Audrey, Audrey, Audrey. What goes on in that head of yours?
In this 2010 adult picture book, our heroine, Lexi, is taking a late night walk through the streets of Chicago, trying to clear her head after fighting with her boyfriend. She is enjoying the peace of the pre-dawn, when she spots “an enormous, battered Winnebago, all lit up and thumping out “I Shot the Sheriff.”. And when, after peeking in the open door, the balding man in wire run glasses asks her if she wants to see the collection, she does not sensibly turn and run but instead says yes.
Welcome to the Night Bookmobile.
As Lexi wanders through the oddly large space, she sees many books she recognizes. In fact, she’s pretty sure she’s read them all. And then she sees her childhood diary.
“This is mine!”
“They’re all yours. This collection consists of all the books you’ve ever read. We also have all the periodicals and ephemera – cereal boxes and such – which are in section C to your right.”
Lexi is entranced. She spends the rest of the night browsing her collection. But when she tries to tell her boyfriend, he does not believe her. And the next night, when Lexi goes back, the Night Bookmobile is gone. Years pass before she sees it again.
“I explored the farthest reaches of my collection. Each spine was an encapsulated memory, each book represented hours, days of pleasure, of immersion in words.”
When she asks Mr. Openshaw, her librarian, if she can work there, he regretfully informs her there are no openings. So she goes to library school instead. Again, she does not see the Night Bookmobile for a long time.
This is a beautiful and haunting ode to those who love books. The novel covers Lexi’s whole life, skimming through years and only pausing to talk about how books have fit in and how seeing the bookmobile shapes her life. The text goes back and forth between narration at the side, like a picture book, and speech bubbles when the characters are talking, like a traditional graphic novel. The drawings, while simple, are evocative and fill your imagination. And, as usual with Niffenegger, there is an unseen twist at the end that makes the reader need to go back and reread the book again, this time from this new and unexpected perspective.
Older Teen and up – implied violence, themes of eternity
The Night Bookmobile
by Audrey Niffenegger
Abrams Comic Arts , 2010
Publisher Age Rating: older teen to adult