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Notes from a Children's Librarian: Books on Librarians

This list honours the most important people in the world: librarians. No bias here.

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.


Book Cover The Librarian's Stories

The Librarian’s Stories, by Lucy Falcone, illustrated by Anna Wilson, begins at a 7-year-old’s birthday party. Soon after war hits and the local library is bombed. People are scared to leave their homes. There is no electricity, no running water. A little boy must go outside with his papa to line up for water and the one bread loaf to feed his family. Life is grey and full of fear. Then a librarian appears, sitting on a bench in the middle of town, reading aloud. Her words fill the community, reminding everyone of life before the invasion. After a time, the soldiers leave and while everyone cleans up the rubble, the protagonist takes on the role of reader to spur them on. We are left with the Martin Luther King Jr quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” as well as an afterword about the inspiration for the book. (Kindergarten to Grade 6)


Book Cover Librarian of Basra

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq, by Jeannette Winter, begins with a quote from Alia Muhammad Baker: “In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read.’” This nonfiction book tells of the librarian who, nine days before the Iraq war, moved some 30,000 books from the local library to her restaurant, filling her car in the dead of night. While bombs destroyed everything around her, she protected the books like a captain refusing to abandon her ship. With the help of neighbours, she again moved the books, wrapping them in sacks and passing them over a seven foot wall to be hidden in people’s homes—in closets, and under floorboards. The library was destroyed shortly thereafter but was rebuilt in 2004. (Kindergarte to Grade 6)


Book Cover the Man Who Loved Libraries

The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie, by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Katty Maurey, is the true story of the Scottish-born philanthropist who came from humble beginnings. As a boy, his family moved to America where he had a number of jobs, such as replacing bobbins in a cotton mill, delivering telegrams, and telegraph operator for a railroad company. Smart investing made him a rich man by age 35. Remembering the incredible experience of being allowed into the private library of a local businessman when he was young, Carnegie used his wealth to build over 2500 public libraries worldwide, including 125 in Canada. This book jacket tells us how Larsen discovered one such library on a walk in Toronto; his curiosity lead him to write this book. (Kindergarten to Grade 6)


Book Cover the Lady With the Books

Also nonfiction, The Lady with the Books: A story Inspired by the Remarkable Work of Jella Lepman, by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Marie Lafrance, is an inspiring story of a Holocaust survivor who returned to her home in Germany after the war to organize an exhibition of books. She wrote to enemy countries of Germany convincing them to send books, to give German children a fresh start. This story follows Annaliese and her brother, Peter, as they discover books in the Lepman’s collection, including Babar, Ferdinand and Pipi Longstocking. As the children’s hope grows, flowers multiply across the pages. The afterwprd tells the story of Lepman’s efforts that resulted in 30 000 copies of Munro Leaf’s Ferdinand being printed and given out, as well as the 4 000-book travelling exhibit throughout Germany. Today, over 600 000 titles from the collection have found their permanent home in a castle. (Kindergarten to Grade 6)


Book Cover The new LiBEARian

For younger readers, The New LiBEARian, by Alison Donald, illustrated by Alex Willmore, features Ms. Merryweather, a librarian, who has gone missing. The children follow clues—paw prints and honey on her desk. There’s a new “libearian” in her place and he only wants to read a story about bears. When the real librarian returns, she begins to read Goldilocks and the Three Bears, only to discover, baby bear is absent from the story. She quickly finds him and corrals him back into the book. (Kindergarten to Grade 1)


Book Cover the Library Bus

The Library Bus, by Bahram Rahman, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard, is a glimpse into life in Afghanistan in wartime and in refugee camps. Pari and her mother travel cross-country in a bus giving out pencils and notebooks, teaching young girls to read English, just as Pari’s grandfather had taught her mother in secret. The library bus teaches Pari that learning is freedom.


Book Cover Believing in Books

Believing in Books: The Story of Lillian Smith, by Sydell Waxman, illustrated by Patty Gallinger and Liz Mikau, is the inspiring biography of a woman who worked quietly and steadfastly to have an impact on the world of libraries. In the 1900s, books were considered a waste of time and children were banned from the buildings. Girls were not encouraged to be educated. At age 25, Smith became the first children’s librarian in the British Empire, adept at finding the right book for each child—focusing on the classics, such as Treasure Island. Children lined up in droves during her first library position in Toronto. Smith espoused books for the poor, developed Story Hour and the art of reading aloud (instead of the customary use of props/puppets), as well as bookmobiles and book carts in the Hospital for Sick Children. She became a proponent of designated book places in schools. The Osborne Collection in Toronto is part of her legacy which houses original copies of children’s literature, in the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library. (Grades 4-6)


Book Cover My Librarian is a Camel

The nonfiction title, My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World, by Margriet Ruurs, showcases photos of over a dozen unique libraries around the globe. Books are ordered and delivered by mail in Nunavut. The rocky coastal communities of Finland and Indonesian islands get visited by library boats. In Kenya, one camel carries a reading tent, the other camel hauls the books. From buses in Pakistan, to horse-drawn carriages with suitcases full of texts in Mongolia, to volunteers who walk for hours along foot paths in Papua New Guinea, to books delivered by elephant in Thailand, this book demonstrates how libraries, in all forms, sustain kids around the world. (Grades 4-6)


Book Cover Taming Horrible Harry

In Taming Horrible Harry, by Lili Chartand, illustrated by Roge, translated by Susan Ouriou, Harry may not identify as a librarian, but by the end of the story he certainly fills the role. Harry’s job is to scare those that enter the forest, but a little girl engrossed in her reading runs away after a couple of shrieks from Harry, leaving her book behind. His curiosity about the abandoned book leads him to Dolores del Dragon (perhaps a stereotypical teacher librarian, with specs and all) who teaches him to read and keeps a constant stream of stories coming his way. He begins to read aloud to the now-tame forest monsters, too full of story plots and fantastic character to continue scaring visitors. (Kindergarten to Grade 3)


On her first day as teacher-librarian, Julie Booker was asked by a five-year-old if that was her real name. She's felt at home in libraries since her inaugural job as a Page in the Toronto Public Library. She is the author of Up Up Up, a book of short stories published by House of Anansi Press.


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