The Little Library by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas

    The Little Library by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, Schwartz & Wade, 9780525578338, 2021

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  This lovely book manages to squish a lot of important ideas into one story without feeling weighed down. Mr. Tiffin’s class heads to their school’s brand new library to meet the nonbinary Librarian Beck. Jake, a slow and careful reader, doesn’t much care for books. But Librarian Beck helps him find a just right book for him, an old, heavy and worn edition of Woodworking for Young Hands. Jake takes copious notes on the information and keeps renewing the book, which inspires him and his grandfather to build a Little Free Library to keep kids reading while school is closed over the summer. One hot day in July, he receives a package in the mail. It’s the woodworking book, now withdrawn, with a note from his librarian telling him the book is his to keep. Karas’s illustrations, done in gouache and pencil, are just right for this story, with a cozy feel and enough tactile detail to draw readers in. With their asymmetrical haircut, colorful shirts, and loose-fitting pants, Librarian Beck looks cool and friendly. A short essay by Jake about Little Free Libraries provides some extra information for those interested in building their own. Handsome endpapers feature every kind of hand tool, neatly organized on a pegboard.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No. I did think Librarian Beck and Mr. Tiffin could have pointed out that kids can still go to the public library over the summer to get books!

To whom would you recommend this book?  A great depiction of Ranganathan’s rule: every reader: their book. This would be a good read aloud for encouraging reluctant readers, explaining the weeding/withdrawing of books, piloting a Little Free Library or presenting a nonbinary person in a story. Pair with Little Libraries, Big Heroes (2019) by Miranda Paul, about the origins of the LFL movement.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes!

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: April 22, 2021

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