Picture Books

Picture Books That Will Help Your Children Fall in Love with the Library

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I grew up less than a mile from our local public library. It was back in the day when there were rows and rows of little drawers holding the card catalog, each card representing a book on the library’s shelves. To check out a book, you signed your name on the card you pulled from the pocket in the back of the book and the librarian stamped the due date on the remaining flap.

Once in a while we entered the halls of the local public school library, the same one my dad would have visited when he was in school there. And as we got older, friends introduced us to the public library in a neighboring town, where we’d stop after swimming lessons or grocery shopping with Mom.

But my favorite was the little library down the road with a dear librarian named Mrs. Unruh (who helped me track down The Wide, Wide World via interlibrary loan). Where I could check out the whole Boxcar Children series and find the entire set of Childhood of Famous Americans. Where I met authors like Margaret Sydney and Maud Hart Lovelace. Where my brother and I found priceless treasures at library sales. Where my hunger for endless reading material was safely satiated. (The watchful eye of the friendly Mennonite librarian saw every title I checked out, after all.)

Now, though our home library could be said to rival that of Elizabeth Brown, my children consider going to the library a delightful treat. They love to seek out new books on favorite topics or track down an old friend they checked out before. And they are quite delighted when Miss Anja is there to help them check out books using their very own library cards.

Here are some of our family’s favorite picture books celebrating libraries and librarians. Because, as my oldest says, “You can never be too old for picture books!”

This post was originally written while we awaited the re-opening of libraries across the country in 2020.
It has been expanded and updated in honor of National Library Week 2022.
(Find even more titles in our list of picture books about animal friends at the library!)

Watch for the book stack emoji 📚 denoting favorites we’re adding to our own library!
We’re huge fans of Scribd, so I’ve also noted when books are currently available through Scribd’s digital library. (Grab your own 60-day free trial!)

Picture Books Celebrating Books and Libraries

📚The Library by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small

Elizabeth Brown read and read and read; “she always took a book to bed, with a flashlight under the sheet.” Books were piled everywhere, climbing up the parlor walls,and blocking the front door. And then came the awful day she realized there was not room for one more… With its delightful illustrations and rhyming storytelling, this family favorite is a celebration of books and bibliophiles everywhere!

📚Library’s Most Wanted by Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Sarah Pogue

“When Aunt Nora asked her to be deputy librarian, Libby took her job very seriously.” Libby thinks it’s her duty to keep the books safe. But what if being a librarian isn’t all about protecting books? Cheerful, charming illustrations and a fun Texan vernacular made Library’s Most Wanted an instant favorite in our home. Libby’s lesson was also a gentle reminder to this mama that it’s more important that books be read and loved than perfectly preserved.

📚The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer, illustrated by Chris Sheban

Once there was a brand-new book that was so popular it hardly ever had a chance to sleep at the library. Years passed, its cover faded, and the last page was torn out before it was finally discarded to the basement for the library book sale. This is the story of The Lonely Book and the girl who loved it. (As the owner of many once-lonely books, and the mother of four enthusiastic library sale shoppers, this book was a must for our shelves.)

📚The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

“Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books…” But one day the orderly book of his life was upset by a dark sky and winds that scattered every page. The ensuing journey led Mr. Morris Lessmore to an extraordinary building filled with books, each of which seemed to be whispering its own story. Here Morris found his home among the books, caring for them, reading them, and writing his own. “Everyone’s story matters,” Morris liked to say as he shared the books with others. A poignant tale with incredible illustrations, every bibliophile will want to own this touching tribute to the office of librarian and the power of books. The “wordless” 15-minute animated film is also an experience you’ll never forget. In both the book and the animation, Morris is visually featured after Buster Keaton, and the story itself draws inspiration from Hurricane Katrina along with the movies Steamboat Bill, Jr. and The Wizard of Oz.

