Librarian For a Day

I've taken on a new job. My husband saw it coming when I walked out the door to attend a meeting at our local library. When I returned the first thing he said was, "What did you agree to do?"

We live in a small town of 5,000 people where the very edge of suburbia melds into real farm land. Our community library is a shared endeavor at our local high school. It is a tiny little thing. Which is probably why it took us almost a year to actually visit it given the convenience of the exponentially larger libraries closer to the city which allow books to be placed on hold from the comfort of your own home and then picked up while the boys are strapped into the comfort of their own stroller.

Oh, and our local library has a 3 book limit. I almost passed out when they told me that. The librarian (sensing my disbelief) asked if that was a problem and I told her that we usually have at least 50 library books out at a time. Then she almost passed out.

After gathering a little more info, it became clear why there is a limit. There simply aren't very many books. And remember those little slips in the back where they physically write the due date (before those date-changing stamp things) that were around when I was in grade school?
That's the check-out system. It's kind of charming, except that it would take about 2 hours to check out 50 books. It still might be worth the trip to check out 12 books (if I got everyone, including the baby, a library account ) if there were great books. When I saw the entire Babysitters Club series and Spongebob early readers, my heart sank. Yikes. Maybe it would be a challenge for us each to pick out 3 books.

So I went to the open meeting of the Friends of the library a few weeks ago to see what, if anything, I could do to help our local library situation. I left the meeting treasurer of the organization and had the check book delivered to my door a few days later and was promised that I would be able to purchase some quality children's literature. Before you get carried away and remind me that I have very little free time to devote to something like this, let me give you a number. $800. This is the cash on hand to buy books and more shelving (which is desperately needed). I could spend a good chunk of that on children's books in my sleep (and probably have thanks to one-click). Every book the library purchases gets an entire article in our local newspaper.

So my question to you all is this: If you had to buy one book for the children's section of your local library, what would it be? It would need to be engaging and beautiful and thought-provoking, to inpsire all the senses and make the child (and adult) want to come back for more....

40 comments:

Oooh--great question! Can I pick a picture book and a chapter book? :) My all-time favorite picture book is The Clown of God, by Tomie de Paola. And my favorite children's chapter book is Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor (had my 7th grade students spellbound when I read it aloud to them). What a fun job!

June 3, 2009 at 7:58 PM  

I like The Weight of a Mass by Josephine Nobisso but it's obviously really Catholic so it might not work for a public library. But it's a really pretty book!

The Hobbit is also great for kids...but not so much a picture book.

While we're talking about books though I just wanted to ask if that preschool reading list will still be posted sometime? No pressure, I'm just excited about it as my kids are heading in that direction!

June 3, 2009 at 8:10 PM  

Good Night Moon and The Velveteen Rabbit are the first to come to mind.

June 3, 2009 at 8:13 PM  

My first thought is The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco. It's all about the value of learning to read and of reading good books which seems fitting for what you're trying to do!

June 3, 2009 at 8:17 PM  

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June 3, 2009 at 8:27 PM  

Take 2-

My favorite children's picture book is the Polar Express, but I know some people aren't fans.

I also like Shel Silverstein.

I second the Clown of God and anything else Tomie de Paola has written.

I admit though that I may be more lenient than some on book selections. Which leads me to ask why the dismay regarding the Babysitter's club books? I read a couple of them as a kid and, granted they weren't great literature, but...? Just curious.
I was much more of a Nancy Drew fan growing up, until I graduated to Agatha Christie novels.

June 3, 2009 at 8:31 PM  

2nd vote for Tomie DePaola's "Clown of God" Absolutely a favorite of mine and the kids. Oooh, and we just read the "Bee Tree" this week from our library (one of about 50 books here too!), and really loved that one.

here's a few others I can think of that I think are must haves...
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Sleep Book by Dr. Suess
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Any Frog and Toad readers
also DK Eyewitness readers
for young toddlers, we love Sandra Boynton books like "Moo, Baa, Lalala"


Can I just say that this sounds like a positively glorious new job that you have? Have fun!

