The Little Library: Seven Cheers for Librarian Beck

h1 July 29th, 2021 by jules

“Librarian Beck put a heavy book into Jake’s hands. It was old and worn. …”
(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


There’s so much to love about Margaret McNamara’s The Little Library (Schwartz & Wade, March 2021), illustrated by G. Brian Karas and a new entry in a series of picture books called Mr. Tiffin’s Classroom, that I’m not sure where to begin. But we’ll begin with Jake, one of the book’s main characters. “Jake was a slow and careful reader. Sometimes he read the same page more than once so he could figure everything out. When it came to Library Day, Jake felt behind.”

But there’s a new library — and a new librarian. Beck Goode, who asks the students to call them “Librarian Beck” (and, as you can see, goes by nonbinary pronouns), welcomes the students to the new space. Jake remains stressed, because he always feels as if he lags when it comes to reading. While other students rush to the shelves, he wanders to a corner bookshelf and admires the “grooves in the wood.” But Librarian Beck is gentle and observant and approaches Jake with a book called Woodworking for Young Hands. Jake is hooked: “My gramps has a workshop,” he tells Librarian Beck. And then this happens:



Say it with me now: Librarian Beck FTW! I teach as a Lecturer for the University of Tennessee’s Information Sciences program (a course on picture books), and the very week I first read this book, my students and I were discussing the radical notion (yes, it’s radical, unfortunately) of letting students read what they want — instead of restricting them to certain books, instead of dictating their reading based on (often ridiculously determined) reading levels, and instead of telling them that they are well beyond reading books with pictures. The timing was just right, and needless to say, I told them all about this glorious new picture book.

Jake warms up to the book; having never been matched with the right books and given that he’s a slower reader, it takes him a while. But Librarian Beck lets him keep it another week. Jake even decides to renew his book, and Librarian Beck finds some other books he likes. Unfortunately, students must return all books at the end of the school year. Jake is devastated to learn the library will be closed all summer. Remember, after all, that he’s a new convert to reading! But he has a lovely solution, which you can guess from the book’s very title, not to mention one of the book’s final spreads is pictured below. Librarian Beck also surprises Jake with a special gift at the book’s close, but I won’t ruin that for you.

There is no one better to illustrate these dramas of the Mr. Tiffin variety (here is the rest of the series) than G. Brian Karas, who spins his usual magic here — a warm palette, an endearing and inclusive cast of characters, and detailed gouache illustrations.

Here are some spreads. …


“‘Welcome, everybody!’ said a friendly-looking person. ‘I’m Beck Goode.
Please call me Librarian Beck. I’m here to help you find books you love.'”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“Jake looked down at Woodworking for Young Hands.
He hadn’t realized he’d have to give it back so soon.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“There was Librarian Beck with the school custodian.
They were standing next to the little library.”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

THE LITTLE LIBRARY. Text copyright © 2020 by Margaret McNamara. Jacket art and interior illustrations copyright © 2020 by G. Brian Karas and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Schwartz & Wade Books, New York.

One comment to “The Little Library: Seven Cheers for Librarian Beck”

  1. “Jake checked the book out.”
    I love that the sentence stands alone in its beauty. Well done, Librarian Beck.

    I had a student who read ONE book the entirety of fifth grade during Silent Reading time. And he took it home on the weekends. I KNOW Jake. And he turns out okay…♥

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