Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Case Study No. 0995: Serena Laburnum

One Minute Piratical Rumbustification
"The Great Piratical Rumbustification & the Librarian and the Robbers," by Margaret Mahy, Quentin Blake, and Michael Smith, reviewed.
Tags: oneminutecritic fvrl vancouver library books pirates librarians robbers rumbustification mahy quentin blake
Added: 5 years ago
From: CrashSolo
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["The One Minute Critic" appears on screen, then cut to a young male librarian holding up a book while speaking directly to the camera]
CRASH SOLO: This is "The Great Piratical Rumbustification and The Librarian and the Robbers," two stories by Margaret Mahy, with illustrations by Quentin Blake.
[he looks at the book]
CRASH SOLO: I really like Quentin Blake's, uh, illustrations. He did a lot of work in the Seventies and Eighties, and it's always very silly and fun and interesting.
[he holds the book up again]
CRASH SOLO: Um, I like the story "The Librarian and the Robbers" in here better than the other one ...
[he smiles]
CRASH SOLO: For obvious reasons, because it has a librarian in it. Um, and also it has robber librarians, which is pretty cool so ...
[he smiles]
CRASH SOLO: Uh, if you can track this one down, I'd recommend checking it out. Uh, if only for the "silly" factor.



"The Librarian and the Robbers"
by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Quentin Blake

"One day Serena Laburnum, the beautiful librarian, was carried off by wicked robbers." Envisioning great riches of City Council ransom money, the robbers are foiled by beaurocracy and "the dread disease of Raging Measles." While City Council debates the appropriate fund for providing the ransom, the robbers develop a case of itchy spots. Ms. Laburnum chides the robbers, "It is no part of a librarian's duty to take any robber seriously, spotty or otherwise." She then elicits permission from the Chief Robber, the only healthy criminal, to return to her library and borrow the highly informative Dictionary of Efficient and Efficacious Home Nursing so that she can tend to the ailing robbers. As his band is nursed back to health, the Chief Robber becomes more interested in books than in kidnapping, and Serena returns to her job as soon as the robbers are fully recovered. Story over? Not quite! About three weeks later, the Chief Robber bursts into the library and begs Ms. Laburnum for her assistance. How does a beautiful librarian rescue a Chief Robber from the Law? Only in the most orderly and "by the book" manner, of course! But "Perhaps she herself was more of a robber at heart than anyone ever suspected..."

Bound as a single item with The Great Piratical Rumbustification, The Librarian and the Robbers is an enjoyable, humorous tale with just a touch of the absurd. The self-reliant, beautiful, and resourceful librarian, who doesn't technically bend the rules, is a delightful contrast to the typical librarian pictured in books. With two stories celebrating roguish reform, Margaret Mahy must be a bit of a robber herself! Recommended for readers age 9 to 12.



Available in the U.K. since 1978, this is a well-balanced pair of humorous pieces, one a novella, the other a short story. In The Librarian and the Robbers , Serena Laburnum, the beautiful librarian, is kidnapped and held for ransom by a gang of ill-read robbers. How she achieves her own rescue, then rescues the Robber Chief, is enough to delight the hearts of young readers and of librarians everywhere.



The Librarian and the Robbers is an equally tickling tale of a band of wicked robbers who one day carry off Serena Leburnum, a beautiful librarian. Follow what happens as the lovely and learned Miss L. not only outwits the robbers, turning them into outstanding citizens, but also teaches them the everlasting pleasures of the Dewey Decimal System.


One day Serena Laburnum, the beautiful librarian, was carried off by wicked robbers. She had just gone for a walk in the woods at the edge of the town, when the robbers came charging at her and carried her off.

"Why are you kidnapping me?" she asked coldly. "I have no wealthy friends or relatives. Indeed I am an orphan with no real home but the library."

"That's just it," said the Robber Chief. "The City Council will pay richly to have you restored. After all, everyone knows that the library does not work properly without you."

This was especially true because Miss Laburnum had the library keys. 'I think I ought to warn you,' she said, 'that I spent the weekend with a friend of mine who has four little boys. Everyone in the house had the dread disease of Raging Measles."

"That's all right!" said the Robber Chief, sneering a bit. "I've had them."

"But I haven't!" said the robber at his elbow, and the other robbers looked at Miss Laburnum uneasily. None of them had had the dread disease of Raging Measles.