June 3, 2009 at 8:32 PM  

I love Old Turtle.

Also, I suggestion for getting lots of books cheaply would be "BookMooch.com". People can donate their extra points to you, so you wouldn't have to actually give away books to receive some. A good friend is a librarian (a very slightly larger library, very rural) and she loves using it to get more books and gets to get rid of the useless books while getting new ones free.

June 3, 2009 at 9:00 PM  

I can't pick just one, but here is a top five list of authors (I cheated a bit) and books, in no particular order

1) Clown of God (my personal favorite book by Tomie DePaola) or anything else by Tomie DePaola

2) Make Way for the Ducklings, Blueberries for Sal, or One Morning in Maine, all by Robert McClosky

3) A Virgina Lee Burton Treasury Collection

4) Charlotte's Web (for a slightly older audience)

5) The Velveteen Rabbit

June 3, 2009 at 9:04 PM  

It's a tossup between (1) Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants and (2)Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman, both by the great Dav Pilkey.

What?

As I overheard greasy gothic Borders employee explain: "Captain Underpants does get the little boys reading, and whatever gets them reading is a good thing!"

False. I think I'd rather my little boy be illiterate.

June 3, 2009 at 10:02 PM  

But seriously, thank you all for the GREAT suggestions here, please keep them coming. These ideas are getting plugged directly into an Amazon wishlist (although we'll buy them locally if at all possible, Kate : ))

June 3, 2009 at 10:07 PM  

I don't think I've ever been to a library that would let me check out 50 books at a time....

June 3, 2009 at 10:33 PM  

Define "child". Is the intended audience male or female, 2 or 12?

June 3, 2009 at 11:20 PM  

Sorry I can't pick one...

Little House on the Prarie By Laura Ingalls Wilder -the old ones with the beautiful illustrations.

ANY OF the Frances books- Bread and Jam for Frances, A new baby Sister for Frances, Bedtime for Frances.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hogdsen Burnett

The Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi (It is out of print though!)



Harry the Dirty Dog and all the other Harry books.

Anything by McCloskey seconding Red.

Ferdinand and the Bull

A new Book- Adele and Simon It has beautiful pictures of Paris and the back allows more follow up info. I don't recommend the followup.

Gail Gibbons books.

June 3, 2009 at 11:20 PM  

The Year at Maple Hill Farm.
It's a little known book but it is fabulous and Amazon has it for about $7.

June 4, 2009 at 7:48 AM  

What a great post, Texas Mommy, and you'll be a great fit for this job!

"Adele and Simon" by Barbara McClintock is a favorite of ours - it is the story of a bit sister and little brother in Paris, on their way home from school, and has beautiful illustrations. Highly recommended.

"Paddington Bear" by Michael Bond - any of the books in this series are treasures. The story of a bear named Paddington and his adventures...A timeless story!

Tomie de Paola - any of these are great books, our small neighborhood library features them all of the time even though many have strong Catholic themes. I would especially recommend "The Clown of God" and "The Legend of the Poinsettia". Some books are for a slightly older audience and are a little bit quirky.

Richard Scarry books - my son has loved these books since he was 2 years old! Especially "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" and "The Best Little Storybook Ever" - these really are wonderful books that children from 2-12 would love!

"The Magic Treehouse" series by Mary Pope Osborne. A great way for kids to learn history without even knowing it - wonderful books, probably starting at age 4.

June 4, 2009 at 8:34 AM  

We are big fans of Kate Di Camillo's Mercy Watson series as well as the Tale of Despereaux. I also love the abridged versions of the Little House series for younger readers. I've always loved Maurice Sendak's Little Bear Series and anything by Tomie De Paola.
Jen

June 4, 2009 at 8:36 AM  

For really little kids I like anything Sandra Boynton. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and the Very Hungry Caterpillar are favorites in our house.
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs is great for the preschool set. Where the Wild Things Are is another great choice.
For school aged children, the Magic Tree House series is wonderful. The American Girl Books are great, too.
I also highly recommend The Giving Tree. It's such a wonderful story.