📚Library Lil by Suzanne Williams

Lil redefines the librarian stereotype of a bun and glasses. From the time she was a girl, “Lil loved to read and she imagined herself the hero of every book she checked out of the library.” But when she became a librarian in a neighboring town, Lil discovered that not everyone shared her love of good books. The “devil’s invention” of TV was keeping the people of Chesterville from good books. But one stormy night, the town’s ancient bookmobile and Lil’s strong arms (strengthened by carrying stacks of books and encyclopedias!) came to the rescue. When a motorcycle gang rode into town, they were surprised to find the bar devoid of a TV. And then they met Libray Lil

Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

“Although it had another name, ‘Tricia Ann always called it Someplace Special because it was her favorite spot in the world.” The moving story of one girl’s journey–on a segregated bus, through segregated streets–to her favorite spot in the world, where there were no signs, where all are welcome. 

“L” is for Library by Sonya Terry, illustrated by Nicole Wong

A is for author, B is for biography, C is for the Caldecott… This creative library themed alphabet book takes you all the way to Y (your interests) and Z (for catching zzz’s). A tabby cat appears on every page, along with a puppy and some ducklings throughout. My children enjoyed the fun details in the illustrations!

Please, Louise by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, illustrated by Shadra Strickland

When it’s raining and you’re lonely and imagined dangers are on every corner, the library is the place for Louise: “Here is a shelter from any storm. In this place you are never alone.” A sweet rhyming story of a little girl who finds safe shelter in a library, loyal friends and a patient teacher in the pages of books.

Stella Louella’s Runaway Book by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Stella was in a tizzy. Her library book had disappeared. And it’s due today at 5 o’clock. Stella and her family and friends run all around town on the trail of the missing library book. Along the way, the townspeople drop clues as the title of the missing tale. 

Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything! by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

On Robert’s first day at a new school, his classmates warn him: “Our librarian won’t tell us anything!” Librarian Mrs. Skorupski defines help differently than Robert did at first, but by the time he’s done learning how to find books on library shelves and research topics in the library and online, Mrs. Skorupski calls Robert a “Library Success story.” The next time a new student comes to school, Robert tells her, “Our librarian can teach you anything!”

Nia and the New Free Library by Ian Lendler, illustrated by Mark Pett

When a tornado destroys the town’s library, no one thinks it’s necessary to replace it—except Nina. She sits down to single-handedly create her own little free library, housed in her little red wagon. When townspeople read Nia’s twist on classic tales and find a discrepancy within, she hands them a pencil to “fix” the story. And suddenly, the entire town is writing—and needs a place to store all the books. My children enjoyed this twist on the classic Stone Soup.

Pirates in the Library by Nadia Ali, illustrated Jake Tebbit

What happens when Captain Jake the pirate follows a treasure map to the library? Ms. Benitez the librarian has her hands full keeping the pirate and his crew quiet as they search for the treasure of the Dread Pirate Dewey. Will they discover the real treasures galore contained within the walls of the library?

No Pirates Allowed! Said Library Lou by Rhonda Gowler Greene, illustrated by Brian Ajhar

Library Lou knows exactly what to do when a noisy pirate dares to set foot in Seabreezy Library. First, she sends him home to take a bath. Then, she teaches him to read. Finally, Library Lou points Big Pete to the shelves and tells him the clue to the treasure is within a book… (Read on Kindle Unlimited or listen to the 10-minute audiobook.)

Check It Out!: The Book about Libraries by Gail Gibbons

A broad overview of the history of books and libraries, how a library is organized and funded, as well as how to find and check out books, as well as the additional services and programs that libraries offer. Though it was published in the late 1980’s, this colorful book is still quite relevant!

The Library Book by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark, illustrated by Chuck Groenink

It’s hard to read this book out loud—it really must be sung! “Oh, I’m going down to the library, picking out a book, check it in, check it out.” Based on “Library Song” by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark, The Library Book is a catchy celebration of libraries and all the classic stories within!

Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Kyle M. Stone

A picture book collection of poems about books and libraries. A fun addition to any home library!

