Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Please Bury Me in the Library. Ill. by Kyle M. Stone. Orlando: Gulliver Books/Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 0152163875.
Please Bury Me in the Library is small. It has relatively simple words. It has captivating, yet childlike acrylic illustrations by Kyle Stone. Yet, for all of that, it is most enjoyable if you get the jokes. The first clue that this collection of poems is not for brand new readers is the first poem, “What If Books Had Different Names?” The reader no only has to understand rhyme, but they should also be familiar with the books mentioned, which includes both Alice in Wonderland and Huckleberry Finn.
Stone’s paintings are the perfect complement. They are just as zany and off-beat as the poetry. Could the book stand without the images? Not in the same way. The illustrations add to the atmosphere. While the poetry is wonderful on its own, the mother butterfly or the two page spread of birds (there are thirty-two, by the way) bring the words to life.
Lewis plays with his words. He tells of an “Ottobiography” written by a flea named Otto (p.6). He asks for “a dozen long-stemmed proses.” (p.12) Perhaps the most surprising thing he does, at least for modern readers, is admit there are bad books. In “Great, Good, Bad,” he states that “A bad book owes to many trees/A forest of apologies.” (p.10) Considering how few people today seem to be willing to admit to children that there are poorly written books, this is refreshing. Granted, children can form their own opinions about good and bad books, but in a world where everything is accepted, it is nice to know that it’s ok to think something is bad.
By the same token, Lewis is fluid in his structure. “Pictures, Pictures, Pictures” runs together as the speaker, and therefore the reader, reads faster and faster. The second stanza doesn’t line up “properly,” but it rushes the reader to the inevitable conclusion. Even his acknowledgements are a poem. (Even better, they are a funny poem.)
I’m tempted to say throw this at the class of high school freshmen who are forced to do a poetry section. They’re funny. They’re short. There are multiple kinds of poems in the book. It’s the kind of book you can reach the end of and go “I can do that.” However, while I think fourth grade might be the average youngest to appreciate Please Bury Me in the Library, by no means is it limited to one grade or gender. (I say average youngest because there are always those who read older or younger than their age)
I will admit, I was slightly surprised by the suggested age, 2nd to 4th grade.
Kirkus Review- “Stone debuts with broadly brushed, page-filling acrylics to match: Children in pj’s rest beneath or teeter atop piles of books; mice and owls peruse large volumes by moon- and candle-light; an elderly, rather Seussian creature listens contentedly to a young reader.”
Booklist- “Despite the picture-book format, it will take children older than the preschool crowd to appreciate the wordplay, which on occasion is quite sophisticated (Lewis credits Lear, Carroll, and X. J Kennedy as his inspirations).”
Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award 2006-2007.
“PLEASE BURY ME IN THE LIBRARY by J. Patrick Lewis”.
“Please Bury Me in the Library” Booklist. Found on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Please-Bury-Library-Patrick-Lewis/dp/B0057DCUW6