"A bright, whimsical story with an engaging heroine and the most perfect of all settings the New York Public Library!" New York Times-bestselling author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
"O’Donnell Tubb’s masterfully constructed prose perfectly balances youthfulness and sophistication. Her whimsical word play had me hooked by paragraph one!...A compulsive read for any age." Historical Novels Review
"The perils of preteen friendship, ghost-hunting, and solving a theft make for pleasant reading." Kirkus Reviews
"A love letter to libraries and bibliophiles of all ages." School Library Journal
Eleven-year-old Viviani Fedeler has spent her whole life in the New York Public Library. She knows every room by heart, except the ones her father keeps locked. When Viviani becomes convinced that the library is haunted, new girl Merit Mubarak makes fun of her. So Viviani decides to play a harmless little prank, roping her older brothers and best friend Eva to help out.
But what begins as a joke quickly gets out of hand, and soon Viviani and her friends have to solve two big mysteries: Is the Library truly haunted? And what happened to the expensive new stamp collection? It's up to Viviani, Eva, and Merit (reluctantly) to find out.
"For every book lover who fantasized about getting locked in the library overnight, The Story Collector is a dream come true!" New York Times-bestselling author Alan Gratz
"A bright, whimsical story with an engaging heroine and the most perfect of all settings the New York Public Library!" New York Times-bestselling author Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Gr 4–6—This vibrant historical mystery is based on real people and true events. Viviani Joffre Fedeler lives in the New York Public Library. As the daughter of the library's superintendent, the stacks are her playground. When an expensive display of stamps is stolen, Vivani, her brothers, and her friend Eva try to solve the mystery. To complicate matters, they also think the library might be haunted by the spirit of a careless construction worker. When Viviani shares a little too much about her adventures at school, she draws the negative attention of worldly new student, Merit. She wants desperately to prove the ghost is real, solve the crime, and win Merit's approval, but her questionable methods will leave readers chuckling. Viviani's rambunctious nature makes her a heroine young readers will cheer for. Each chapter begins with a Dewey Decimal designation that provides a clue to what's coming in the next chapter, and black-and-white illustrations throughout help capture the feel of the Roaring 20s setting. VERDICT A love letter to libraries and bibliophiles of all ages, this novel sings with warmth and charm; a good choice for most middle grade mystery collections.—Mandy Laferriere, Fowler Middle School, Frisco, TX
A ghost may be haunting the New York Public Library in this novel published in partnership with the venerable institution.It's the Roaring '20s, and 11-year-old Viviani, nicknamed "Red," is living in the very best house, the main building of the New York Public Library (now called the Stephen A. Schwartzman Building). Her father is the building superintendent, and she and her brothers enjoy playing baseball using books as bases. But stories and storytelling are her true love. "Their truth was in their fun, not in their facts." With a friend and her two older brothers, Viviani tries to impress the new girl in her class, Merit Mubarak, just relocated from Egypt, with a tale that a ghost—real to Viviani but questionable to Merit—inhabits the building. At the same time, valuable stamps are stolen from a special exhibit, making their nighttime ghost-hunting expedition all the more exciting and scary. Tubb, who addresses readers as "Dear Friend," begins each chapter with a subject heading, Dewey Decimal number, and see-also references. Forget kids—librarians will love it. There are neighborhood references and interesting details about the library building, staff, special collections, and the lions out front. Viviani and her family are based in fact and were white. Bruno's line drawings help establish the time period.The perils of preteen friendship, ghost-hunting, and solving a theft make for pleasant reading. (author's note, timeline, archival photographs) (Historical fiction. 9-12)
Read an Excerpt
Dewey Decimal 796.357
SEE ALSO: sports, World Series
Some people are story collectors. While others collect seashells, or stuffed animals, or stamps, story collectors wrap themselves in words, surround themselves with sentences, and play with participles, even those pesky, perky dangling ones. They climb over Cs and mount Ms and lounge in Ls. Soon enough they land in the land of homonyms, then, wham! They stumble into onomatopoeia, that lovely creaking, booming bit of wordplay — and that, Dear Friend, is where our story begins:
The bat swung over Viviani Fedeler's left shoulder, then clattered to the terra-cotta tile floor of the New York Public Library. She shrieked and ran, red hair flying, nothing short of a firework whizzing about the bases.
"First!" she shouted as her foot landed squarely on the pages of The Lost Princess of Oz.
Viviani's older brother John Jr. muttered something unsavory as the ball sailed over his head. John's best pal, Carroll Case, scrambled across the floor, slipping and sliding around the massive carved oak tables until he finally spotted the ball. It was rolling neatly down the aisle between stacks of Modern Priscilla magazine and Whisper.
