Monday 12 October 2015

Review by Alexandros Plasatis of a scary event at Fosse Public Library

I slowed down as I cycled along Tudor Road so I could take in what I saw, and I saw people standing outside their front doors, some holding a can of beer or a spliff, it was a lively road, and I wondered if Everybody’s Reading Festival was good enough to reach out to those people, not only the ones that see themselves as book lovers or whatever - that would be too easy - but those ones, those with the hard lines on their faces. And, down down down then left and right, I reached Fosse Library.

It was a tiny library, and the children’s section was set for the event with spider webs here and there, on the wall a dark castle surrounded by bats, witches’ hats all over the floor, and 15 or so children, some of them dressed in scary costumes. Some parents were there too. A boy was on the floor, underneath blankets, pretending to be asleep. I heard some kids talking about me, saying, “We have never seen this man before, who is this man?” and I didn’t say anything, I was looking mean, because I wanted to add to the atmosphere, because I am mysterious anyway.

A young female library staff member was hanging about in the children’s area, and after a while she said, “Are you prepared to be scared?” and someone switched off the lights. She stood in the middle of the children’s section, in the semi-darkness, all about her the scary decorations, and said: “Close your eyes and switch on your imagination,” and the kids sat on the floor, around her, circling her, and closed their eyes. Some parents closed their eyes too, but I was a bit suspicious of all that and kept my eyes open, just in case. A little girl stood up: “Wake up!” she said, and gave a threatening glance to us all: “I’ll tell you a story and you won’t be able to sleep. Ever again.” I thought, “Oh you mean little thing, I will sleep like a log.” Then the library girl ordered the children to make scary noises and the children went bonkers, they screamed screamed screamed, they were mad.

We were going to hear stories now, the library girl said, written by the children, especially for the occasion. One by one, the children stood up and read their stories, they read them out loud, and I heard about the ghost of Fosse Library, a strange creature called “Zozo” who ate two girls in the Library’s toilets the other day; about the training witch who wanted to transform a TV into a dog but unfortunately it came out as a sausage roll that tasted really bad; about radiators who bubble and gargle maliciously; about spiders who follow us. They all told their stories, and when they felt self-conscious as it can happen sometimes, they glanced at the library girl who encouraged them with a smile or a scary face.
Then a male member of staff took over and read out a scary poem, which was fine, but his real expertise showed straight after that, when he told us the story of Cold Johnny and Mean Morgan and some other chap whose name I didn’t catch. The guy was a natural storyteller, he narrated without reading from the book, and his performance was flawless, professional and impressive.

Back to the library girl, she ordered the kids to make scary faces and noises and they went mad again. Then she asked all of us to come closer (of course I didn’t), and those who dared formed a circle, and they had to keep on jumping because, apparently, a big scary hairy ball was after them: they jumped and laughed and they had fun and I laughed too. Meanwhile, I noticed (because I’m a very observant guy) that the boy who was pretending to be asleep earlier, had slipped out of the blankets and crept outside the library. He moved from window to window now, making scary faces at us, turning reality into fiction, living the fiction, but I got worried because no-one else seemed to notice him; I was wondering if he was real or if I was slightly influenced by the whole thing.

The children stood in a line, having a creative task to complete: the first one was supposed to come up with a sentence, the second would continue it, and eventually we would hear a scary story, but the first child was so excited that told us a whole scary story in one very long sentence.                   

And I sat back, thinking what a pleasure it was to listen to their stories, how much effort and love the library staff put into this event, how they had ignited the kids’ creativity, what great things happen in tiny public libraries like this one in this urban neighbourhood: in other words, I was lost in kind thoughts, when... “Boo!” three silly girls came behind me and made me jump.

“Now we will hear the Fosse Singers,” said the library girl: “Music, please,” and a lovely piano tune began (good coordination with the person who pressed “Play”, I thought), and the children’s lovely voices sang a scary scary song, and then another one, and it felt good, I liked it.

The library staff thanked the participants and the audience, and asked for a goodbye tune and the piano tune began, and as I turned to make my way out, I encountered my last surprise as I saw this chap right behind me playing the keyboard, waving his musical goodbye.  

About the reviewer
Alexandros Plasatis lives in Leicester and had short stories published in Overheard: Stories to Read Aloud (2012), Unthology 6 (2015), and Crystal Voices: Ten Years of Crystal Clear Creators (2015).

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