In the ordinary course of things we tend to think of books as either fiction or nonfiction. We had an experience at the bookstore recently that indicates that there is a third category. The Latin term for these books would be Genius Liberloci, books which are literally animated by the protective spirit of their contents. We’ll simply refer to them here as Animus Books. Here’s how we made this discovery at DDG.
One of our wonderful booksellers, Hannah, was helping me review the forthcoming picture books from a publisher’s summer list, from a traveling kit of F&Gs. There was one title in the box that she found unusually disturbing. This book, set up as a parable, conveyed darkness, irresponsibility, and callousness to her, as opposed to hopefulness and warmth. Called to attention by her exclamations of dismay, I read the book in turn and found that I shared her view of it.
We felt the book cast a pall over the store and over our hearts. We felt that there had been no sunshine in days and days, and no rainbows, and no magic either in what suddenly seemed like forever. We were downcast and sorrowful at heart.
Later that day in our UPS delivery there was a package with a single F&G in it from a different publisher. “Kenny,” Hannah called, “look, it’s a sequel to Uni. ” She was referring to Uni the Unicorn, a solid store favorite and the one unicorn book I can personally really get behind. We opened the book, Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True, and learned that “It had been raining and raining in the land of unicorns.” “Oh no!” we both exclaimed. Then we turned the page and found the following.
These were clearly deep waters. We read on. We read of Uni and of the little girl he believed in and how they willed their way to be together for real. We read of how their belief in each other brought sunshine and rainbows and magic back into the The Land of the Unicorns, uplifting all hearts.
And our hearts were uplifted. Sunshine returned. A rainbow formed in the store and magic was restored to our shelves. Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True was an Animus book, that much was clear. It was a living thing that made the world around it embody its story.
And I know what you are wondering. Hannah obviously closely resembles the girl in the book. Is this a tale from Hannah’s childhood which author Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Brigette Barrager have captured without even knowing it? You better believe it!