While working the circulation desk at the east Columbia library last year, Stella Pilecki was checking out a copy of the first Harry Potter book for an adult patron.
"He was middle-aged and dressed in a business suit," Pilecki recalled, "and he said, 'It's for my daughter.' "
As the patron worked his way through the series, he kept saying the same thing to Pilecki as he borrowed each book. When he checked out the fourth book, he finally admitted to her that he didn't have a daughter.
"I know other people want to talk about children's books, but they're not sure if they can," said Pilecki, 26. When she moved to information services, she asked for approval to start a children's literature group for adults. Hence, the beginning of The Never, Never Land Book Club. The name seems appropriate considering it comes from the popular children's classic Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie about a boy who wants never to grow up.
The club's name, however, has a more personal meaning for the library associate. Before starting her career with the Howard County Public Library, Pilecki worked in an office in Denver, where she was the only female among many males. She would write to her relatives, telling stories based on the antics of these young professionals and using character names from Barrie's book. Naturally, she was nicknamed Wendy and her missives became regular issues of the Never, Never Land Newsletter.
When she left that job, the newsletters stopped. But family members still call her Wendy in their regular e-mail. It just seemed natural to transfer the name to the book club.
Despite its start during the summer, when most clubs take a break, The Never, Never Land Book Club has attracted six to 10 members for each discussion. So far, they've read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling, Holes by Louis Sachar, Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman and The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket.
"This is really a fun club," said member Ruth Pacheco. "I've always loved young adult literature. I don't think I'll ever outgrow it."
Pacheco, who is in her 40s, has a 17-year-old daughter who is thrilled that her mom is reading the books she grew up with. Pacheco also loves gothic stories and medieval history. Together with the varied interests and experiences of the other adults, the interplay among the members brings a deeper dimension to the discussions.
That's part of what keeps Katy Evans, 67, coming back each month. "Everyone is very lively. Their points of view are fascinating," she said.
Archie Silverstein, 68, Evans' neighbor, didn't especially care about children's literature, but he went at the request of his wife, Rita, who wanted to join. A retiree from the federal government, Silverstein has a college degree in history and a love for Jewish history and literature. Although he didn't like Catherine, Called Birdy very much (a story of a 14-year-old-girl dealing with unsuitable suitors in medieval times), parts of the book made him laugh out loud. He believed that Holes was a particularly clever story.
Laura Weiner, 37, has two sons, ages 7 and 2. She joined the club because she was looking for something that she could do with her older son. "But now it's more for myself," she explained.
In the process, she has discovered what books appeal to her son, and they go to the library more often. One of her favorite parts of the club's discussions is the author biography. At the beginning of each meeting, Pilecki provides background on the author and how he or she came to be published. During the discussion, members sip coffee and munch on homemade scones. "I love to bake," Pilecki said.
Everyone has an opportunity to share an impression of the book. After that, it's nonstop talking. The hour flies by, Pilecki said.
Good stories, whether written for children or grown-ups, share common themes such as loss and trying to find one's place in this world, Pilecki believes. "Everyone is doing that because everyone's place is always shifting, whether they're 13 or 80," she said.
The Never, Never Land Book Club will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the book Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen. Information: Stella Pilecki, 410-313-7700.