Pearl aims to solve a crime that has put her favourite place – the library – in danger

Christina Barron

THE WASHINGTON POST – Pearl Moran knows every nook and cranny of the Lancaster Avenue branch of the New York City Public Library.

The old building – formerly home to the Lancaster family – is practically her home. The 10-year-old’s mom is the librarian, and Pearl was born in one of the book-lined rooms. (She arrived too quickly for her mom to make it to the hospital.)

Pearl has preferred spots for browsing and reading, but her favourite place is in the garden near a large statue of Edna St Vincent Millay, a poet who lived in the neighbourhood years before.

That’s why the sight of “Vincent,” as the statue is known, without her head causes Pearl to scream. And the scream gets the attention of neighbours, library staff and soon after, the police.

The missing head is a curiosity to the neighbours, and the police think it’s just a prank and kind of funny. “Maybe the head is tucked in with the pineapples in the greenmarket,” one officer suggests.

Pearl is outraged, as though a friend has been hurt. Her mom, however, is worried. The theft could bring unwelcome attention to the library, which in recent years has received fewer patrons. The situation has gotten worse after the city opened a modern library not far away.

Patricia Moran is right to worry. Developers soon appear, wanting to buy the building from the city to turn it into apartments.

The library staff thinks there’s not much they can do. Pearl thinks otherwise. “This is war,” she says.

Pearl is determined to find Vincent’s head, get the library a positive story in the local newspaper and show the city how much the neighbourhood cares about the place.

But how? There aren’t many clues, not even footprints at the crime scene. At least not human footprints. Pearl notices paw prints. Years ago her mom had told stories about clever raccoons that lived in the trees. But those tales were made up – or weren’t they?

With the assistance of two new friends, Pearl discovers that the library is home to a larger family – human and raccoon – and that she will need all their help to save it from destruction.