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Simon Mason: A Short Article on the Importance of Libraries (with added rabbits)

Posted By Jacob Hope, 30 September 2019

The Youth Libraries Group was delighted to be asked to be part of Simon Mason's blog tour for his latest Garvie Smith Mysteries book, 'Hey, Sherlock'.  Simon has been shortlisted for the Guardian Children's Fiction Award with 'Moon Pie' and for the Costa Children's Book Award for 'Kid Got Shot'.  We are pleased to welcome Simon as a guest blogger to talk about his encounters in libraries (and with rabbits!).

 

 Ecclesall Library in Sheffield was a low stone building at the end of a shadowy driveway off Knowle Lane.  Sunlight sat in the corners of its rooms smelling of warm dust.  The book cases seemed very high, perhaps because I spent most of the time sprawling on the carpet, and there was a room at one end where you could sit round a record player in a highly polished wooden cabinet and listen to recordings of books on scratchy LPs.

 

The book characters who made the deepest impression on me lived in that library.  Looking back, so many of them seemed to be rabbits.

 

Peter was one of them.  I enjoyed his rapid, adventurous sneakery and general rudeness to Mr McGregor, something I sometimes tried out – unsuccessfully – at home.  Winnie-the-Pooh’s friend Rabbit, on the other hand, was an interesting figure of tragedy; the backfiring of his trick on Tigger first introduced me to the unsettling ambiguity of humour.

 

Best of all the rabbits, though, was Brer Rabbit – born and bred in the briar patch, swaggering through the plantations of the deep south in his dungarees, shooting the breeze with Brer Tarrypin, cocking a snook at Brer Fox and Brer Bear, getting caught and escaping again, stealing dinners, having the last laugh, quietly smoking his pipe.  God, I loved that rabbit.

 

Enough of rabbits, however.  There were others living in Ecclesall library, sleeping beauties and sleeping dragons and jungle creatures and Viking raiders and, perhaps most interesting of all, ordinary children who happened to have got themselves into books somehow.  It gave me great joy to meet them all, and the joy has lasted all my life.

 

My love of libraries has lasted too.  My school library where, in moody adolescence, I discovered poetry.  My library at college, which I could visit in the middle of the night if I wanted to.  And – much later on – the children’s library in Oxford where I took my own children to meet their own favourite book characters – some of them rabbits.

 

So this is how it seems to me.  That in the end the importance of libraries is not a matter of learning or influence or taste.  But a matter, very simply, of joy.

 

(And rabbits.)

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