As soon as the robbers' ransom note was received by the City Council there was a lot of discussion. Everyone was anxious that things should be done in the right way.

"What is it when our librarian is kidnapped?" asked a councillor. "Is it staff expenditure or does it come out of the cultural fund?"

"The Cultural Committee meets in a fortnight," said the Mayor. "I propose we let them make a decision on this."


About three weeks after all these dramatic events, there was more robber trouble! Into the library, in broad daylight, burst none other than the Robber Chief.

"Save me!" he cried. "A policeman is after me."

Miss Laburnum gave him a cool look.

"You had better give me your full name," she said. "Quickly!"

The Robber Chief sprang back, an expression of horror showing through his black tangled beard.

"No, no!" he cried. "anything but that!"

"Quickly," repeated Miss Laburnum, "or I WON'T HAVE time to help you."

The Robber Chief leaned across the desk and whispered his name to her ... "Salvation Loveday."

Miss Laburnum could not help smiling a little bit. It certainly went very strangely with those wiry whiskers.

"They used to call me Sally at school," cried the unhappy robber. "It's that name that has driven me to a life of crime. But hide me, dear Miss Laburnum, or I shall be caught."

Miss Laburnum stamped him with a number, as if he were a library book, and put him into a bookshelf with a lot of books whose authors had surnames beginning with "L." He was in strict alphabetical order. Alphabetical order is a habit with librarians.

The policeman who had been chasing the Robber Chief, burst into the library. He was a good runner, but he had fallen over a little boy on a tricycle, and this had slowed him down.

"Miss Laburnum," said the policeman, "I have just had occasion to pursue a notable Robber Chief into your library. I can see him there in the bookshelves among the 'L's.' May I take him out please?"

"Certainly!" said Miss Laburnum pleasantly. "Do you have your library membership card?"

The policeman's face fell.

"Oh dear," he said. "No ... I'm afraid it's at home marking the place in my Policeman's Robber-Catching Compendium."

Miss Laburnum gave a polite smile.

"I'm afraid you can't withdraw anything without your membership card," she said. "That Robber Chief is Library Property."

The policeman nodded slowly. He knew it was true: you weren't allowed to take anything out of the library without your library card. This was a strict library rule. "I'll just tear home and get it," he said. "I don't live very far away."

"Do that," said Miss Laburnum pleasantly. The policeman's strong police boots rang out as he hurried from the library.

Miss Laburnum went to the "L" shelf and took down the Robber Chief. "Now, what are you doing here?" she said severely. However, the Robber Chief was not fooled - she was really very pleased to see him.

"Well," he replied. "the fact is, Miss Laburnum, my men are restless. Ever since you read them those stories they've been discontented in the evening. We used to sit around our campfire singing rumbustical songs and indulging in rough humour, but they've lost their taste for it. They're wanting more Br'er Rabbit, more Treasure Island, and more stories of kings and clowns. Today I was coming to join the library and take some books out for them. What shall I do? I daren't go back without books, and yet that policeman may return. And won't he be very angry with you when he finds I'm gone?"

"That will be taken care of," said Miss Laburnum, smiling to herself. "What is your number? Ah yes. Well, when the policeman returns I will tell him someone else has taken you out, and it will be true, for you are now issued to me."

The Robber Chief gave Miss Laburnum a very speaking look. "And now," said Miss Laburnum cheerfully, "you must join the library yourself and take out some books for your poor robbers."

"If I am a member of the library myself, perhaps I could take you out," said the Robber Chief with robberish boldness. Miss Laburnum quickly changed the subject, but she blushed as she did so.

She sent the Robber Chief off with some splendid storybooks.

He had only just gone when the policeman came back.

"Now," said the policeman, producing his membership card, "I'd like to take out that Robber Chief, if I may."

He looked so expectant, it seemed a pity to disappoint him. Miss Laburnum glanced towards the "L's."

"Oh," she said. "I'm afraid he has already been taken out by someone else. You should have reserved him."

The policeman stared at the shelf very hard. Then he stared at Miss Laburnum.

"May I put my name down for him?" he asked after a moment.

"Certainly," said Miss Laburnum, "though I ought to warn you that you may have a long wait ahead of you. There could be a long waiting list."

After this the Robber Chief came sneaking into town regularly to change books. It was dangerous, but he thought it was worth it.

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