The Story Collector: A New York Public Library Book

Written by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Review by J. Lynn Else

Viviani Fedeler is a story collector. She was born in the New York Public Library and resides there still in 1928 with her family, her father being the library’s superintendent. But when Merit, a new girl in school, calls Viviani’s stories about the library lies, Viviani decides to prove to Merit it’s just as important to believe in things with your heart as it is with your eyes. With her brothers, Viviani plans a way to “show” Merit the library’s ghost. But when their prank goes awry on the night a priceless stamp collection goes missing, Viviani will need all her courage to discover who the culprit is.

O’Donnell Tubb’s masterfully constructed prose perfectly balances youthfulness and sophistication. Her whimsical word play had me hooked by paragraph one! Readers can relax comfortably in the historical setting as she weaves into her plot elements of “vulgar” jazz music, late-1920s fashion, old-timey dialogue, and the devices Mr. Fedeler keeps in good working order for the library. Also adding to the atmosphere, each chapter has a Dewey Decimal classification associated with its title. The characters are charming, particularly Viviani and her immersive imagination. Through Viviani, the NYPL building is described with an emphasis on enchantment.

The mystery of the missing stamps really doesn’t take long to solve, but I wasn’t disappointed by this. At its heart, this story is about Viviani discovering her self-worth—an impactful message for readers young and old. Based on an actual family who lived in the NYPL, O’Donnell Tubb weaves together a charming middle-grade tale of friendship, self-confidence, and a love of words. Who says you need a “once upon a time” to find magic in your life? A compulsive read for any age.