UPDATE: It seems that our beloved librarians are under siege due to draconian budget cuts in California. Why do we need librarians? There is a great article here from The Los Angeles Times. [excerpt: “To get them off the payroll, the district is arguing that librarians don’t teach and thus don’t qualify for the seniority protections given to teachers.”]
If your school librarian is in danger of being cut, I would advise strength in numbers and advocacy. Rally other parents and make a big stink. Do your research and present your case. You’d be surprised how a group of fired-up parents can change the world!
Librarians are amazing people and it’s time they are recognized for their superhero qualities: an encyclopedic knowledge of everything, ability to open doors to new worlds, cultures, and civilizations, and finally the keeper of a safe and inclusive sanctuary. In this way, librarians change lives and make the world a better place. Hooray for librarians… the unsung heroes of our communities! These superhero librarians featured on the Top 10 list live in books, but yours is at your local library! Please help me update my list with your favorite books!
Life-Changing Librarians in Children’s Books
10. Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon
Tomas’ parents are itinerant farm workers and while he is eager to go to the library, he is intimidated. But the library lady is kind; she gives Tomas a drink of cool water, books on dinosaurs and tigers, and even lets him take out books using her library card. He returns day after day and she gets him to teach her Spanish. When he leaves to return home, the library lady has a gift for him, a shiny new book. This is the true story of Tomas Rivera, who went on to become the chancellor of the University of California, Riverside…all because of this kind, unnamed library lady in Iowa many, many years ago. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
9. Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Lola’s weekly trip to the library is the thing she most likes to do. Not only is it a special time with her mommy, but she loves all the special things at the library from sing-alongs to storytime to choosing out books. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
8. Library Lil by Suzanne Williams, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
Library Lil loves books but can she get the townsfolks of Chesterville to shut off the TV? A storm that shuts down the electricity gives Library Lil the chance to get everyone reading, but just as she is making progress, Bust-Em-Up Bill and his gang roar into town and it’s well-known that he hates books. What will Library Lil do? [picture book, ages 4 and up]
7. Beverly Billingsly Borrows a Book by Alexander Stadler
Beverly Billingsly goes to the library every Tuesday but this week is special because she is able to get her own library card. She loves her book, Dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period, so much that she accidentally forgets to return it on time. Beverly gets pretty worried about it, so much so that her stomach is in a knot and she can’t eat chocolate cake. But the librarian, Ms. Del Rubio, is so nice; no overdue fees for just two days! AND she introduces Beverly to a new kid who is in her grade who also loves Dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period. And that is how the Piedmont Dinosaur Club began…all due to a superhero librarian who knows who likes what books and is in what grade at what school! Whew! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
6. The Mysterious Tadpole by Steven Kellogg
Miss Seevers, the librarian, helps Louis with his pet troubles. She figures out that Alphonse, his pet, is a Loch Ness Monster. She has a great idea for raising money so that Louis can buy the parking lot next to his apartment building to build a pool for Alphonse to live in. Who but a librarian would know about an ancient shipwreck filled with treasure AND that Alphonse would be capable of retrieving it? Only a superhero librarian! And might I add that Miss Seevers was not even working at the library when she did all this! This was all on her own time! Superhero stuff!!! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
5. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Sam Gribley wants to live off the land on the old Gribley homestead that hasn’t been farmed for a hundred years. Trouble is, he can’t locate it. Miss Turner, the librarian, opens the library early to help him. She not only locates it for him (superhero detection skills) but she’s the first one who believes him. Wisely, she also suggests books on edible plants and animals. Like librarians in the real world that provide part of the safety net in a community to ensure that children don’t fall through the cracks, Miss Turner is the one person who lives in a civilization that Sam can count on and turn to. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, allows a lion to enjoy the library because he’s following the rules; he’s not running or making a lot of noise. Not everyone is so tolerant of the lion in the library. But one day, when the lion breaks the rules to help Miss Merriweather when she’s in trouble, she makes a new rule: it’s ok to break the rules to help someone. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
3. Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and Marc Brown
Molly McGrew can get anyone reading, even the animals at the zoo. A loving homage to Dr. Seuss by two great children’s authors, Judy Sierra and Marc Brown. [picture book, ages 2 and up]
2. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
When Miss Franny Block was a little girl, she wanted a library for her birthday and that is how the Herman W. Block Memorial Library came to be. But Miss Franny doesn’t just connect kids with great books, she’s created a little sanctuary. With her kind heart and riveting tales of her past, she is able to take two lonely and grieving little girls and connect them such that their new friendship will help to heal them both. A Newbury Honor book and truly one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
1. The All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Miss Allen is the nicest librarian in the world. When Sarah loses her book and has to pay for it, Miss Allen lets her have an installment plan because she knows that the cost of a book is a lot of money for Sarah and her family. One good turn deserves another, and who would ever guess what the sisters end up doing, unknowingly, for Miss Allen? They say that with karma, a good deed gets paid back ten-fold and this is certainly the case. [middle grade, ages 8 and up]
Life-Changing Librarians in Children’s Books Honorable Mentions
Dear Librarian by Lydia M. Sigwarth, illustrated by Romina Galotta
“Every day, you gave me a hug.
Every day, you made me feel safe and happy.
Those days, the Library was like a home. My own special home. (Even though it wasn’t a house.)”
This is the true story of Lydia M. Sigwarth and the time when she and her family lived at various relatives’ houses. This was a stressful time for Lydia but the library became her sanctuary. It was because of a very special children’s librarian who made her feel welcome. This life-changing librarian inspired Lydia to become a librarian herself and create Library Homes for others. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair by Patricia Polacco
A cautionary but fun tale about the town of Triple Creek where they are so wired on TV that they forget to read; not just to read books but actually how to read. Aunt Chip comes to the rescue and pulls the plug on the town dam which is built out of books.
Thank you to reader Miss Rachel SF for this great suggestion!
The Library by Sarah Stewart
Thank you to the person who told me about The Library on Twitter. I’m sorry but I failed to save that tweet but you know who you are. Because we loved The Gardener so much by Sarah Stewart, I rushed out and bought The Library. Mary Elizabeth Brown is the real-life person who inspired this story. A bookworm her whole life, Elizabeth Brown, in this rhyming story, reads all day and night, as a child and then into adulthood. As she grows older, her house becomes so full of books that she donates it and all her books to a town library!
Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra
There is a great interview of Monica Brown at one of my favorite blogs, PaperTigers.
Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia by Jeanette Winter
I also learned about this book through PaperTigers.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter
Alia Muhammad Baker is the librarian of Basra, Iraq, where all who love books come to gather and talk. But now in 2003, the talk is of war and bombings. Alia is worried that the books in her library might be destroyed by fires of war so she asks permission to move them but she is denied. Alia takes matters into her own hands and moves some of the precious books to safer quarters. As war approaches, she gets her neighbors to help save the books in a human brigade moving them over a seven-foot wall. It’s just in time too because nine days later, a fire burns the library to the ground. She has saved thirty thousand books! And until a new library can be built, they are safe … in her house stuffed to the gills with books and in the homes of her friends. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez and Lulu Delacre
Thank you to PaperTigers.org for this suggestion. Their review is here.
Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condi Lamb
The Fourth Musketeer turned me on to this book about a wonderful librarian who started a library because there was none in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. She highly recommends this nonfiction historical fiction book! [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
I love this book. It’s about a librarian who follows her dreams and her heart to make a difference. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
When the Babies Came to Stay by Christine McDonnell, illustrated by Jeanette Bradley
Four babies arrived by separate means on a small island. No one knows what to do except for the librarian. She decides to raise them herself. The locals pitch in by teaching the kids the ways of the sea, but it’s the librarian who makes them into a family. The pastel-hued illustrations have a soft pastel finish and mirror this sweet and whimsical story about how a warm-hearted person can make a difference. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
p.s. Related posts:
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.