• Happy birthday to Sandra Louise Woodward Darling who, under the pen name Alexandra Day, created Good Dog, Carl and its sequels. Birthday greetings, also, to Eric Hill (Where’s Spot?).
  • It’s the birthdate of C. B. Colby (1904-1977) author of Strangely Enough and World’s Best “True” Ghost Stories, and Elmer Hader (1889–1973) who wrote and illustrated The Big Snow with spouse Berta Hader.
  • Teeny tiny newborn Edith Eleanor McLean is the first baby placed in an incubator, called a “hatching cradle,” in 1888. Read Hatching Magic by Ann Downer.
  • Philo Farnsworth transmitted the first TV image, a straight line, at his laboratory in San Francisco, with his image dissector camera tube, in 1927. Read The Boy Who Invented TV: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Greg Couch.
  • It’s Neither Rain Nor Snow Day. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett or Tuesday by David Wiesner are good reads for today.
  • It’s also Salami Day. Read How I Got a “D” in Salami(Hank Zipzer series) by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, and Go Hang A Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!: And More Palindromes by Jon Agee.

Over the years I have collected a list of titles, shared by teachers and librarians, to use for the beginning of school. Many, of course, started classes in August, but some schools still begin after Labor Day. So I’m going to focus on two more crowd pleasers that adults love to share. I’d be happy for Almanac readers to weigh in today with their own favorites.

Let me begin with a title often chosen by school and public librarians: Sarah Stewart’s The Library, illustrated by David Small. We have already looked at the magic these two can weave in The Gardener. Published in 1995, The Library begins with endpapers showing, appropriately, a library. Even before the first line, a young redheaded girl can be seen with her face behind a book, sitting on a park bench and walking through the rain. Elizabeth Brown doesn’t like to skate or play with dolls—but she loves to read. “She always took a book to bed,/With a flashlight under the sheet./She’d make a tent of covers/And read herself to sleep.” And so we follow our heroine through school and through her early attempts to lend out her books to friends. She settles down, tutors students, and buys any book that she can locate. She even reads while practicing yoga. In a house that becomes increasingly chaotic because of books, Elizabeth uses them as furniture and keeps them in piles stacked up to the ceiling.

In a wonderful end to the saga, readers see Elizabeth donate all her books to the Elizabeth Brown Free Library, move in with a friend, and read her way to the last page. Never has the joie de livre (joy of books) been captured so well. My own study, where I write, bears an uncanny resemblance to some of the pictures in the text. David Small’s watercolors perfectly capture the library as it grows. He also moves a series of cats across that landscape, a detail that delights children. One of those great picture book texts with a pleasing beginning, middle, and end, The Library allows all of us who love books to acknowledge that we have a kindred spirit in Elizabeth Brown.

So whether you use David Wiesner’s Tuesday, on the first Tuesday of school, or Jim Marshall’s Miss Nelson Is Missing!, or The Library, I hope you get the school year off to a good start by letting your students, or your children, know that they are going to find a lot of books that they will love this year. Just like Elizabeth Brown.

Enough of this writing—I need to go read a book!

Here’s a page from The Library:


Originally posted September 7, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: School
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Library


  1. Bookjeannie says:

    I love the little animal reading the propped up book. Library Dragon & Library Lion are favorites, too!

  2. Sarah says:

    Back to school with Ramona the Pest!

  3. Cathy Ogren says:

    I love this book and the illustrations. I shared it with my library students yesterday, and we had a good discussion on the term, “free library.” Other favorites: Stella Louella’s Runaway Book, The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, and Aunt Chip and the Great Triple Creek Dam Affair.

  4. Joie de livre indeed! Brilliant.

  5. Anita says:

    Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  6. Arita says:

    MISS ESTA MAUDE’S SECRET was the book I read the first day of school. When I read “berrum-berrem” (however it was spelled) as Esta Maude sped down the road, the children knew how loud I could speak. (*-*) That was the ONLY day they heard a loud voice from me. Just the “teacher look” was all it took.

  7. Suzanne says:

    Another book about reading, which I am going to read to a group of homeschoolers next week is “Wild About Books” by Judy Sierra.

  8. Diane says:

    Anita, I love your daily suggestions of great books! Sarah Stewart & David Small are one of my favorite author/illustrator pairs. A great back-to-school read is Rob Scotton’s Splat the Cat. Splat is so nervous about his first day of school. However, all works out well with his teacher Mrs. Wimpydimple. What a fun name to say!

  9. Lydia says:

    Thanks so much for another great post, Anita! My office is buried in book piles too.

