Young Dallas Kelly has a lot to deal with. She is still reeling with grief from her mother’s death when she learns that her local library is closing down. The 11-year-old decides she is not going to take another loss, so she leads a campaign to keep Queen Street Library open. Our reluctant hero does this while contending with a life-changing decision – should she stay with her stepmother, brothers and stepsister in their cramped boathouse or should she move to Texas with her free-spirited aunt?
This is a story about bereavement, growing up, friendship and family. Dallas Kelly’s family is messy and imperfect, but perfect in its own way. Her relationship with best friends Aiza and Ruby is tender and funny, and their trepidation about leaving primary school is well drawn. The description of the library – smelling of books and warm carpet, and welcoming everyone without discrimination – will be familiar to many readers.
This is also a timely story in an era when climate change protests are being led by school-goers. Dallas is uncomfortable putting herself forward, yet she can see that no one else is going to save the library. It delivers an empowering message: If you stand up for what you believe in, no matter how daunting it is, you can make a difference. An engaging story.