Miss Smith and the Haunted Library begins with Zack, our main character sitting idly in his classroom on an autumn morning. His teacher, Miss Smith, enters the room and tells the class that they will be visiting the library. Upon arrival at the library, we meet Virginia Creeper, a hip librarian with blue hair. Ms. Creeper begins to read scary stories to the students from the “Incredible Storybook.” Soon, the storybook characters come to life and join story time. Just as Zack begins to become scared and nervous at the sight of characters like Frankenstein and the Headless Horseman, Ms. Creeper passes out refreshments and the students have a party with the characters. Soon, senior citizens arrive at the library to start their book club meeting and it is imperative that the scary characters leave the library. It is up to Zack to read the end of each character’s story so that they can return to the “Incredible Storybook”. After clean up is done, each child checks out a book and the class leaves the library.
Overall, I really enjoyed Miss Smith and the Haunted Library. Textually, the plot of this book is thin but well supplemented by the illustrations. The illustrations show us how the characters feel about each event and action in the book. They also offer inside jokes for adults. Miss Smith is wearing a “Blonde” button, and at the end, a student checks out Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars by David Bowie. Despite a lack of plot, the book offers a valuable theme. At two separate points in the book we see Zack, the main character, reform his initial judgment of another character in the book. When Zack meets the librarian with, “Blue hair, pale skin, deep dark eyes…” we find out, “…he hadn’t been expecting this.” Also, we see Zack, once scared by the creepy book characters, become amazed as they begin to party with the students. We see Zack realize that librarians can have blue hair and the Wicked Witch of the West can let loose and have a good time.
Review: School Library Journal
One fall day, Miss Smith takes her class to the public library to meet the librarian, Virginia Creeper. The scene is set as they enter the building, which looks a bit like a haunted house. The librarian reads spooky stories from Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook, which brings the characters to life. Soon the children are surrounded by frightening figures such as Frankenstein, Count Dracula, Captain Hook, and the Jabberwocky. They enjoy themselves so much that the youngsters forget what time it is and then must rush to finish each story so the characters can go back into the book. In all the chaos, it seems one story was overlooked. So far, Zack is the only student to notice a creature lurking nearby. Falling leaves and pictures of ghosts, pumpkins, and witches complete the autumnal scene. Halloween can be inferred, but it is not mentioned by name. Each page is full of clever details, and the characters have unique characteristics, from the librarian’s bright purple hair and dress, to Miss Smith’s stand-up red hair, to the book characters playing out their roles. The students in particular are expressive. One page shows them with their mouths open while the Headless Horseman looms above. The story captures the joy of reading and is sure to be a hit.
Young audiences may lack context for this book especially when it comes to the scary book characters at the library. I think that having a story time could remedy this problem and make kids excited about Garland’s text. I would read age appropriate books that include the Headless Horseman, Dracula and the Hound of Baskervilles. I would conclude the story time by reading Miss Smith and the Haunted Library.
Garland, M (2009). Miss Smith and the Haunted Library. New York: Dutton Children’s Books. ISBN: 0525421394.
Guenthner, L. A. (2009, July). [Review of the book Miss Smith and the Haunted Library by Michael Garland] School Library Journal, 55(7), 63-64.