Ever since I wrote Library’s Most Wanted, picture books about librarians and libraries have been on my radar. These books tell the stories of librarians and their often unconventional libraries both in America and around the world. Some of them are biographies specific people, but others are inspired by a group of librarians bringing books to people in unique ways.
Non-fiction Picture books about Librarians
Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built by Angela Burke Kunkel illustrated by Paola Escobar
José is a garbage collector in Bogotá, Columbia. Every night, as he collects the trash, he looks for books that to add to his growing library. And every Saturday, he welcomes people from his neighborhood to borrow from his collection. This is an inspiring true story your kids will love with fun illustrations and a good dose of Spanish words laced through the text.
Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul illustrated by John Parra
This book asks the question, “how far can ordinary people spread an extraordinary idea?” The answer is around the world! That’s just how far Todd Bol’s Little Free Libraries have spread. And this book doesn’t just tell his story. It also tells the story of how many other people have used Little Free Libraries to impact their communities. Paul’s writing and Parra’s illustrations are equally engaging and will keep your kids interested in learning about these everyday heroes.
Planting Stories: The Life of the Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise illustrated by Paola Escobar
Pura Belpré now has a children’s literary award named after her. But no one starts out famous. Originally, she immigrated from Puerto Rico to New York, carrying the stories of her homeland in her heart. When she gets a job at the library, she can’t find any Puerto Rican folk tales. So she begins telling them to the children during story time. Eventually, she has a book published. While this story is less about the library, it’s charmingly told, and I think you’ll love it.
Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia by Jeanette Winter
Luis loves books. But every time he brings a new book home, his wife wonders what they will do with them all. Until Luis has an idea. He buys two burros who he calls Alfa and Beto. Then he constructs containers to carry books and loads them onto the burros. Finally, he sets off with his traveling library–his Biblioburro–to deliver books to the remote villages of Columbia.
Stories based on real libraries/librarians
The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard
Pari goes for the first time with Mama on the library bus. Her Mama brings books, English lessons, and school supplies to children in a remote village and refuge camp outside of Kabul, Afghanistan. It’s a story of hope which will open your kids eyes to the lives of kids on the other side of the world.
That Book Woman by Heather Henson illustrated by David Small
The Pack Horse Librarians delivered book across the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky in the 1930’s. Told by a boy who can’t find any use in books, the colorful dialect and clear descriptions bring the story to life. When the book woman returns despite a blistering cold and snow, the boy has a revelation. “And all at once I yearn to know what makes that Book Woman risk catching cold, or worse.” This heartwarming story will unlock a bit of American history for your family.
If you love books about libraries, you might enjoy my picture book Library’s Most Wanted. And if your library doesn’t have it yet, consider requesting they purchase it.
And if you want even more library-themed picture books, check out this round-up post.