Picture Books About Librarians Throughout History

📚Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady, illustrated by Amiko Hirao

“Katherine Tasaki returned a stack of books and turned in her library card.” In return, librarian Miss Breed gave Katherine a stamped, addressed penny postcard, saying, “Write to us.” It was 1942 and the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast were being forced to move to prison camps. But Miss Clara Breed, the children’s librarian at the East San Diego Public Library, didn’t let them leave empty-handed. She met them at the train station to give them books to take along. She mailed them packages of books. She even boarded a train to visit them and deliver more books. This heart-wrenching true story is a testament to the power of a librarian who knows how to choose good books to grant hope in dark times! 

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by John O’Brien

“Tom gobbled books the way a starving man eats.” Guess what he started collecting? Books, of course! A fascinating picture book, peppered with real quotes and historical facts, all about Thomas Jefferson’s love for books–and how he helped rebuild the collection of the Library of Congress.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre by Anika Aldamuy Denise 

“Words travel with her; stories her abuela taught her. Now a new island stretches before her–ripe for planting seeds of the cuentos she carries.” A breathtaking biography of Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Puerto Rican librarian, who went on to become a renowned author of bilingual literature, “planting stories” like Johnny Appleseed planted apple trees. (Watch the author read Planting Stories aloud on YouTube.)

Picture Books About Bookmobiles & Other Unusual Libraries

📚Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile by Gloria Houston, illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb

When Dorothy was a little girl, she decided that she would become a librarian in charge of a fine brick library, just like the one she loved to visit. But then she grew up and got married and moved to a farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina where there was no library at all. Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile is more than a tribute to Dorothy Thomas, a librarian from North Carolina in the 1940’s; it is a tribute to every librarian who has instilled a love of reading in their patrons.

Clara and the Bookwagon by Nancy Smiler Levinson, illustrated by Carolyn Croll

“Books are for rich people; farm people like us do not have time to read,” says Papa. But that doesn’t change Clara’s eagerness to learn to read. Thankfully, Miss Mary the librarian knows that “books are for everyone.” An “I Can Read” book, level 3, based on the true story of Mary Lemist Titcomb–the perfect way for young readers to learn to appreciate our easy access to books from modern-day libraries!  

📚That Book Woman by Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small 

Cal’s sister Lark is “the readenest child you ever did see” and he doesn’t understand why she will sit still and stare at “some chicken scratch” all day. Until That Book Womanreturns to their home in the dead of winter… A touching free-verse tribute, not just to the “Book Women” of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, but also to every reluctant reader. (Read with Kindle Unlimited!) 

Little Libraries, Big Heroes by Miranda Paul, illustrated by John Parra

The story of how Todd Bol came to create the first Little Free Library in memory of his mom—and how the grassroots project grew to a worldwide organization that fosters community and literacy. Fun, colorful illustrations!

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, illustrated by John Parra

Anna has read and re-read the one book she owns. She spends her days and nights making up new stories and wishing for new books. Then one day, a man with two burros comes to town, carrying…books! Inspired by real-life librarian Luis Soriano who carried books to remote villages in Colombia on the backs of his two donkeys. With bright and cheerful illustrations, Waiting for the Biblioburro also provides inspiration for writing one’s own stories. (Read it now on Scribd.)

Learn more about how children around the world find books to read in Margiret Ruur’s photographic essay, My Librarian Is a Camel.

Picture Books About the Dewey Decimal System

📚Do You Know Dewey?: Exploring the Dewey Decimal System Library Binding by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Journey through the Dewey Decimal System in rhyme! A clear, concise explanation of what each section of the library contains. (Perhaps a poem to put to memory!)