As the children of the building superintendent, the Fedelers had played baseball in many rooms of the library, but the Periodical Reading Room was their favorite. It was a perfect square, and if you squinted, the red tile floor looked just like the clay in a baseball diamond.
"Second!" Viviani yelled as she toed The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island.
Outside these thick marble walls, a horse-and-buggy trotted alongside clanking trolleys and honking automobiles, over rumbling subways. And on a clear day, if you leaned just right, you could see the gleaming white spire of the Woolworth Building, the tallest building in the world, from this spot at Fifth and Forty-Second.
This room had ample light from multiple windows, and Viviani imagined the trees fluttering in the wind just outside as a stadium full of fans, cheering her on:
Go, Viv! You can do it! She could hear them screaming now: Head for home, Viviani! Head for home! She could make it. She knew she could make it. She rounded third (a copy of Once on a Time) and plowed toward home plate.
Carroll scooped up the ball and hurled it with a grunt. The ball whizzed past Viviani and flew directly at one of the two-story lead-glass windows. A window with frilly woodwork around the sides and thick iron grilles holding the glass in place. An expensive window. One that wouldn't fare well on the wrong end of a speeding baseball.
At the last moment, John Jr. leapt into the air and thunk! The ball nestled into his leather glove.
John Jr. touched the base at the exact moment Viviani shouted "HOME!" She slammed into him, and the two toppled over the copy of The House at Pooh Corner that served as home plate.
"Out," declared John.
"Am not," said Viviani.
"Am not am not am not!" "Strong argument," Carroll said. "But you are out, Red."
Viviani stuck out her tongue at Carroll and whirled to her teammate and best friend. "Tell them, Eva. Tell them I'm in."
Eva twirled a lock of dark hair about her finger, straightening and releasing a perfect pin curl. "She's in. I'm pretty sure she's in."
Viviani and John Jr. turned to the umpire. "Ump?" said John.
But it was readily apparent that this umpire would be of no use. At least, not where baseball was concerned. The middle Fedeler child, Edouard, sat reading on an overturned garbage can, the ones with the brass lion knockers specially made for the library. His nose was buried deep in first base.
"Fact," Edouard said into the book, which he'd lifted off the baseball diamond as soon as Viviani had toed it. "The national anthem in Oz is 'The Oz Spangled Banner.'" "Edouard!" Viv and Junior shouted.
"Out," Edouard declared without even bothering to look up.
Viviani cleared her throat and prepared to deliver her protest. She'd start with an appeal to Edouard's finer points: his studiousness, his quiet strength. Then she'd appeal to his vast logical side: she'd explain how it was impossible for John Jr. to have leapt that high, only to have landed at just the right time in just the right place to tag her at home plate. Finally, she'd nail her argument with this: John Jr. must've instead tagged a library goblin, not her. Their father often told stories of the goblins, helpful little creatures that crept around the library stacks at night when all the patrons had gone home. Edouard couldn't resist the one-two punch of a compliment plus a mythical creature.
Then, if all else failed, she would yell at him.
Before Viviani could open her mouth, the children's librarian, Miss Alice Keats O'Conner, entered the room.
With a patron.
"Killjoy," Viviani muttered. Unfortunately, in such a large, high-ceilinged, echoing room, her words were magnified. Viviani cringed. Eva shrank.
"It's not what it looks like," Viviani said weakly.
The keen eyes of Miss O'Conner flew from the panting children to her precious books scattered about the room. A thunderous frown darkened her brow. Her nostrils flared. Her glasses slipped to the tip of her nose, and she crammed them against her eyebrows with a firm finger.
Miss O'Conner puffed up like a balloon. "You were playing baseball. In the Periodical Reading Room."
"Okay, it's exactly what it looks like," Viviani said.
Carroll sputtered a laugh and caught an elbow in the ribs from John Jr.
"You were playing baseball?" Miss O'Conner repeated. "In the Periodical Reading Room? And oh — you mangled Pooh!"
She lifted home base and examined the book in the sunlight glinting through the thank-goodness-she-hadn't-seen-it-nearly-get-smashed window. The book had gotten a tad rumpled. A few pages were bent, and a large, dusty footprint graced the back cover.
"Only improves it, if you ask me," Carroll whispered. "Load of treacle."
This was quite the wrong thing to say, as Pooh held a special place in the hearts of all children's librarians, especially Miss O'Conner's. The librarian considered trampling a book tantamount to trampling the author him- or herself.
"Out!" She stamped her heel — bam! — against the tile floor and jabbed a finger at the door. Carroll and John Jr. chuckled and dashed into the hallway. Viviani, who knew Eva's shyness would keep her glued to the spot, grabbed her friend by the wrist and pulled her toward the frosted-glass doors. Miss O'Conner was positively red-faced.
