I stumbled across the book that inspired this collection in a vintage shop. The cover of the book, which had been reused to make a blank journal, instantly caught my eye. Both the title — The Children’s Book on How to Use Books and Libraries — and the charmingly simple stick figure illustrations captured my imagination. I tracked down a complete copy and soon began collecting other illustrated children’s books about libraries.
At first I collected only books published before 1970, but then expanded to selected modern children’s books as well. I have to be selective, because my Google Books bookshelf of children’s books about libraries currently includes 348 titles, and more are being published every year.
Below are some of the oldest books in the collection. I’m always looking to add early books, because so far I have only thirteen illustrated children’s books published before 1970.
One of the first categories I collected was nonfiction children’s books about the history and use of libraries.
Another subject area is career books about librarians, which describe what the profession does and how a child might learn more about it.
A very popular genre is fictional characters going to the library. Numerous books describe the experiences of children or other characters going to the library and learning how it works.
Another popular theme is animals coming into the library, and the havoc that ensues once they’re there.
Alphabet books about libraries.
Poems about libraries.
In some cases, characters love books so much that they start libraries in their own homes.
Libraries have also inspired fantastical adventures. In The Flower, a boy in an all-gray world finds a book in the library about flowers, which inspires him to plant some seeds that turn into a beautiful flower. The Little Red Fish tells the story of a boy and his fish who get lost between the pages of a library book. In How to Live Forever, a library containing a copy of every book ever written is missing one volume that holds the secret to immortality.