She entered a bit self-consciously, never having been in a library before. She saw an open space with a big cage in the center, a cage such as they had in the bank, with windows in it. Behind rose an orderly forest of bookcases, tall and dark, with aisles between.
Betsy advanced to the cage and the young lady sitting inside smiled at her. She had a cozy little face, with half a dozen tiny moles. Her eyes were black and dancing. Her hair was black too, curly and untidy.
“Are you looking for the Children’s Room?” she asked.
Betsy beamed in response.
“Well, not exactly. That is, I’d like to see it. But I may not want to read just in the Children’s Room.”
“You don’t think so?” asked the young lady, sounding surprised.
“No. You see,” explained Betsy, “I want to read the classics.”
“Yes. All of them. I hope I’m going to like them.”
The young lady looked at her with a bright intensity. She got down off her stool.
“I know a few you’ll like,” she said. “And they happen to be in the Children’s Room. Come on. I’ll show you.”
The Children’s Room was exactly right for children. The tables and chairs were low. Low bookshelves lined the walls, and tempting-looking books with plenty of illustrations were open on the tables. There was a big fireplace in the room, with a fire throwing up flames and making crackling noises. Above it was the painting of a rocky island with a temple on it, called The Isle of Delos.
“That’s one of the Greek islands,” said Miss Sparrow. Miss Sparrow was the young lady’s name; she had told Betsy so. “There’s nothing more classic than Greece,” she said. “Do you know Greek mythology? No? Then let’s begin on that.”
She went to the shelves and returned with a book.
“Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Mythology. Classic,” she said.
She went back to the shelves and returned with an armful of books. She handed them to Betsy one by one.
“Tales from Shakespeare, by Charles and Mary Lamb. Classic. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes. Classic. Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift. Classic. Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain. Classic, going-to-be.”
She was laughing, and so was Betsy.
“You don’t need to read them all today,” Miss Sparrow said.
“May I get a card and take some home?”
“You may get a card, but you’ll have to get it signed before you draw out books. You may stay here and read though, as long as you like.”
“Thank you,” Betsy said.
From Maud Hart Lovelace, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown (1943).