    We have some fun back-to-school stories at Reading Rockets and Colorin Colorado, with a special focus on books featuring kids who are ELLs and who face the first day of school in a new language. Scary!

    The titles are available here: http://www.colorincolorado.org/read/forkids/school/

  10. G. Perry says:

    I loved this book along with The Gardener and The Journey. These are all so beautiful they can bring tears.

    I too have stacks and stacks of books. My daughter tells friends that every single time she comes across that postcard photo of the little boy sitting in a corner surrounded on three side with stacks of books higher than than the little reader, she’s thinks immediately of me. Then there’s the Dickensian-like painting of the old boy on the ladder, lost in thought, gazing long and long into an open book. I get tagged with that one too. (I always point out that I’m not nearly as old as that old fossil.)

    The one thing about today’s book that never fails to bother me each time I read it, is I kept wondering if the girl was lonely. (yes, it’s only a book, I know.) I keep wanting to fix that. I think what’s going on is that some of these books can reignite deep childhood memory for a grown-up which still holds etched-in feeling of needs and longing from those days, even though the words that went with those thoughts, my have lost their connection. The old therapy saying that the body never forgets, is, I believe, all too real.

    I better stop before Lady Anita comes for me with a butterfly net. Grin.

  11. Love this book and many of those already mentioned. I keep thinking I should write a library unit (for my school library) based upon the wonderful books written about librarians. I love the more recent pack horse librarian story, That Book Woman, and I just borrowed Librarian on the Roof! to see how the students react to it. Thanks as always for the Daily Almanac!

  12. Jane Cooper says:

    My second graders are enjoying Elizabeth Brown this very week! They are delighted with the whimsical illustrations, along with the challenging vocabulary within the verse. Love it! Enjoyed the post…

  13. Mary Milligan says:

    Love the phrase joie de livre. For the first week of school I shared I Took My Frog to the Library by Eric Kimmel with kindergarten; I.Q. Goes to the Library by Mary Ann Fraser with 1st grade; The Librarian from the Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler with second grade; and Marc Brown’s Locked in the Library with third grade.

  14. Rea Berg says:

    Thank you for the reminder about The Library. Funny, my daughter and I had just read The Gardener yesterday!
    A happy belated birthday to you, Anita. Hope it was wonderful.

  15. Kathy says:

    I also use The Library Dragon (with 3rd) and Library Lion (with 1st) to kick off the year. My new kindergarteners listen to Corduroy Goes to the Library. Fourth graders enjoy Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything! It’s a good springboard as I increase expectations for finding your own book in 4th grade. 5th grade listens to Library Lil by Suzanne Williams (illustrated by the awesome Steven Kellogg). I love the message conveyed in this modern tall tale (and it’s not every picture book that includes a motorcycle gang and a bartender)! Our sixth graders are usually overwhelmed by the time I see them on the first Friday back, so I tell them to sit back and relax while I read The Ink Drinker by Eric Sanvoisin. I see a couple new ones to try in this thread. Thanks for the suggestions!

  16. Anita says:

    Kathy: Thanks for the extended list — some great books.

  17. Diane says:

    Thanks for highlighting The Library as well as The Gradener in your almanac. This author/ illustrator duo is one of my all time favorites for picture books. I can not wait for their newest picture book, The Quiet Place, to come out this September. I also plan to hear them speak at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
    I hope to have them sign my copy of The Library.

    P.S. It was delightful to hear you speak there a couple of years ago. I hope to hear your special presentation this year as well.

  18. Anita says:

    Diane: Please come and introduce yourself at the National Book Festival if you can! It is always wonderful to meet Almanac readers.

  19. Momo says:

    My favourite librarian is Miss Folio from the book Sorry Miss by Jo Furtado.

  20. Kim says:

    I have read this book at the beginning of the school year for twenty years. This year when I read the line about Elizabeth Brown dropping straight down from the sky, a second grader asked, “did she come from outerspace?” I had a good laugh!

  21. Bonny says:

    I’ve always loved the illustration of the girl walking along with her nose in a book. I remember when I used to do that.

  22. Cheryl says:

    I love this book!! In fact, it’s on my bed right now because I was just reading it again this morning. My favorite scene is when she walks into the door….because I’ve done that!

  23. Brandi says:

    We read P. Polacco’s “The Bee Tree” each year, the night before the first day of school, and lick honey off a book.

  24. G. Perry says:

    I love this book all over again!

    Wonderful art and story.

  25. N. C. Coleman says:

    Not related to “The Library”, but just wanted to acknowledge the passing of Anna Dewdney on Sep. 3, 2016, author of Llama, Llama Red Pajama, and other Llama, Llama stories.

Leave a Comment

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.