For Children

Charlie Panek

Spine Language

2004 3rd-5th Grade Prose Winner

Only ten books were held on the old antique shelf. One was the Garnoman series, which was a big hit when this story takes place. Almost every store had that book in a section with glittering signs that said, "The book that you canít put down!" or "This book is an angel!" The next book was an old Greek myth book that was said to be written by a god. The Greek myth book had a picture of a lightning bolt coming out of the misty clouds. Also on the shelf were The Prince and the Pauper and Cinderella.

Ten years had passed since anybody had touched the fragile books on the shelf in a little corner of the library with dust and old cobwebs that could give you a chill. The books got tired of handing around on the dusty shelf. It felt like being in the cold cellars of a prison that youíve been in for a thousand years.

We are people, and usually we can talk to one another in all kinds of ways. And books can too. They usually use something called "spine language." Once in a while the books in the library would whisper because The Prince and the Pauper would be asleep in his little corner. And other times when The Prince and the Pauper was awake, all the books gossiped with each other for hours. They often talked about how they wanted to be somewhere else.

One day, a wind came through the window of the library. It filled the air with a breeze that felt like water that was sprinkling lightly against their covers. With all the breeze in the room, The Prince and the Pauper woke up from his two-day nap. "I say," he said, "this area is too drafty and dark. I wish I could move out and go to a place that does not wake me up."

Swish, swish. The wind halted. The air stopped doing its own thing. But the only thing that didnít stop doing its thing was the sound of a person talking. He was inside the library, and he was saying to the librarian, "Those are very fragile-looking books. May I take them out?"

The books had never heard a person or seen a person before, except for the librarian. They all could barely make out his skin color, which was almost as white as snow. At the exact moment that the man picked the books up, they all burst with light that filled the room, and the man disappeared in the dust that blinded him from seeing what was really happening.

The books had turned into what they really were, and now the shelf was empty. Zeus, who was napping on the floor, was put in the place of the Greek myth book. Wow, was that Garnoman series turned into something big: real live people with all their gadgets and fierce pets, such as dragons. The books that took the most effort to turn into something alive were the two that were remaining - The Prince and the Pauper and Cinderella. They had turned into a raggedly girl and two identical boys. And now they could speak human language as well as spine language. So the three of them went away and told the tales that had been in their books, and spread the stories so they became big legends that people still know of today.