DECATUR — The first chapter is short and to the point: “I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It’s not as easy as it looks.”
The opening page of “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate is poetic prose, said John Schirle, who works on the children’s floor of the Decatur Public Library, leading into a charming story of a gorilla who is part of a display of animals at Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Schirle has his own copy of the book, signed by the author.
Though the book is in the children’s section, it was one of several recommended by the librarians at Wednesday’s Books Between Bites session devoted to children’s books for adults to enjoy, and the session was well-attended by a large number of adults, most of whom left clutching some of those books under their arms.
“Why should adults read children’s books?” said librarian Katie Gross. “They’re good, well-written and entertaining.”
Books written for grownups, she said, often rely on sensationalism instead of good storytelling, while children’s authors know they can’t get away with that. Children’s authors also know they’re not going to get rich — J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, is an exception — so they do it for the love of their craft.
“We can get in touch with the unjaded, optimistic people we were once upon a time,” Gross said.
Of course, as librarians in the children’s department, Gross and her co-workers have to read children’s books, particularly the winners of the Newbery and National Book Awards, but they also enjoy them.
“When I read adult books, I’m always so disappointed in the endings,” said Alissa Henkel, who is also half of the library’s READiculous team. Henkel and Susan Bishop act out children’s stories at schools around the area, and Henkel recommended “Ranger’s Apprentice,” a fantasy series of 14 books with a related series called Brotherband Chronicles. There’s also a companion website, www.rangersapprentice.com.
“This series is so fabulous,” she said. “There’s no magic in the book, except it is magic. It has knights and rangers and diplomats.”
One of the library’s regular visitors, Gross said, is an older gentleman who had never ventured into the children’s department before he discovered that series and now has read every one.
Keli Trei planned to check out that series, too.
“I think there’s an innocence in children’s books and an honesty,” she said. “Adults books are overly convoluted, and with children’s books you get right to the heart of the emotion and the truth right away.”