Inside: The best picture books about the joy of books: collecting books, reading them, learning to read, visiting libraries, and life as a book enthusiast …
If you’re a bibliophile like me, you know how gratifying it is to read about books and people who read them. My bookshelves are full of titles like Confessions of a Book Addict, Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading, and So Many Books So Little Time. (I can relate).
I’m happy to say that my kids are just like me. It’s very exciting for them to read a book about someone reading a book. In fact, that’s what inspired my two older kids to read the Harry Potter books. For years, I’ve been trying to get them interested, and they said, “It sounds so stupid!” But then, a character in the book they were reading (I think it was The Ghost City) happened to be reading Harry Potter, and my kids decided to read Harry Potter to get an idea of what all the excitement was about. Of course, once they started, they couldn’t stop.
The other day, my kids and I were discussing the world’s most famous book collectors (Star Wars’ George Lucas has a home library of over 27,000 books!) when I suddenly realized that I hadn’t yet put together a list of picture books on books. Of course, I had to correct this omission right away!
This list is perfect for celebrating Library Lovers Month (February), World Book Day (March 2), Children’s Book Day (April 2), International Literacy Day (September 8), Picture Book Month (November), or any other time of the year you want to inspire a reluctant reader or encourage an eager reader to keep it up.
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Books About Books, Book Lovers, and Reading
The Mermaid’s Purse, Patricia Polacco
Stella, the author’s grandma, reads every chance she gets, even while feeding goats, churning butter, and kneading bread on the family farm. From an early age, she made money painting portraits and selling apple butter, using the funds to buy book after book after book until her father had to build her a library! She uses the knowledge she finds from books to help farmers, generously lends her books to everyone, and even teaches others to read. But …
… one day, a nasty storm blows away her library: shelves, floorboards, books, and all… This true story about a farm girl who loved books will captivate your children. I love Polacco’s signature drawings and never tire of her captivating stories.
Let Me Finish! Minh Ke
You can’t imagine how many tears were shed in my house because the ending of the book was ruined by someone’s careless comment. That’s why this book is such a hit with all my kids. They all know exactly how the main character of the story feels.
He feels extremely frustrated because every time this boy settles down with a book, he hears, “Have you gotten to the part where the puppy runs away?” or “Can you believe her best friend turned out to be a robot?”
Would he ever find a quiet place to read? The bright, cartoonish art is extremely amusing.
One of my sons just can’t pass this book without picking it up and reading it out loud to anyone who happens to be nearby, pointing out all of the funniest moments.
Wolf! Becky Bloom
Hungry and tired, a wolf wanders onto a farm and tries to catch a tasty farm animal for his dinner. However, this is no ordinary farm, but a farm for educated animals. The wolf is told to go and be dangerous somewhere else because these animals are trying to read! Perplexed and insulted, the wolf decides to go to school and learn how to read, too. First, he learns the basics. Then, he practices and practices until he can read fast. And finally, he works on his “reading style.” I love the sweet watercolor illustrations, the tongue-in-cheek humor, and the message that it takes time and work to become a fluent and confident reader.
Wild About Books, Judy Sierra
An absentminded librarian drives a bookmobile into the zoo and starts reading aloud to the animals. Soon, every beast learns “about this new something called reading” and can’t wait to start “choosing thin books and fat books and Cat in the Hat books // And new books and true books and heaps of how-to books.”
This melodic rhymed story about the power of reading made both my kids and me laugh out loud. They especially liked that the animals were reading books they could recognize, like Goodnight Moon, The Wizard of Oz, and Nancy Drew. The joyful illustrations by Marc Brown, one of our favorite authors and illustrators, are fun and bright.
The Incredible Book Eating Boy, Oliver Jeffers
What an original and unexpected story!
