The Library

While THE LIBRARY is over twenty years old, it feels timeless.

Written by: Sarah Stewart

Illustrated by: David Small

Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995, fiction

For Ages: 4 and UP

Themes/Topics: reading, readers, libraries, librarians, bibliophiles, eccentrics, generosity, friendship, rhyming

First spread:

“Elizabeth Brown

Entered the world

Dropping straight down from the sky.

 

Elizabeth Brown

Entered the world

Skinny, nearsighted, and shy.

 

Summary (from publisher):

Meet an unforgettable bibliophile.

Elizabeth Brown doesn’t like to play with dolls and she doesn’t like to skate. What she does like to do is read books. Lots of books. The only problem is that her library has gotten so big she can’t even use her front door anymore. What should Elizabeth Brown do? Start her own public library, of course! With charming verse and watercolors Sarah Stewart and David Small celebrate one of America’s oldest and finest institutions.

The Library is a 1995 New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year and Outstanding Book of the Year.

 

Why I Like This Book: As someone who has stumbled down the street with her nose buried in a book, the cover of The Library spoke to me. Immediately I knew that Elizabeth Brown ate, drank, and breathed books. Book-crazy kids and adults alike will feel an affinity to eccentric bibliophile Elizabeth Brown. And while the book is a work of fiction, it is inspired by and dedicated “to the memory of the real Mary Elizabeth Brown—librarian, reader, friend, 1920-1971.” The warmth of this real connection and friendship shines through in Sarah Stewart’s humorous and sympathetic portrait of Elizabeth Brown.

Following Elizabeth through childhood, school, and adulthood, we see Elizabeth reading her way through life, collecting books along the way. Soon, books begin to pile up everywhere. But when “volumes climbed the parlor walls and blocked the big front door, she had to face the awful fact she could not have one more.” What she does next may’ve been inevitable but it surprised and delighted me all the same!

 

Ideas for Teachers: This quirky story is now available in audio and video formats as well. Teachers might point out that although this is a work of fiction, it was inspired by a real person. While some details are clearly whimsical, others seem realistic. As a writing exercise, students could think of someone they know who is “larger than life” and/or who inspires them in some way and write a fictional portrait story in which they embellish or exaggerate certain of that person’s “larger than life” traits.

 

(For a super list of links to picture book reviews, along with resources, please visit Susanna Leonard Hill’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)

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