________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 28. . . .March 22, 2013


The Lake and the Library.

S. M. Beiko.
Toronto, ON: ECW Press, 2013.
237 pp., trade pbk., $14.95.
ISBN 978-1-77041-057-2.

Grades 6-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Tara Stieglitz.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



I reached out but his body stiffened. In my periphery, I saw those single offending drops grow and multiply, the puddle reaching nearly to my feet. The drippings grew into a steady rush on all sides, climbing down the walls and through the shelves like a silent fountain. The library was losing its clarity again, but this time it was more powerful. The lights flickered and buzzed, the wood creaking and swelling as it absorbed the water, and Li’s eyes grew darker.

I looked around, bodily chilled at the scene that was unfolding around me. “Li…what’s happening?” Whatever was going on here, it seemed to be because of him. Or because of me.


Ash, short for Ashleigh, is creative and a bit of a dreamer, and so it’s no surprise that she finds her hometown of Treade, MB, to be stiflingly dull. Fortunately, she does not have much time left in Treade as she and her mother will be moving away at the end of the summer. Ash’s excitement over leaving is tempered somewhat by the prospect of missing her best friends, Tabitha and Paul. Ash and her friends spend their time chatting and daydreaming on the cliffs overlooking the large lake near the town or in the woods on the edge of town visiting a mysterious but stately condemned building. They have always been drawn to the building, which has a reputation for being haunted, but they have never found a way in. The action of The Lake and the Library starts when Ash, while exploring by herself around the building, finds a way in only to discover that the building houses an enchanting library and its mysterious, mute keeper, Li. Ash finds herself strangely drawn to Li and the library, and she begins to neglect her friends and her mother in order to spend all her waking hours in the library. The library turns out to be a magical place where she and Li embark on many imaginative adventures together. As the story continues, the mysteries of the library deepen and Ash’s obsession with Li, the library and a mysterious drowned woman take on a slightly sinister flavour.

      Though at times annoying, Ash is a likable character with whom readers will sympathize. The world of the library is well described and imaginative though an overuse of metaphor in the novel gets tiring. The biggest shortcoming of the novel is the lack of characterization devoted to all of the characters save Ash. Ash’s mother feels like a collection of stereotypes of single motherhood, and Ash’s friends completely lack defining characteristics. Once Ash discovers the library, she begins to treat Tabitha and Paul dismissively, but, as a reader, it is hard to care about these characters because the author has provided so little information about them. These are small weaknesses beside the novel’s strength as an imaginative and original fantasy.

      Part fairy story and part ghost story, The Lake and the Library is a satisfying fantasy novel with enough suspense and mystery to keep the reader guessing. Recommended for school and public libraries.


Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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