June 4, 2009 at 9:52 AM  

Wow--there are so many!

The Secret Garden
A Little Princess
The Betsy-Tacy books
Any book by L.M Montgomery (Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, etc.)
The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper
The Lost Years of Merlin series by T.A. Barron
The Four-Story Mistake
The Sherwood Ring by Elizabeth Pope
Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Elizabeth Pope
Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Theatre Shoes (Noel Streatfeild)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond
The Bronze Bow
Caddie Woodlawn
Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards

Texas Mommy, I'm the librarian at my parish and our annual budget is quite small, so I feel your budgetary pain! :)

Elisabeth

June 4, 2009 at 10:01 AM  

I totally forgot Madeline - I love Madeline. I'm also a fan of the new Skippy Jon Jones books.

June 4, 2009 at 11:34 AM  

Sorry, totally forgot about the Jenny Linsky books: these should not be missed and, unfortunately, often are. And Babar, yes our king of the elephants should be read to all children. My apologies for the multiple posts.

June 4, 2009 at 11:37 AM  

My kids recently checked out "The Parrot Tico Tango" by Anna Witte and cried when we had to return it. They love anything about Curious George, and books by Jan Brett.

-Annette

June 4, 2009 at 12:34 PM  

Since my son is three I'll go to bat for the "under five" crowd and say that I'd go with Mother Goose's Golden Treasury (or something like that, I'm sure you know the one I'm talking about) just because
1) it could be used for an out loud story time
2) it has lots of short stories
3) rhyming is the instictive (and best) way to get little children acclimated to language and music

For grade school aged children...I loved The Phantom Tollbooth, does anyone remember that book? It works at so many age levels and is enjoyable for adults as well.

June 4, 2009 at 1:24 PM  

ooh, so much fun. I've definitely seen some of my favorites already listed (and someone else who appreciates Julie Andrews's Mandy? [Yes, *that* Julie Andrews]Amazing).

Also for older kids, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

June 4, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

Greek Myths by D'Aulaire. A useful, gorgeous, fascinating book for ALL ages, preschool through adult, IMO.

June 4, 2009 at 2:00 PM  

I loved to see Adele and Simon mentioned. Barbara McClintock's Cinderella is also a favorite.

You might look on ebay for a bunch of Childhood of Famous American books, you can often get a deal on several, and I love these for 2nd/3rd grade boys, which is a tough age group.

You might want to start a birthday book program, we had this at our school library and I always loved getting to give the library a book on my birthday, which then got my name in it!

June 4, 2009 at 2:01 PM  

Ooh..."Just So Stories," by Rudyard Kipling (how the elephant got his trunk, etc), the AA Milne Pooh stories.

June 4, 2009 at 2:19 PM  

Juris Mater, you're a scream. Gotta check out Captain Underpants.

June 4, 2009 at 4:07 PM  

Oh what to pick! There are so many classics, but I would actually steer away from getting too many Dr. Suess, or Shel Silverstein, or Goodnight Moon types of books, because, honestly, most people either have them already.

So the trick, now, will be to find the new classics. I'd recommend:

Little Pea, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The Wainscott Weasel by Tor Seideler

Sophie's Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli

The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson

Bruno Munari's recently republished ZOO and ALPHABET (Chronicle Books)

And THE WONDERFUL O, by James Thurber

I run a Children's book blog, if you want some more suggestions:Little Lamb Books

June 4, 2009 at 5:08 PM  

I totally, totally recommend Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.

Also, would your library take donations? I've got some doubled books that we received as gifts that are just sitting around unused... Where the Wild Things Are, and stuff like that. Could I mail them to you?

I'm a fairly new reader to your blog--I myself have will-be-three-in-September twin girls, a will-be-eighteen-months-when-the-big-girls-are-three baby girl, and am expecting again in December. I'm a convert to the Faith, plan on homeschooling, have an M.A. in photography... anyway, I'm just a girl with some spare books that I'd be happy to send on to you if you could use them.

