When I mentioned that our current bimonthly theme Books about Books is kin to our previous theme which was Dusty Bookshelves and Library Loot, I wasn’t kidding. I originally meant to share this book weeks ago, but I thought that this kind of intense passion for booksbooksbooks would suit our current theme better.

This book simply resonated with me on so many levels. I think of myself as an avid bibliophile. This book, however, has shown me that I’m not-nearly-close-enough to the leagues of Mary Elizabeth Brown. She is a different entity altogether.

The book begins with the baby Elizabeth Brown literally dropping straight down from the sky. The narrative (which is told in beautiful verse) builds up to her childhood where she was shown to prefer reading books over dolls, skating, or even playing with friends. As she grew older and went off to the academy, she brought along with her a steamer trunk filled with books. I had to laugh aloud as it is such a familiar sight.

Further proof that Elizabeth Brown is such a hardcore bibliogeek can be understood through these lines:

Elizabeth Brown
preferred a book
to going on a date.
While friends went out
and danced till dawn, 
She stayed up reading late.

Now that’s pretty hardcore, if I may say so myself. The fact that she reads while exercising is a testament to her single-mindedness and amazing focus. I also love how she mistakenly found her way to what would be her home – the place where she eventually settled down. In time, she has accumulated way too many books that it filled every little nook and cranny in her home:

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.

How Elizabeth Brown solved this wondrous dilemma, I shall leave for you to discover. The husband-and-wife tandem has once more created an achingly beautiful book that would whisper sweet-familiar-nothings to the ear of any one who has fallen in love with words.

Teacher Resources. I was able to find a few links that would help teachers discuss this book in the classroom. Here is a downloadable powerpoint slideshow created by kent.edu that includes lesson plans and guide questions. It also features a companion book to The Library entitled A Fine Fine School by Sharon Creech. Here is another very comprehensive downloadable pdf link created by Macmillan, and what I would call the definitive Teachers’ Guide to the works of Sarah Stewart and David Small.

It would also be good to get a feel of how students respond to Elizabeth Brown’s passion. Among older kids, it would be worthwhile to explore the concepts of living-life-through-books or having books as one’s lifelong companion. It would be good to compare young children’s response to this book as opposed to, say, a high school student. If you have used this book in your classroom, do let me know how the students found it.

The Library by Sarah Stewart and Pictures by David Small. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, 1995. Book borrowed from the public library. Book photos taken by me.

IRA Teachers’ Choices, New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Books of the Year, New York Times Outstanding Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of the Year

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 93 (35)

PictureBook Challenge Update: 101 of 120

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Update: 31 (12)

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

7 comments on “The Library by Sarah Stewart and Pictures by David Small

  1. It’s just simply a beauty of a book and story, isn’t it Myra. I loved your review, & that you didn’t tell the end!


  2. This is one of my all-time favorite picture books, text and illustrations!


  3. I’d have two+ houses, one for living with some books for show, and 1 or more houses FILLED with books! I have to read this!


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  5. Myra, this is one of my favorite books! I always read while walking the treadmill. Does that put me in Elizabeth Brown’s class with “single-mindedness and amazing focus?” This author/illustrator team is a real gem. Thanks for the links. I no longer teach reading but can appreciate the resource.


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