ve always felt that books speak to us. And this little girl, Alice, clearly showed how she listened to this book and was forever changed by it. Despite the missing last page and its fragile state, Alice read it religiously every night and even brought it to school as her special feature for show-and-tell: “The book had never felt so beloved.”

As misfortune would have it, the lovely Alice accidentally left the book at the library, and try as she might, even with the kind assistance of wonderful librarians, she was unable to find her favorite book. Whether or not she would be reunited with ‘the lonely book’ I shall leave for you to discover.

The book reminded me a little bit of Toy Story as the storyteller breathes life to an inanimate object [although I do have my reservations about calling a book inanimate, they seem to have a pulse, don’t they?] – and the reader gets to follow the book’s journeys. It also serves to remind the reader of that one book that may have forever altered their perception of the universe or changed the course of their lives forever (mine was Paulo Coelho’s By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept).

What is that ‘lonely book’ for you, dear friends?

The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer and Illustrated by Chris Sheban. Published by Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2012. Book borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

PictureBook Challenge Update: 102 of 120

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

4 comments on “Books Get Sad Too: The Lonely Book

  1. Beautifully written review, Myra. It’s certainly a find & a favorite recent book of mine. It’s such a sweet book. My Lonely book, as you described it, is a naturalist’s book, The Outermost House, by Henry Beston, about a year in a small cabin on Cape Cod. It’s one I return to again & again. Thanks Myra!


    • Hi Linda, that sounds like a lovely book indeed – will look for The Outermost House in our libraries. I just read (and borrowed) your recommended book “and the soldiers sang” – my heart just broke into little fragments. Very very beautiful, thank you for sharing that last Monday. 🙂


  2. Pingback: Reading in September: A Round Up and AWB Reading Challenge «

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