Following on from my post about the value of physical libraries, I’ve gathered together seven picture books about these wonderful spaces. The Twitter hashtag #ThingsOnlyLibrariesProvide highlights many of the important roles that libraries play within our communities. These books reflect some of these within their pages.
The Detective Dog
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
Sniff, sniff, sniff!
Peter’s dog Nell has an amazing sense of smell. Whether it’s finding a lost shoe or locating a bounce-away ball, her ever-sniffing nose is always hard at work. But Nell has other talents too. Every Monday she goes to school with Peter and hears children read. So who better to have on hand when they arrive one morning to discover that the books have all disappeared! Who could have taken them? And why? Detective Dog Nell is ready to sniff out the culprit…
I love this wonderful story from “the outrageously talented, prize-winning author”, Julia Donaldson (Pan Macmillan Publishing, 2017). With attractive illustrations by Sara Ogilvie, it ticks all the right boxes for me. Dogs. Check! Books. Check! Reading. Check! Libraries. Check! Nell is a Story Dog, part of a Bark and Read programme, helping children to gain confidence as readers. She is also a detective dog, leading the class and their teacher to Ted, who has taken all of their books. She then solves Ted’s problem. He was only borrowing the books and intended to return them. So Nell takes him to the local library, where he “can take lots of books out for free”. Everyone is happy, because the children have their books back and Ted has a new library card. Hooray for Detective Dog Nell!
Red Knit Cap Girl and the Reading Tree
Written and illustrated by Naoko Stoop
One day, Red Knit Cap Girl and her friends discover a hollow tree in the middle of the forest. What can the tree be used for?
“I will keep my book in this nook so everyone can read it,” Red Knit Cap Girl says.
“Great idea!” Bear cheers.
But the tree isn’t only for books. Little by little, one by one, the animals share their unique gifts and turn the ordinary tree into a special spot for everyone to enjoy!
This book, beautifully illustrated using plywood as a canvas, shows how it takes a community to create a library. Red Knit Cap Girl and her friends share their resources (books, newspapers and blankets) and their skills (carpentry and writing) as they set up a library in the nook of an oak tree. Everyone is welcome, even the outsider, Sly Fox. As Naoko Stoop says, “In this story, the library is a special symbol of community and sharing”.
No Pirates Allowed! Said Library Lou
Written by Rhonda Gowler Greene and illustrated by Brian Ajhar
Chills ran down spines as those readers all shook.
They hid behind bookshelves, but ventured a look.
And what was that odor? Disgusting! Phhhew!
But no one at Seabreezy knew what to do.
Aha, me hearties! This swashbuckling, rip-roaring tale is all about Pirate Pete and his search for treasure. He ends up at Seabreezy Library, where Library Lou helps him in his quest. She teaches him the alphabet and introduces him to fiction and non-fiction books. Then, shiver me timbers, Pirate Pete discovers that the treasure is not gold or jewels, but books! The role of the librarian in finding information and promoting the joys of reading is clearly shown in this rollicking picture book.
Written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, is very particular about rules in the library. But when a lion comes in one day, no one is sure what to do. There aren’t any rules about lions in the library.
It turns out, though, that the lion seems very well suited for the library. His big feet are quiet on the library floor. And he never roars in the library-at least not anymore.
But when something terrible happens, the lion helps in the only way he knows how. Could there ever be a good reason to break the rules?
In this prize-winning book, the story begins with a lion passing between two stone lions (reminiscent of Patience and Fortitude, the New York Library lions) and entering the library. Like a big cat version of the Story Dogs, he joins the children for story hour. After learning not to be noisy in the library, he visits regularly and soon proves to be very useful. He dusts the encyclopaedias, licks the envelopes for the overdue notices and is a comfy cushion for the children to rest against. Then disaster strikes and the lion has to break the rules. But will he be allowed to return to the library? The rules associated with libraries are the focus of this book. No running. No shouting (or roaring). But the underlying message is that rules should be broken if there is a good reason to do so.
The Midnight Library
Written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara
Once there was a library which opened only at night…
Step inside the Midnight Library and meet a friendly little librarian and her three assistant owls.
I love the simple and engaging illustrations in this book. They have been created using linocut and only three colours: yellow, blue and black. Again the focus of this story is on the role of staff in the successful running of the library. The little librarian and her three assistant owls ensure that visits to the library are a positive experience for all. They help everyone to find “a perfect book” and they solve any problems that arise. When the band of squirrels want to rehearse in the reading room, the little librarian shows them to the activity room. When Miss Wolf gets upset reading a sad part in her book, the staff take her to the storytelling corner and read with her, because they “knew the story has a very happy ending”. When a new visitor, the tortoise, won’t leave because he hasn’t finished his book, they give him a library card so he can take it home with him. This is a simple story with a powerful message about the importance of staff in the library experience.
Lottie Paris and the Best Place
Written by Angela Johnson and illustrated by Scott M. Fischer
Lottie Paris has lots of best things. She has the best dog, the best room, and the best Papa Pete.
But her best place is the library. There are books about space, new discoveries to be made, and new friends to meet-like Carl.
Lottie and Carl are about to find that the real best thing is when you can share your best place with someone else.
The illustrations in this book express the exuberance of young children. Lottie Paris jumps and runs and leaps into the library, which is her “best place in the world”. Carl hops into the library, which is also his best place. The story shares a love of libraries with readers through the eyes of two children, who become friends when they meet at the end of the shelves. The final pages find them reading books alongside one another, having discovered connection and friendship at the library.
A Library Book for Bear
Written by Bonny Becker and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Bear is quite sure that he already has all the books he will ever need and can see no reason to go to the library for more. Yet his friend Mouse, small and gray and bright-eyed, thinks otherwise. When Bear reluctantly agrees to go with Mouse to the big library, neither rocket ships nor wooden canoes are enough for Bear’s picky tastes. Will Mouse ever find the perfect book for Bear?
This book is one of several about Bear and Mouse. The humorous illustrations convey the two different personalities; Bear is cranky, whilst Mouse is cheerful. Bear doesn’t see the point of the library, because he has all the books he needs. But he has promised to go with Mouse. When they arrive, Mouse sets about trying to find his friend some books to borrow. But nothing pleases Bear. Then he hears the librarian reading to the youngsters at story time. Slowly he gets drawn in to the story and ends up borrowing seven new books. As the illustrator, Kady MacDonald Denton says, “Libraries have lovely surprises for each of us, whoever we are, big or small”.
These fabulous picture books all highlight the value of libraries within communities. They are suitable for advocacy in both public and school libraries and can be used to encourage engagement with these important institutions.
All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.