My mother was a school librarian. She was the cool librarian. She didn’t shush and the kids were always more important than the books. The little first and second graders wanted to march in and sit crisscross applesauce around her as she read the book of the week while they made a craft. I remember growing flowers in the windowsill while reading “The Lupine Lady” and stashing piles of books and fruit-shaped erasers next to her desk during the book fair every spring.
Now I take my kids to the public library for story time and to play at the train table and to fill our totes to the brim with all the Berenstain Bears and Clifford and Llama Llama books we can carry. The library is a magical place, full of worlds whose passport is a free library card and good imagination. But if you or your kids ever had the scary librarian, the one that still gives you the shivers, then you might need a little prompting. So here are ten books about libraries that will make you want to pay a visit and crack those tomes.
“Tell Me Some More”
by Crosby Bonsall
Did you know you can hold a camel in your hand? Neither did Andrew’s friend until he took him to the library. Written in 1961, this book was my favorite because of illustrations that look like they came right out of Mad Magazine. It also encourages kids to use their imaginations and makes you feel like a wizard each time you open a book to conjure a giraffe or a bulldozer or a mansion (if only).
“Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia”
by Jeanette Winter
Luis has filled his house in Columbia from floor to ceiling with books… soon there will be no room for the people. His solution? Create a travelling library on two donkeys so he can share all his books with the rest of the world. And yes, this is a true story and a real thing. Just once I’d like to check a book out of a donkey’s saddle.
“Homer, the Library Cat”
by Reeve Lindbergh
Homer likes his quiet. He likes a peaceful life and lives it until he’s startled by a loud sound and jumps out the window. Guess where he goes to find that perfect peace and quiet? The library is actually the best place to find calm. I’d take a nap there if my kids would let me. The rhymes in this book are lyrical and Homer’s tiger stripes make him look like a chilled-out version of Calvin’s best friend, Hobbes.
by Eve Bunting
The bright illustrations in this book alone are worth checking out. The story itself follows a righteous campaign by the animals in a small town to save their library by following the instructions in their beloved books. Animals selling baked goods and fixing roofs in the name of philanthropy is anthropomorphism at its best, and the dandelion yellow library with the green door makes you wish you could go there too.
“The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians”
by Carla Morris
Melvin has spent all his formative years going to the library to ask the librarians for help with all the important things in life like identifying bugs and researching his role as an eggplant in the school play. Then he grows up and leaves home. Suspense? Will he forget about his friends? Out with the old and in with the new? Think of this as Toy Story 3 when Andy goes off to college. Woody and Buzz are not forgotten for long.
by Daniel Kirk
This one’s the first in a series about Sam the mouse. He lives in the children’s reference section of the library. After reading all the books there were to read, Sam decided to write his own and leave them at night for the patrons to find in the morning. He’s a success. Turns out a mouse can be a writer too. This will make your kids want to put pen to paper…and maybe you too.
“Otto the Book Bear”
by Katie Cleminson
Otto might be a bear in a book, but he can jump out whenever he wants. It’s a good life until his family moves and leaves his book behind. So he embarks on an adventure to find a new home, and he does. He finds the perfect place, a building full of books just like him.
“The Library Lion”
by Michelle Knudsen
This one’s a classic. It also involves one of those librarians that give all librarians a bad name. One day a lion walks into a library. Everybody loves him but Miss Merriweather, the head librarian. She wants him gone, but ever the rule follower, she can’t kick him out until he’s broken some a library law, which he eventually does… in order to save the day. It turns out there are good reasons to break the rules now and again.
“Bats at the Library”
by Brian Lies
This one’s for all the parents out there. When the library window’s left open one night, the bats get to play. They send emails to their family in Mexico and cause general havoc before settling down for story time. This is where the nostalgia comes in… you’ll see glimpses of a Cheshire bat, one who pulled a sword from a stone, one who lives in a hobbit hole and one who looks suspiciously like the Velveteen Rabbit. It’s a walk down memory lane… and it’s hilarious.
by Sarah Stewart
You’ll remember the girl with the red hair whose face is always behind a book. She’s not into sports or dolls, but she does love to read. You watch her as she grows older and behind her books. Soon, her house is so full of novels that she can’t get out her front door. In the same vein as “Biblioburro”, she opens her library to the world and finally comes in to her own. The watercolor illustrations are what made me love this book and the connection she finally finds with the world is what makes it a keeper.
The library doesn’t have to be serious or intimidating. Buy a tote, buy several, and let your kids fill them with these books as well as stories of their own choosing. Let the library welcome you with its millions of worlds at the ready. It’s a trip worth making, and it’s free.