Jacob Two-Two and the Missing Children’s Book

15 August, 2002 at 7:00 pm (library, literary)

In fourth or fifth grade, I was in the process of reading every book in the Maple Street School library. I was a nerd and had figured out how to avoid the torture of peer socialization each morning before classes started: I got a library pass. And so while other kids were fighting over dominance of the swing set, falling headlong from the cargo net, playing four-square, or generally freezing to death on a crisp New England morning, I was sitting cozily in the library working my way through the fiction section, book by book, alphabetically.

And I read a book about a young boy who was sent to an island run by a huge monstrous man who kept children as slaves, but secretly wanted to be loved by them. I liked that bit, but what I thought was the coolest was that the young boy was rescued from the island by two superheroes who resembled his older brother and sister — siblings who wouldn’t give him the time of day if they were all at home. I thought that was a piece of brilliant high-concept, even if the phrase “high-concept” wasn’t in my vocabulary at the time. As a child surrounded by siblings, I easily recognized the truth that while you hated them because of their proximity and very relation to you, brother and sisters were still be be protected.

And I could never find the book again. I had vague memories of whereabouts it fell on the shelf — I could remember about where I gotten up to in my alphabetical trudge through the fiction section — and had certain impressions about what color the spine was. But search though I might, I could not locate that book in that library and no children’s librarian was able to recognize the title from my fairly detailed plot description.

Last month, Tim Lehnerer was boasting in the WEF Deplhi forum that he could locate any half-remembered children’s book. He is a god, for when I mailed him my recollections of the plot he was able to send me back a title and author in four days. And when the book arrived two weeks later from InterLibrary Loan, I flipped it open to a random page and saw this illustration…


…and I knew that he’d hit the nail squarely on the head. After fifteen years, I’d found a book that I had convinced myself didn’t exist, that I’d dreamt. Tim Lehnerer is indeed mighty.


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