"Your coloring looks really pretty when you get all flustered like that, Miss O'Conner," Viv said as she and Eva scooted past. "Especially against your pearl earrings." Viv chuckled. "And if you think about it, Miss O'Conner —"
"Viviani Joffre Fedeler," Miss O'Conner said, pushing her glasses up her nose again, "I do not want to hear one of your tales right now."
See, Friend, here's the trouble with having a storyteller's soul: not everyone enjoys a good story all the time. Not even librarians, because sometimes the adult in them overtakes their story-loving side. Too often, people think of stories as fluff or nonsense. Some might even go so far as to call them lies.
"But —" Viviani began.
Miss O'Conner turned redder still and shook her pointer finger. "OUT!"
Edouard never once looked up from The Lost Princess of Oz. "Out. That's exactly what I said."CHAPTER 2
Dewey Decimal 790.1
SEE ALSO: indoor games, activities
When nightfall weaves its way through the New York Public Library, it is nothing shy of magic. Long stretches of sunlight on marble morph from white to yellow to pink to orange to red, then dim slowly, completely. Shadows yawn and stretch awake. Eighty-five miles of books on shelves blink away their daytime sleep, for books are often nocturnal creatures, ready to play. To roam. To hunt. Or so it seemed to Viviani, who felt as though those stacks of books had eyes.
First, the administrative staff would depart. Viviani would sneak into their offices, just across the main hall from the apartment on the second floor, where her family lived because her father was the building superintendent. Viviani would wheel about in office chairs, and wrap curlicue telephone cords around herself, and bang typewriter keys to the tunes of her favorite songs, such as: "In the mornin'! In the evenin'! Ain't we got fun!" (Meanwhile the paper rolled into the typewriter would actually read: gkrahtiowh! thoshtht! Ahffa ajgkhraso athorah tsghoa!)
Next, after the librarians straightened the last of the stacks, gathered their belongings, and shut off lamps, they would leave. This was when the fun would really start: Viviani would pull books off the shelves to make herself a sizable book fort, with a nice book throne inside. "Off with their heads!" she'd shout, and "Who dares disobey me?" Then she'd stack the books exactly back on the shelves in order because as her dad was fond of saying, hell hath no fury like a librarian scorned.
Next, from downstairs came the unmistakable BOOM! that signaled the large, ornate iron doors being pulled shut over the main library entrance. The library, which roared like a lion with the sound of eleven thousand visitors passing through its wooden rotating doors each day, fell to a purr and then, finally, to sleep. Once those main doors were closed and locked, the heartbeat of the library quieted, and the building belonged to Viviani and her family.
This particular late-fall evening, Viviani poked her head over the thick marble railing. Two stories below in the lobby, the night guard, jolly old Mr. Eames, jangled his large brass key ring, went to the back of the main entrance hall, and took a left toward the theater while whistling "Yes Sir, That's My Baby."
"I bested you again, sir," Viviani whispered with a smile, and tiptoed down the wide, dark hallway, across the length of the building, and down one flight of stairs. Her destination was the map room, at the far end of the first floor.
But just as Viv was sneaking down the last set of stairs and around the corner, she heard footsteps.
"Ha! Caught you, Red!"
Viviani's heart skipped a beat. She was face-to-face, or rather face-to-finger, with Mr. Eames. Her shoulders fell.
"Five points from your total, missy," Mr. Eames said, pulling a small notebook and pen from his breast pocket. "That leaves you with —"
"Two hundred eighty-five," Viviani and Mr. Eames said in unison. Viviani couldn't help but grin. She stood on tiptoe, trying to see the tally marks scratched in Mr. Eames's notepad. "I'm still in the lead though, right?"
Mr. Eames glanced at the point totals. "No, ma'am. It's been sixteen days since I've seen Edouard. He's the one to beat."
Viviani nodded, cracked her knuckles. "Edouard," she whispered. "Shoulda known." She paused, then added, "Hey, I really like the turkey bow tie. Perfect for Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble!"
Mr. Eames wore a different bow tie every day, and combined with his sharply creased security guard jacket, he was always quite a spiffy sight. "Flattery will get you nowhere, Viviani," he said, chuckling. "Two hundred eighty-five."
Viviani's lips pursed. "Have you lost weight?"
Mr. Eames laughed, snapped the notebook shut, tucked it back into his pocket, and patted it. "Carry on then, Red." Mr. Eames walked away, whistling and jangling his key ring.
And so the ongoing game of Master Thief continued. Viviani and her brothers could, on most nights, maneuver throughout the library without once seeing Mr. Eames. Not that they didn't care for him: he gave hearty hugs and was quick to share a stick of gum. But each day they managed to avoid him, he awarded them ten points toward their Master Thief status. A "Gotcha!" greeting from Mr. Eames after the library closed set the Fedeler kids back five points.
