“Sunrise Elementary School had a BIG problem. The new librarian, Miss Lotta Scales, was a real dragon.”
So begins Carmen Agra Deedy’s phenomenal 1994 picture book The Library Dragon.
The opening page of the book has a circled want ad for a children’s librarian, and you can see how they inadvertently hired a dragon. “Our new librarian must be on fire with enthusiasm; no half-baked applicants need apply.”
Miss Lotta Scales is very imposing as drawn by Michael P. White. Her bright green scaly skin and blood red eyes are complemented by her blue horn-rimmed glasses with the little chains on the sides, and by her lovely yellow dress with a dragonfly pattern on it.
She’s been hired to guard the library and she takes her job seriously. In fact, the thought of kids “touching her precious books just makes her hot under the collar.”
So unfortunately kids are dreading going to library time and coming back singed. The author has lots of good groaners for adults reading the book aloud: The staff gets all worked up about the dysfunctional library and so “the principal fumed,” and the “teachers were incensed”.
It takes little Molly Brickmeyer wandering in to help Lotta Scales see how a library works. While the dragon is napping Molly starts reading a book to the other kids. Miss Scales wakes up and is amazed. “She’d never seen anything like it: the children looked like they belonged here.”
Of course Lotta learns how to run a library the right way. Her scales drop off and little Molly sits in her lap. She turns nice but still has a list of five rules to help the books stay nice including “Treat a book like you treat a friend- you don’t wipe your nose on your friend.”
I still love this book 15 years since first look. Back at Prescott Elementary School, Patty the Librarian used to use this book at class groups first visit to the library in September. That got kids fired up about books for the whole year!