Do you know how some people are such fast readers that we say they swallow books whole? Well, in this story, a little boy by the name of Henry swallows books for real, and whatever book he eats, he knows all the content by heart. Until all that knowledge becomes scrambled, and he is forced to switch from eating books to reading them. I love the message that reading books makes you smarter and that thinking about meaning (or digesting books properly) is more important than the number of books consumed. With imagery and colors as original as the plot, this book had us giggling and laughing out loud. I highly recommend this book!
Book Bugs Club, Cynthia Rylant
Book clubs are a great way to make friends and find like-minded people. In this chapter book from the beloved Henry and Annie series, Annie wants to sign up for a summer book club at the local library, but her best friend Henry is not so sure. Henry likes to be outside, and books seem to be an inside kind of thing. But before the summer is over, both kids discover lots of interesting books and decide to be book lovers forever.
We love every book in the Henry and Annie series. All my kids go through a stage when they had to read them every day, and by now, I feel like Henry and Annie are our friends next door.
The Detective Dog, Julia Donaldson
This rhyming tale about books, library, and reading is so, SO GOOD! Imagine all the books from your child’s school disappeared overnight without a trace. “Books about dinosaurs, books about knights, books about planets and meteorites, Books about princes who turned into frogs, Books about dragons – and books about dogs.”
Imagine then that your child has a dog named Nell with a keen sense of smell and superior intelligence… “Nell gave a growl when she heard the bad news but then started sniffing and searching for clues.”
Well then, as you can imagine, an exciting investigation and a high-speed chase is in order! Don’t worry; all the books are recovered before the end. The adorably playful watercolor-and-pencil illustrations by award-winning artist Sara Ogilvie are a perfect match to the delightful rhymes.
Library, Sarah Stewart
Do you love reading and buying books? So did Mary Elizabeth Brown, the actual person behind this delightful historical fiction. She read everywhere, any time she got a minute, and bought books at an alarming rate until she accumulated so many books that her shelves began to fall apart, and her front door was blocked by stacks of books.
I love the meter and pace of the story and have happily reread it thousands of times.
“She read about Greek goddesses while vacuuming the floor.
Attending only to her book, she’d walk into a door.”
David Small’s soft, pastel-hued images are works of art. Each page is beautifully composed with humor and charm. I was very happy to learn that The Library got a Caldecott Honor Award.
Froggy Goes to the Library, Jonathan London
When Froggy goes to the library, he takes a wheelbarrow because he is getting tons of books. “Woo-hoo! Ya-pee!” he cries. The problem is that a library is a place where you can “hear a fly burp,” and energetic youth like Froggy might have a hard time staying quiet, moving slowly, and sitting still. Good thing Miss Otterbottom, the librarian, understands, “Wiggle wiggle! Waggle waggle! Giggle giggle! Gaggle gaggle!” With Miss Otterbottom on his side, Froggy won’t miss out on his book day.
Petunia, Roger Duvoisin
This book follows the adventures of a silly goose by the name of Petunia, who overheard her farmer say, “he who owns books and loves them is wise.” So when Petunia finds a book in a meadow, she decides to love it. Now that she owns AND loves a book, she is convinced of her wisdom. Unfortunately for the farm animals, Petunia’s attempts to act wisely bring about disastrous (but humorous) consequences. The story ends with Petunia’s decision to learn how to read.
Swiss-born author and illustrator Roger Duvoisin is a Caldecott medalist and a master of expressive artwork. This is easily one of our favorite books. We love the creative plot, hilarious illustrations, and the lesson that wisdom doesn’t come from objects but from the mind.
How the Library (not the Prince) Saved Rapunzel, Wendy Meddour
In a classical fairytale, Rapunzel was imprisoned in a tower by a wicked witch. In this modern retelling of the story, Rapunzel sat in her high-rise apartment unable to work up the motivation to do anything… until she got a job at a library. Now “she can speak in four languages, skip, and play chess, / She can knit tiny egg cups and cross-stitch a dress. / She knows the difference between crows and rooks – / And all because of Library Books!” So fun!
