The Man Who Saved Books

By Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Mary Beth Owens. Down East Books, 2022. 32 pages. $18.95/hardcover; $18/eBook. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

This is a timely theme, ingeniously engineered by author Lynn Plourde and eloquently illustrated by artist Mary Beth Owens. The plot concerns Mr. Pottle, who rescues objects from the local dump, reconditions them, and makes them available to local residents.

The bumps in this brand of civic responsibility are several. Firstly, once dumped, even reconditioned objects are not considered respectable in middle-class society. Just think of the saying “down in the dumps,” and you’ll sense the social barrier to recovering such items. Secondly, just the idea of not consuming new objects in our society is unacceptable. After all, dumps make space for consumption.

Struggling against these social stigmas are the children of Shiretown, Maine. They take to Mr. Pottle’s beaming presence and the genuine patience he devotes not only to damaged books, tools, and appliances, but to the people who need them in their lives.

Allied to this fetching plot is Owens’s artistry. Her illustrations are energetic. Her children, whether on bicycles or on foot, radiate action; Mr. Pottle, whether working in his workshop or striding about his “dump,” exhibits a can-do air in motion and in rest.

The plot heats up when Mr. Pottle takes to his bed to recover from an injury. Parents, led by grateful children, bring books Mr. Pottle had recovered for them only to discover that the man who saved so many books can’t read! In a touching scene, children wriggle carefully onto the edges of his bed to read to Mr. Pottle from his reconditioned treasures.

James Foritano attends Cambridge (Mass.) Meeting.

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