Yes, librarians can be heroes, too. If you don’t believe it, just read Librarian on the Roof! A True Story by M.G. King and illustrated by Stephen Gilpin. This spirited picture book is based on the real adventures of RoseAleta Laurell, who blew into the small town of Lockhart, Texas, and found a small, outdated library with a lot more dust than people. The old brick-and-limestone building had been a cultural center once, but it had lost its luster. And worst of all, it had no children’s section. So RoseAleta decided to raise a ruckus, or raise funds for an area just for kids. “We need more books — picture books, mystery books, adventure books! We need tables just the right size. Comfy chairs. Colorful artwork. And computers.” Of course, the question was where the money would come from. That’s what led RoseAleta up to the roof. Fifty feet up, she perched a tent and vowed to camp out until the community raised the funds needed.
All this commotion didn’t meet with the town official’s approval. One page shows him scowling as he yells, “RoseAleta, stop this nonsense right now. We are a respectable town. We simply cannot have librarians falling off the roof.”
“HORSEFEATHERS! Respectable towns have libraries filled with children.” RoseAleta didn’t budge.
In one week, the community raised $39,000 — nearly twice her goal — and today, the library is once again a vital place, with scores of kids learning and reading in the oldest library in Texas.
The very idea of a librarian camping out on the roof will tickle a lot of children. The colorful, cartoonish illustrations by Stephen Gilpin are humorous and defy the outdated stereotype of a librarian. They depict RoseAleta as a bright-eyed, feisty, energetic woman determined to stay on top of things.
Other Books Featuring Heroic Librarians
- Henson, Heather. That Book Woman. Illus. by David Small. Simon & Schuster, 2008. Ages 6-8. This spare, uplifting picture book pays homage to the 1930s era of pack horse librarians in Kentucky. Young Cal cares not a whit about books and can’t fathom why the Book Woman would bother to ride a horse up the mountains to loan such things. Even Cal is impressed, though, when she braves a fierce winter storm. Cal asks his younger sister to teach him to read, and when the Book Woman arrives the following spring, he shows off his new skill. Small’s expressive watercolor, pastel chalk, and ink illustrations beautifully convey the characters’ emotions.
- Ruurs, Margriet. My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World. Boyds Mills, 2005. Ages 8-10. Take children around the world by selecting from the two-page entries describing rural library services in 13 countries. Camels, donkeys, and elephants are here, as well as a boat, a wheelbarrow, and a refitted boxcar. You can use this to enliven geographical studies, to reinforce the important role of literacy, and to broaden awareness of different lifestyles and cultures.
- Winter, Jeanette. Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia. Simon & Schuster, 2010. Ages 6-8. Sometimes it takes two — burros, that is — to deliver library resources. That’s how avid reader Luis shares his beloved books with those in the remote jungles of South America. Winter’s vivid paintings evoke the lush, tropical setting of this story centered on the joys of books. She includes an author’s note on the actual Luis and his “biblioburros.”