I took my grandson, who’s five, to the Murray Bridge library. He said he already knew about libraries because Mrs. Smyth takes them. At the Murray Bridge library, they have Lego Club for parents and kids. The models are displayed in a glass cabinet outside the library. I wanted to go inside and get at the books, but Max pressed his nose to the glass. He named the models: Minion Lego, the Bowling Alley Lego, Scientific Friends Lego, Spider Lego, Spaceship Club, Small House Pets, the set of UFO.
I thought we should go inside next and get at the books. At the door, a young man in uniform and a clipboard, ‘Are you here for the event?
I said no, and Max said yes. But we weren’t. Max looked at all the families entering the Room With Interesting Things Going On. But we hadn’t booked in.
Max tried 3 different seats in the book train. He found a book called Predators Bite and sat on the floor with it. Then he put it in the bag and asked me about rattlesnakes. Then went over to look through the window of The Interesting Room. The event was over. The dazed librarian was packing up.
Max climbed into the book train and read Predators Bite again, and then The Waterhole. He asked me about rattlesnakes again. More families came in. One family ate lunch at one of the tables. A lady with a clipboard was talking to two teenage girls who wore rucksacks and hiking boots. A librarian stuck a machine out of order sign across one of the borrower terminals. Toddlers running everywhere. The kind man with the clipboard stood quietly. Max’s bag was heavy and had to be dragged. He came to help me because I was so slow.
It was Danielle Steele. I said, Ok. He was pleased and packed it carefully.
‘I got you this because it’s fat.’ It was Anna Karenina. I said, Ok.
‘Do you want this maybe?’
‘Read it already.’
‘Look at THIS.’
‘Ok. Yes.’ It was Jasper Jones. Choice.
‘This has fireworks on it.’
‘Ok. I’ll give it a go. (It was The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall. Never heard of it.)
‘What’s a go?’
‘You know, give it a read.’
‘Get this Nanny. It’s got green on it. ’It was Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett. ‘Yes, put it in.’
There was a crowd of teenagers rotating through Young Readers and then falling into beanbags, consulting phones, chewing gum, eyes urgent. Max watched, standing with one hand on the shelf and one small foot stacked on the other foot.
He came back.
‘Get this, because you’ll like this because it’s got a railway train track on it.’ It was Enemies within these Shores by Debbie Terranova, the train track barely visible at the bottom of the front cover.
Get this because it’s got a monster see there.’ It was The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells. Strong pick.
Nanny get this maybe. It was Savage Lane by Jason Starr, who is apparently an internationally bestselling author.
Max spoke in an urgent voice. ‘Look at THIS.’ It was V2 by Robert Harris. ‘It’s about rockets. And moons.’ He looked at the cover. There’s a map. I’m getting this.’ He packed it in.
‘This has got a bit of red or something on the back.’ It was Willa Cather, an old hardback with gold faded covers and a weighty nonchalant page block needing to prove nothing. Unusual for a public library where most books are now achingly new, average, and safe.
Willa Cather: O Pioneers!
Max watched my face, knowing he’d stuck gold, and pleased.
‘Is it good?’
‘Very good indeed. How’d you know?’
‘I do. I’m a big guy.’
Time to Check Out. We had to drag the bags. Max sat under the terminal and packed the bags. The machine got stuck at book number 14, and a librarian dashed to help.
A man tried to use one of the other terminals, not seeing the out of order sign and banging his books around and sighing. He only had two books. We were taking too long. Max was reading Predators Bite under the terminal with books scattered around him in an untidy grid of escaping tiles. And I was reading O Pioneers, with the printed docket for all the books we’d borrowed curling around my ankles. Oh Willa Cather.