Viviani entered the moonlight-soaked map room. She adored this room. The walls were painted a soft sky blue; the ceiling, covered in ornate gold carvings. But best of all were the maps. They were everywhere: On the walls. On the shelves. Sprawled open in large atlases across gleaming tabletops. Viviani felt as if she had the whole world at her fingertips when she was in the map room.
She crossed to the sixteenth-century map displayed on the opposite side of the room. It depicted the English Channel and its whereabouts. And the best part: it was covered in sea monsters!
The map always brought to mind Viviani's favorite pirate tale about Lady Mary Killigrew, who dressed like a man and sailed under the name Pyrate JonBonnie. She wished she could be an adventurer like her. Viviani bet that when Lady Mary sailed, the kraken and the sea dragons fled to deep waters because they knew better than to be beheaded by her swift sword.
Oh, how Viviani loved all those stinky old pirates! And oh, how she loved the maps that captured those tales.
Viv sank into a chair and sighed. There were so many exciting stories to collect! Tales of bravery! Tidbits of tenacity! Fables filled with derring-do! Her life was so boring in comparison. How was she supposed to find her Happily Ever After if she wasn't even sure her Once Upon a Time had started yet?
Viv tugged the fur collar of her overcoat to her cheeks and huffed a cloud of warm breath on her balled fists. Viv and her family often wore coats on chilly evenings in the massive library. While the furnace chugged throughout the night (thanks to Papa's stoking it regularly), the amount of coal used in the evenings was significantly less. She hugged her knees and rocked on the creaky wooden chair.
Viv could go back to their warm library apartment, but she was avoiding home. Her mother, Cornelia Fedeler, would insist she help with cooking dinner. Cooking! Her mother was a real prize at it, and even here, two city blocks north and one floor down, Viviani could smell the heavenly mix of onions and garlic and peppers wafting from their apartment. She pictured the scent as a snake, winding its way through the library until it found her here, in this dark room, tempting her the way Eve was tempted with the apple. Vivianiiiiiiii ..., it hissed.
But cooking? Where was the danger and excitement in that? One couldn't even gather so much as a skinned knee from cooking. No, she'd simply head back when her mother sounded the dinner gong, chosen and purchased in Chinatown when a bell couldn't be heard throughout this massive building.
Viviani sat, enjoying the quiet and the world on maps all about, until suddenly she felt eyes on her. A shadow passed across the walls. A rustle made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She turned, her chair groaning.
Viviani gulped. While everyone knew Mr. Eames's routine, Mr. Green, the library custodian, kept them guessing. No one ever heard him coming.
Mr. Green snuck around the big table at the opposite end of the room. He held a paper trash bag and scooped the leftover scraps of notes and discarded pencil shavings and bent pen nibs into his bag. Scoop, shuffle, drag.
Don't be silly, Viviani told herself as she studied Mr. Green's every move. He's fine. Don't believe what John Jr. says about him.
Mr. Green's gums smacked.
Viviani shivered. Just a coincidence, she thought. There's nothing to be afraid of.
Mr. Green worked his jaw back and forth.
Viviani's stomach dropped. That could be anything.
Mr. Green blew a slow, pink bubble with the gum in his mouth, and pop!
"Mr. Green is not a cannibal!"
Unfortunately, yes, Viviani did say that aloud. Mr. Green jumped, spilling the contents of the bag he was holding. Refuse went everywhere: a poof of dust and dirt and trash. Mr. Green's brow furrowed. He fixed his glare on Viviani.
Did he just growl? Viviani was sure he growled.
She yelped, leapt up, dashed across the room, through the double leather doors, and up one flight of stairs, slipping and sliding all the way down the hall to the door of her family's apartment. She paused there to catch her breath because her mother could smell mischief a mile away.
John Jr. had once told her that Mr. Green was a cannibal. His words rang through her head now: That Mr. Green? Oh, you may think he's a custodian, but he would just as soon plop you into that bag of his, Red. Beware!
Viviani had laughed at the time. "Mr. Green? He's no cannibal."
Junior had narrowed his twinkling eyes at her. "And his custodial closet, the one at the bottom of the basement stairs? The one that's always locked?"
"What about it?" Viv had asked, her voice suddenly shaking.
"He's the only one with a key to that closet. No one else has a key like that."
"That's where he hides the evidence. That's where he takes the bones of his victims, Red! That closet of his is a graveyard." John Jr. had cackled wildly, licking his fingertips as if he'd just enjoyed a tasty meal.
"It's not true," Viv had said, shaking to the tips of her toenails.
"Still, it could be true, couldn't it?" John Jr. had asked her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Story Collector"
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