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On his 8th birthday, a boy is disgruntled when he receives a book as a present from his parents. Don’t they realize he doesn’t like books—only toys, games, and movies?

That evening, the boy falls into a restless sleep. He wakes in the middle of the night to see a fantastic creature—a massive, vaguely familiar lion that looks like a statue, yet is very much alive—standing outside his bedroom window. The lion introduces himself as Fortitude and instructs the boy to hop on his back so they can meet Patience. They race through the city and arrive at the New York City Public Library.

Inside, the boy hears “a strange humming sound coming from the shelves.” Suddenly, books leap from the shelves and cluster together into forms reminiscent of characters and things in books the boy has shared with his grandfather.

When the boy tells Fortitude he no longer reads since his grandfather died, the books take on another form—his grandfather sitting in a chair reading to him. Another lion named Patience appears and says to the boy, “These books have been waiting for you.” With the unexpected help of Fortitude and Patience, the boy’s heart is opened once again to the joy of reading.

In notes, author David Zeltser shares his childhood experience of passing the massive statues of lions named Fortitude and Patience as he entered the New York Public Library and the “magic” he feels in all libraries. Raul Colon’s illustrations of majestic, fleet lions contrast with the small, vulnerable boy, and highlight the way encouragement can fortify a young person to patiently keep on developing as a reader. (Random House)

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