“Ninja librarians aren’t as different from school children as they think.”
Return to Skunk Corners is the second book in the Ninja Librarian series. It’d be easy enough to pick up on the general situation and characters so it is possible to start here, but the overarching plot is a direct continuation of where the first book left off so it really is best to start at the beginning.
Like The Ninja Librarian, Return to Skunk Corners is a collection of stories told to us by the titular town’s unlikely school teacher, Big Al, who’s duties and perspectives have been significantly changed by the appearance and influence of Tom and his mysterious ways, both of the ninja and librarian variety. The town has started to come together, but can they stay that way?
I have idea how I missed the fact that the incredibly fun Ninja Librarian had a sequel until now. But I supposed it’s better late than never to enjoy this wonderful … well, return to Skunk Corners. 😉
This sequel is longer than the first book and has more ongoing, connected plotlines underlying the individual stories, but those stories still retain the “campfire” feel and individual completeness that they did in The Ninja Librarian. At its heart this book continues to be the story of Al and Tom and their roles in the town, but numerous members of the supporting cast get significantly fleshed out and have their own subplots and growth throughout the book. This aspect takes an already fun, engaging series of stories and adds considerable depth to both the titular town and the narrative as a whole.
Big Al remains a perfect point of view character, learning how to deal with change in Skunk Corners as well as some things about herself she never knew. Her “voice” is natural and endearing, and draws the reader right in to the point where they care about the fate of Skunk Corners and its residents as much as Al does. Themes too numerous to list are expertly woven into the stories in folklore like fashion and are conveyed unobtrusively and naturally via unfolding events, various characters’ reactions to them, and Al’s own pragmatic yet caring point of view.
There were a couple elements towards the end I didn’t care for, but I understand why they were there and overall they’re a very small bump on an otherwise excellently built and executed collection of stories. They also set up some intrigue for a potential continuation, if we’re lucky enough to get another installment of this great series.
Somewhat surprisingly Return to Skunk Corners not only lives up to the high bar set by The Ninja Librarian, it actually exceeds it in some ways. As with the first there were smiles aplenty to be found in this book along with poignant, dramatic, and even dark moments. It all comes together beautifully and I’m so happy to have had the chance to read more of Al’s adventures. I can only hope there might be a third book in the future.