The Library Card

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Library Card Book Poster Image
A mysterious library card affects four lives.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

This book follows a group of four young strangers who are struggling through life for very different reasons

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lots of bad behavior: shoplifting, vandalism, tagging, mooning, mouthing off to adults.


A threat with a razor blade.


Numerous candy brands mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A reference to a mother who died of a drug overdose.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book follows a group of four young strangers who are struggling through life for very different reasons, and that some of them serve as better role models than others -- at least initially. One, an inner-city dweller, spends his spare time spray-painting graffiti with a friend. Another is grappling with his mother's recent death.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8-year-old Written byChristianmommy November 18, 2009

Great handbook for delinquents!

Hated this. Angry it was given to my 3rd grader. For all of the questionable youth activity: Repeated Shoplifting and Vandalism, Defying all teacher, adult and... Continue reading
Parent of a 6 and 8-year-old Written byBnWsMom November 6, 2009

Good book for middle grades

This book was so-so. Overall it has a positive message about the value of books/the library - however that positive message is only inferred so the reader must... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 4, 2017

This is a pretty good book.

This book is about 4 kids: Mongoose, Brenda, Sonseray, and April. Mongoose vandalizes with his friend. When he gets his library card he shows an interest in non... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bybookwormwriter November 10, 2011

Not the best...

I must admit, this isn't what I expected. It was a little boring, and I didn't enjoy reading it. I finished all the stories, but I was disappointed. I... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mongoose is a young teen who is being led down the road to serious delinquency by his best friend Weasel. From shoplifting to vandalism, their crimes are getting bigger, as are Weasel's plans to drop out and live on the streets. When they find the card Weasel tosses it away. But it keeps reappearing, and Mongoose finally steps into a library for the first time in his life to find out about a strange bug he encountered while spray painting a tree. When he hands the card to the librarian on the way in, she says, "No, this is not to let you in. It's to let a book out." The book she gives him is called "I Wonder," and it contains far more than just the bug he was looking for.

Brenda is a TV addict, and when her parents decide to participate in a week long Great TV Turn-Off, she is completely lost. When she finds the card she hangs on to it because its blue rectangle reminds her of the TV set. But when she sleepwalks her way to the library, she finds a letter addressed to her which guides her to her own biography. She is fascinated to read about her own early childhood, but the words abruptly end after the first time she turns on the TV, and the rest of the pages are blank. So she becomes maniacally determined to fill them

Sonseray is homeless, living in a car with his father. Though he appears hardened and is constantly in trouble, his mother's death from a drug overdose years ago has left a hole in his life that he just can't fill, no matter what he does. But Miss Storytime at the library has a surprise for him.

April's new life on the mushroom farm her parents bought is less than appealing. When she goes on a hike trying to escape the ever present smell of the horse manure that the mushrooms grow in, she connects up with a bookmobile that is being hijacked by a teenaged runaway.

Is it any good?

Each story here is a small gem, and each is an imaginative, offbeat, and often poignant reminder of the power of books and libraries. And, of course, of the wisdom of librarians, who know that placing just the right book in a child's hands can change his life forever.

Jerry Spinelli has had a strange career. For a long time he was a competent toiler in the orchards of children's literature, producing a number of perfectly decent novels, nothing special or unusual, but enjoyable. Then, like a bolt from the blue, came Maniac Magee, a novel so far superior to anything else he had done that I had to wonder what profound change had come over him. It earned him a Newbery Medal and a place in the pantheon of truly great children's novels. I thought he had ascended to a new level of writing, and eagerly awaited his next. But when it came it was another of his perfectly respectable, not-going-to-set-the-world-on-fire novels. So it seemed that maybe he just had this one, truly great novel in him, and now that it was out, he could go back to being a mere mortal.

But wait. While The Library Card is not on the same level with Maniac Magee (maybe that's not really possible or fair to expect), it is far better than his ordinary books. Like Bruce Brooks's What Hearts, its structure is of four related novellas. What ties these stories together, however, is a mysterious blue library card that has a powerful impact on the life of whoever finds it. It leads its possessors to a library whose enigmatic librarian seems to know more about them than they know themselves. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the power of books, reading, libraries, and librarians and the affect they can have on even the most difficult lives.

  • Have you ever read a book that changed the way you thought about your life?

  • What about it spoke to you?

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