Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Night Bookmobile

If you are an obsessive reader (and I know how many of you are!), you won't want to miss this bittersweet graphic novel about Alexandra, a young woman who discovers, wandering late at night through the streets of Chicago, the most amazing bookmobile ever.  An avid reader, she is delighted to explore its shelves - and she is astonished to discover that it contains every book - every thing - that she's ever read.  From Pat the Bunny  to cookbooks, even her childhood diary.  The bookmobile is open from dusk to dawn, and day breaks all too soon for Alexandra.  She becomes consumed with the desire to visit her personal bookmobile again, but doing so isn't a simple matter.  Years go by, while she reads and reads, dreams and dreams, and hopes against hope to find it again.

This book is an ode to reading - but it is a cautionary tale as well.  At first I didn't care much for the style of the artwork, but as I continued to read it grew on me, and by the end I found it really fit the atmosphere and tone of the book.  It's a quick read, but a thought-provoking one, and I think it would be an excellent add-on book for any book club to read (or primary book, really - maybe during those summer months when everyone's so busy) - what a lot of fun discussion this book would inspire!  This is another one of those books that is a great place to start for those who are interested in exploring the unique way in which graphic novels can tell a story.

One question I had [potential minor spoiler here], and maybe those of you who have read this can weigh in, was why, if that librarian was her unique and personal librarian, was he always so busy? Why did the bookmobile show up so very rarely?  That didn't make much sense to me.

In a way, this book reminds me of The Time Traveler's Wife, a novel I loved so much as I was reading, but it was so heartrending that there's no way I could handle reading it again.  This one explores things I adore, but it delves into the dark side, and ends on a truly disturbing note - made all the more heartbreaking because I identified so much with the character and can definitely feel the compelling tug of the reasons for the choice she makes.  This one, however, is one that I know I could read over and over again - it explores the passion for reading, and the importance of books in our lives - and is a reminder to those of us who might rather stay curled up in an armchair with our favorite literary companions to set the book down from time to time and do some non-vicarious living of our own.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger (Abrams, 2010)

Also reviewed at:
A Life in Books"Although I was initially taken aback, the more I thought about the book and its message, the more I liked it."
Stuff as Dreams" If you’re a book lover (and we all are) I think you’re sure to love this one. And she says in the afterword that it’s part of a larger collection she hopes to do called “The Library”! Hooray!!!"
The Written World"It's short, but it really packs a punch. I was glued to the pages because it was compelling, but at the same time very dark."


  1. Looks good! I have the Pride and Prejudice in comic style and they do take getting used to for me. This story looks good. I liked her first book, her second was freaky-weird-good.

    Tanya :)

  2. This sounds fabulous! I must read. Thanks for the review!

  3. Glad you liked this one, Darla :) That is an interesting question about why the librarian didn't show up more often...only thing I can think is that it was some lesson for her to learn....that she would cherish the experience more with time? But then it only drove her nuts...hmmm...

  4. This sounds very good. Thanks.

  5. Tanya - It did take me a while in the beginning to become accustomed to the format (I'd forget to really look at the pictures, and then I'd get confused, lol). But now I really love it - it's a fantastic way to tell a story. I think you'd enjoy this one, and it's a fast, read-in-a-single-sitting book.

    Nicola - I think this one is right up your alley. :-)

    Chris - It is puzzling. Maybe (like many librarians) he has a lot of other things to deal with beside driving the bookmobile around! But yes, it wouldn't be such a precious thing if it was always available.

    Heather - I think you'd really enjoy this one.

  6. What you describe of the plot reminds me strongly of a middle grade book by Catherine Sefton (aka Martin Waddell) called In a Blue Velvet Dress, about a girl who lives a bit too much between the pages of her beloved books getting a bit of supernatural help in joining the real world.

    I've not yet been able to get into a graphic novel (American Born Chinese has been lurking in the tbr pile for a while now), but The Night Bookmobile looks like it might be a great place to start...thanks for the review!

  7. Susan - I haven't heard of that book, but it sounds good! This one would be a good one to try as far as easing into the graphic novel format. It's short, so it's a quick read, but it offers so much, both textually and visually, that you'll probably want to go back and flip through it again as soon as you've finished. I think that if you can just find the right graphic novel to start with, you'll be hooked soon, too. :-)

  8. I loved this book! (Sorry Darla, I just doscovered this entry.) I also found it extremely poignant and beautiful.

    Your question about why the librarian appears so infrequently is the same one I had as I was reading. I decided it had to do with time not being the same for him as it was for the protagonist. What was many years for her could have been like a few moments for him.

  9. Devinoni - I'm glad you enjoyed this one, too! I like your thoughts about time running differently - that makes more sense.


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