Lost in the Library, Josh Funk
Lost in the Library is about two lions that have been standing outside the New York City library since 1911. As Fortitude (one of the lions) learns, his side-kick, Patience, has been sneaking into the library at night while he is sleeping. Why? To read books, of course! Your kids will probably be delighted to recognize the familiar authors and see the pages of familiar books (i.e., Cups for Sale, Amelia Bedelia, etc.). “Patience, did you learn these stories for me?” Fortitude asked – but he knew. Patience just nodded and said, “Well, you see, I love sharing stories with you.” I love the drawings!
How This Book Was Made, Mac Barnett
If your kids ask you how picture books are made, get this giggle-inducing read. From inception to the inevitable many drafts (which “is a useful part of the writing process”), from unreasonable editorial demands to working with a book illustrator (“it took the illustrator a very long time to draw all the pictures”), this book helps kids (and adults!) understand everything that goes into the creation of a beautiful book – plus high seas pirate adventure and traffic incidents in between to enliven the action.
Vivid and humorous artwork is by Adam Rex, whom you might remember from Are You Scared, Darth Vader? After reading this book, your kids might even decide to write a book of their own.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, Jen Bryant
This gorgeously crafted book provides a peek into the world of Peter Mark Roget, the creator of the Thesaurus, a book that lists words in groups of synonyms and related concepts. At an early age, Peter learned that words are powerful things. And at the age of eight, he started writing his first book of words. It was the work of his whole life, and when it was published, “people snatched it from the shelves like a new kind of candy.”
Not only is this biography well-written, making Roget’s life accessible even to the very young, but the design of the book is a pure work of art. The creative layout, the beautiful rich colors, the remarkable fonts, the charming drawings, and the images that look 3D all combine to create an original experience. It received both the Sibert Medal (which honors the most distinguished informational book) and a Caldecott Honor (given to “the most distinguished American picture book for children”).
Thomas Jefferson Build a Library, Barb Rosenstock
Thomas Jefferson was a celebrated diplomat, lawyer, and architect. He was a Founding Father, one of the primary authors of the Declaration of Independence, and the third president of the United States. What most people don’t know about him, however, is that he was also a passionate reader and collector of books. During his life, he amassed a massive amount of books, eventually donating them to the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.
This book has fascinating illustrations, but when I first looked at the amount of text per page, I worried that it would be too boring for kids. However, the book is written in such an engaging manner that my three older kids (seven, nine, and eleven) were captivated.
This story combines the best elements of a thrilling read—marvelous narration, amazing illustrations by our favorite illustrator, Nancy Carpenter, and unique font. Did you know that before 1726, children only had religious texts and preachy fables to read? When children first learned to read, they were forced to peruse manuals about how to behave.
John Newberry, who became known as the father of children’s books, changed all that. A farmboy with a love of books, he apprenticed to a printer at an early age, and as soon as he could, he became a publisher himself. He worked incredibly hard, overcame lots of hurdles, and, most importantly, came to a fortunate resolution that “reading should be a treat for children.”
You can read all the details of his reasoning and the way he went about it in the book. If you are like me and love books, you will immensely enjoy it and so will your children.
Please Bury Me in the Library, J. Patrick Lewis
This collection of poems is all about books and reading, so if you love books, reading, and good poetry, you will definitely enjoy this book.
Here is a sample from one of the poems: “What if books had different names like Alice in … Underland? Furious George, Goodnight Noon … ” This poem got us thinking and amusing ourselves with wordplay and alternative titles — Charlotte’s Dead, A Wrinkle in Slime, The Little Engine that Stood, Where the Wild Things “Arrrgh!” Ha-ha-ha!
We love J. Patrick Lewis for making us think about something we haven’t thought about before. Heaven as a library? Reading books to eternity? Brilliant! “Please bury me in the library in the clean, well-lighted stacks of novels, history, poetry, right next to the paperbacks.”
And “a good book is a kind of a person with a mind of her own” and “a bad book owes to many trees a forest of apologies.” So true! Lively illustrations add to the reading enjoyment!