The Efficient, Inventive (Often Annoying) Melvil Dewey by Alexis O’Neill, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Melvil Dewey has always had a passion for organization and books. As a child, he organized his mother’s pantry. As a college student, he once saved armloads of books from a fire at Amherst Library—seriously threatening his own health in the process. Melvil became a dogged and determined advocate for library reform, spelling efficiency, and more. A fun and fascinating record of the accomplishments of the man who was

📚Mr. Dewey’s Zoo by Doug Cturtle, illustrated by Charlie Kaye

Mr. Dewey’s house looks a bit like ours—books tumbling out from every story! This repetitive  rhyming tale is a great tool for teaching the Dewey Decimal System, with an animal assigned to each classification. Don’t miss the companion: Mr. Dewey’s Zoo: Coloring Book Edition. (Also available on Apple Books.)

Picture Books Especially for Little Library Card Holders

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

It’s Tuesday. Lola has her library card and a backpack full of books to return. Because on Tuesday, Lola and her mommy go to the library. A sweet picture book for young library enthusiasts! 

The Boy & the Book: [a wordless story] by David Michael Slater, illustrated by Bob Kolar

A wordless tale of that boy, the one who makes the books cringe when they see him coming, and that book, the one the boy loves so very much. A great conversation starter with little ones about how to treat books!

But, Excuse Me, That is My Book by Lauren Child

Charlie’s little sister Lola thinks that one book at the library is very extra special. It’s really the best book ever. But what will Lola do when she can’t find the book on the shelf at the library? Lola has very specific ideas about the kind of books she likes to read—and they are all rather descriptive of her book that someone else is reading. Thankfully, Lola has a brother who patiently listens and tries to help her find a new book to read.

Picture Books About Classic Characters at the Library

Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm by Herman Parish, illustrated by Lynn Sweat

You never know what to expect when everyone’s favorite literalist, Amelia Bedelia, helps out Mrs. Page at the library! Do books wear jackets? What happens when a dog devours the book on dog training? And what’s the difference between a thesaurus and a stegosaurus? Lots to laugh about in this classic where Amelia Bedelia even borrows the bookmobile!

Let’s Go to the Library! by Charles Schulz, adapted by May Nakamura, illustrated by Robert Pope

The classic Peanuts gang goes to the library in this tale adapted from the original comic strips by Charles Schulz. Sally is excited to get her own library card and check out her very first book. Charlie Brown is in trouble (again) because he’s missed Lucy’s book club meeting. Even Snoopy and Woodstock make an appearance! “Happiness is having your own library card!” 

The Library Gingerbread Man by Dotti Enderle, illustrated by Colleen M. Madden

The Gingerbread Man lives on the library shelves at 398.2. But one day, he decides to run away from the librarian, the other book characters, and all those from the biography section. A fun twist on the classic Gingerbread Man tale. (It’s a good thing “it is particularly hard to outsmart a librarian”!)

Picture Books About Animals in the Library

Between The Library Lion and The Library Mouse, The Book Hog and The Library Fish,
Madeline Finn and the Library Dog
and The New liBEARian, not to mention a canary and Dewey the Cat , it gets to be a regular zoo at the library! We have so many picture books we love about animals at the library, we created a whole separate book list to introduce you to all our animal friends at the library.

My 12-year-old daughter Ruth Anne’s review of Library’s Most Wanted:

“Libby has been made deputy of the library. It is her (supposed) duty to keep the books safe. But when Sammy returns a well-loved book, Libby is forced to give him another. She puts up posters and that brings in the Library’s Most Wanted! (Which, in case you didn’t guess, is readers!) I love this book (maybe because I love books!). It is such a sweet story and has fantabulous pictures.”

Looking for more picture books about libraries and librarians? 

Picture Books About Animals at the Library
Picture Books About Libraries from House Full of Bookworms
11 Memorable Children’s Books About Libraries and Librarians
30 Picture Books About Libraries from The Multi Taskin’ Mom

Visit my Goodreads shelf featuring library-themed picture books!
Check out the Goodreads Listopia Lists:
Picture Books About the Library & Children’s Books About Libraries

Be sure to pre-order Patricia Polacco’s Palace of Books!

(Thanks to Pelican Publishing for the digital review copy of Library’s Most Wanted and to Doug Cturtle for a digital review copy of Mr. Dewey’s Zoo.)

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