Occasionally Bewildering: Tough RA Questions

The Readers’ Advisory Interest Group is collecting challenging real-life RA questions. We plan to use these questions at our upcoming events and as part of other readers’ advisory professional development initiatives.

Please send us the toughest RA questions you have been asked. Bonus points if you include the answer!

To submit your questions, reply in the comments field below this post, send a message to our brand new email address raig@bcla.bc.ca, head over to our Facebook page, or create a video clip starring you and your colleagues dramatizing your challenging question. Post your video file to our Facebook page or upload it to YouTube. In the case of the latter, please send us the link.

Here’s a classic RA stumper that includes heaps of details that only a human brain could contend with such as cover art and the organization of library collections on physical shelves:

Subject: Stumper: Novel translated from Italian 9-10 yo boy on a playground

Got a cool stumper for the collective mind. This patron only read the first few pages of a book, and now she can’t find it on the shelves.  So the clues are even more vague than “usual”.  🙂
— Male Author whose name starts with a B
— Novel was translated from Italian
— The Author won a “major award”.  Maybe for this book, maybe for another. Maybe an Italian award.
— The cover art was a picture of a boy “in warm weather”
— From the first few pages, the lead character is a young boy, 9-10 years old, on a school playground.  She thought it might have been a rural or remote setting.
— What she remembers most strongly is that it was “beautifully written”. I would take this to mean very lyrical.
If it helps, she actually looking for a book by Maeve Binchy when she find the stumper title.  Given the arrangement of our shelves, she thinks it would have been an author with a name between Beaton and Bennett.  Also, we don’t have mysteries or any other subgenre in a different area.  However, given her description, I’m pretty sure we are looking for a work of literary fiction.
Thanks in advance for any help or clues!

Subject: Re: Stumper: Novel translated from Italian 9-10 yo boy on a playground

Timeskipper by Stefano Benni
Italy’s foremost satirist recounts the adventures of Timeskipper, a young man endowed with a rare gift: the ability to see into the future. A tale in which innocence and imagination defy corruption and conformity, in which the eccentricities and innocence of yesteryear come face-to-face with the moral aridity of today’s money-obsessed society, Timeskipper is one of Stefano Benni’s most touching and enduring creations. Colored by Benni’s trademark linguistic inventiveness and irresistible humor, this is a coming-of-age story with a difference.

You are fast!  And yet again, Fiction_L makes a satisfied customer! My patron hadn’t even left the building yet.  She offered to take the winner out for pizza, but then I explained you might live in Nebraska.


Thank you to librarian Karen Toonen of Naperville Public Library  who granted us permission to publish the stumper she posted to the excellent Fiction_L mailing list. Thank you also to the Morton Grove Public Library for providing this RA service to the library community since 1995 and all subscribers of the list past and present.

When faced with a tough RA question, remember that the collective wisdom of the Fiction_L participants can name an obscure title like nobody’s business!

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