Something exciting happened this week at Kirin’s school. The Lost Lending Library appeared. It turned up in the yard on Wednesday morning, just like that, and nobody knew where it came from, not even the teachers.
In morning assembly, the headteacher said that every class could go and look inside. There were, however, one or two things the children should remember. To begin with, when they arrived, the door would be open, wide open, and they’d see a man reading a book. He mightn’t notice them at first, so they’d have to cough politely. The head also mentioned the chairs. Each one was made out of books, but it was all right; the children were allowed to sit on them.
When it was their turn, Kirin’s teacher, Miss So-and-so, brought the class down. They’d had to wait a very long time. Let’s hope it’s still there! Maybe it got lost somewhere else. But it was still in the yard, and, sure enough, the door was open, wide open, and they could see a man reading a book, sitting on a seat made of dictionaries, and he didn’t notice them, just as the headteacher said.
“Remember what you have to do,” Miss So-and-so prompted. Someone coughed, and another. Then everybody did it. Nothing happened. The man just didn’t hear.
“Cough again, louder.” But it was no good. He still didn’t notice. “This time, let’s do one big ahem, all together, no shouting though.”
It worked. The man looked up at the crowd of shining faces, and said, in a startled voice, “Have you been there long? Come in, come in!”
There was one more room, he explained, further inside, full of books to read. He showed them a bookcase that was really a door, with no key or handle. Instead, you put a book through a slot, and the door opened by itself. The man let someone do it. They all went in.
“Inside,” Kirin said, “there were millions of books, and all the chairs were made of books too.”
“Millions?” I queried, softly. “Did you count them? Did you use the expanded column method?”
And was the Library really lost? There was no name on it, Kirin said. The sign, I admitted, could have fallen off when the Library was bumping across London, but, I pointed out, every book in every library in every country in the world had the name of its library printed on it. He was surrounded by books. All he had to do was look. I was on a roll.
“Why didn’t the man hear you?” I continued. “He wasn’t deaf, was he?” Kirin shook his head, somewhat guardedly. “He was just pretending not to hear. Why?”
Kirin didn’t know.
“He was showing you how magical books can be. You lose track of the world around you.”
Kirin wasn’t chuckling anymore.
“And when you put the book in the slot, and the shelves opened like a door, what did that mean?”
We’d been doing metaphors, but I went straight on.
“Books open up a world of adventure.”
Back in the real world, Kirin had a list of questions, and a sentence to finish, for homework: ‘Since I visited the Lost Lending Library, I…’ I told him to say something his teacher would like, “For example, ‘I’ve decided to read as many books as possible.’”
Kirin thought a moment, then started writing. Although he frequently annoys me, when he does get down to writing, it’s worth it just to watch, he’s so serious, so composed. He didn’t write much, but I could tell he’d done his best. I took his paper, and read: “Since I visited the Library, I thought they are the most boring places in the world.”