My email is jennyredmann (at) g mail (dot) com. Feel free to drop me a line with a mailing address if you're interested.

Thanks for y'all's site!

June 4, 2009 at 9:08 PM  

What a trip down memory lane reading all these titles has been for this soon to be Grandma!!

I loved reading my daughter The Velveteen Rabbit and have already bought my due-any-moment grandson a copy!

The Betsy & Tacey Books are great but hard to find.

And, has anyone heard of The Gumps? There are several Gump poetry books and they teach manners. My daughter at 22 can still recite some of the poems. They're so much fun and make teaching manners fun. A very hard thing to do!!

June 4, 2009 at 9:53 PM  

Mary Jean, do you mean the Goops?

June 4, 2009 at 10:29 PM  

Catherine,

I had four under 3, so I am right there with you! After the twins my singletons have seemed so easy! God bless!

Mary Alice

June 4, 2009 at 10:31 PM  

I second the recommendation for joining Bookmooch.com. They have a special category for libraries/charities/non-profits and you can get all sorts of beautiful books for free if people donate points. (You could also trade in some of the dreck for better books that way.)

If I could buy 1 picture book I'd get A Child's Calendar by John Updike illustrated by Trina Schartt Hyman. Gorgeous poetry and pictures. Both I and my 3-year old love it but while the poems are child-friendly they are not "kid poems" they hit me too. (Though, I will add the very slight caveat that the setting is very New England and as a kid growing up in Texas the whole 4 season thing kind of escaped me. Living in MA it now makes much more sense.)

June 4, 2009 at 11:34 PM  

The Lion in the Box by Marguerite De Angeli. And pretty much anything else by her; she writes well, and the illustrations are beautiful.

Also, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.

June 5, 2009 at 8:26 AM  

Though it doesn't even have any words, the most thought-provoking book that my children have enjoyed (they cannot read yet by themselves, mind you) is the book Rainstorm, by Barbara Lehman.

June 5, 2009 at 9:35 AM  

Definitely, definitely The Clown of God. I still cry every time I read it. If I had to pick one book for young children, that would be it. I'm choking up just thinking about it.

I heartily second the recommendation for the Betsy-Tacy series. I'm in my mid-twenties and still read them regularly.

And most definitely, The Hobbit.

Can I just say, what an AWESOME job. I love children's literature. I subscribe to C.S. Lewis' view: "I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story."

June 5, 2009 at 11:44 AM  

Thank you everyone for the wonderful suggestions! I knew that everyone would be hard-pressed to name just one! And thank you for the other great ideas on how our fledgling library can get more books (and offers to donate! I'll be in touch with you soon!) I also need to put some of these books on hold at our non-local library until I can get copies in ours!

Bethany--I don't remember anything morally objectionable about the Babysitters Club, but I think it's fluff. Like eating sugar for breakfast. It's sweet, but you won't last very long on it. I think that really beautiful books are really beautiful writing are more likely to inspire children to read more than a flashy Spongebob book.

I think one of my picks not mentioned would be something like Elsa Beskow's "Christopher's Harvest" (Not the new mini editions...the illustrations are too small!)

June 5, 2009 at 12:48 PM  

tx---I know I'm late to the thread but I have been busy working at my job at our little local library...pretty much sounds exactly the same except we have awesome books :)

So I was going to just suggest you give me a call or email me and I'm happy to share some general collection development thoughts & advice.

Alice has all my contact info so I won't post it online :)
-kate

June 8, 2009 at 1:05 PM  

You can check the dollar store and Target's dollar section: I've gotten some cute Suzy's zoo and Sesame Street Board Books. Have you thought about having books in another language? IF there any Spanish/French speaking families in town they'd probably love the opportunity to read to their kids in their native language. It can also help older kids learning a 2nd language for the first time.

June 8, 2009 at 1:40 PM  

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