Tag Archives: All of a Kind Family


mike's house Library Lion all of a kind family library lil

I have always felt that truly good librarians are magic makers: they inspire readers to follow their passions and ignite new ones by introducing book selections that might not have been considered.  I love to check out books from the library and have the librarian give his or her thoughts or ask for my opinions.  As helpful and encouraging as librarians are to adults, I think their true spark comes from their interaction with children. 

The librarian at my children’s New Hampshire elementary school and the Amherst town librarian took on the role of an adult confidant and mentor to my own children.  She (in both cases) assumed the role of an adult who wasn’t there to evaluate or to reprimand (usually), but someone who the children could share their thoughts, questions, and inspiration about the books they read.  As much as I enjoyed teaching, I often admired and envied the role of a librarian: to be able to read and share books and authors without worrying about grades or projects or state requirements.

Now I know that good librarians do so much more than that!  They seem to possess a unique gift to recognize what type of book a child wants or needs and be able to find a suitable title to fit just that purpose.  Although a librarian’s work with technology has changed over the years – from microfiches and film strips to ebooks and websearches – I’d like to think that their passion lies truly with the books themselves.

Here are four of my favorite librarians from children’s literature.

Miss Merriweather from Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
I have to admit that this is one of my all-time favorite children’s picture books and I have to thank a librarian for sharing it with me and my children – thanks, Miss Jackie!  One day, a lion wandered into the library and sat down for a snooze in the children’s section.  As he wasn’t breaking any rules, he was allowed to stay.  He became a soft pillow during story-time, helped dust the shelves with his tail, and licked the overdue notice envelopes.  When something happens that requires the lion to break the rules, he must leave the library.

This is a beautiful story about rules and when to break them.  And more importantly, it is about the friendship between a librarian and a four-legged patron.

Lil in Library Lil by Suzanne Williams
Every since she was a child, Lil loved books and loved the library. One time she even checked out the entire set of encyclopedias and read them from cover to cover; so of course, she grows up to be a librarian.  Unfortunately, the people of Chesterville were not avid readers.  When a storm knocks out all the power in town and the television service is cut off, Lil jumps at the opportunity, pulls out the bookmobile, and inspires the town to read.  Life in Chesterville is good until Bust-‘em-up Bill and his motorcycle game come to town; they discover that they are unable to watch their favorite shows on Tuesday night because there are no televisions in town and they seek out the culprit behind this heinous act.  Lil stands firm and converts them all to be book lovers.

This very fun book is illustrated by the immensely talented Steven Kellogg.  The vivid and detailed illustrations just add to the humor and depth of the story.  Younger readers can appreciate the passion for reading that Lil inspired.  My favorite part is when the motorcycle gang members get in a fight over who will check out The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

The Library Lady in All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
This is a delightful book about five sisters who live in New York City with their parents at the turn-of-the-century.  This chapter book series was one of my favorites as a child and tells an engaging story while still teaching the reader about the city, the time period, and the customs and traditions of a Jewish family.

One chapter has the girls going on their weekly visit to the library, but Sarah can’t find her book.  When they inform the library lady, her kindness and generosity warms the readers’ hearts.  A mistake can be made by anyone and her compassion and problem-solving truly make her an exemplary librarian.  Although her part in the whole story is small, her impact and influence on the lives of these young girls is memorable.

Mrs. Mullan in Mike’s House by Julia L. Sauer
This enchanting picture book was first published in the 1950’s and truly captures the humanity of the time.  Four-year-old Robert gets lost on his way to Picture Book Hour at the Public Library.  He really just gets a bit confused and a young policeman rescues him.  Unfortunately, Robert’s explanation that he was going to Mike’s House is unclear to the officer; some hilarity and charm ensue as he realizes that Mike’s House is where the book Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel lives.

My admiration of librarian Mrs. Mullan is how she able to enchant a young child that books can be personified; that a reader can have such an emotional attachment and a vested interest in the characters and story that the book can have its own personality.  A book or story can have feelings, create emotional ties with others, and live in its own house!  I remember this book as a child and was thrilled to discover a very old, worn, and well-loved copy at our library’s rummage sale.  A treasure find for me!

So in honor of all the wonderful librarians in your lives, what literary librarians do you admire?



Childhood Favorites

So . . . to mix things up a little, every Friday I will make a list of four things. Hope you enjoy and I would love to hear feedback.

I thought it might be fun to revisit some favorite books from my youth . . . yes, children of mine, that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away!! These books were ones that I read and reread and then shared with my own children. I am curious to see what favorites you have!

Trixie Belden by Julie Campbell / Kathryn Kenny
Thirteen year old Trixie Belden lives with her parents and three brothers on a small farm in New York State. All Trixie wants is a horse and her wish is somewhat granted when a new family moves into the Manor House up the street. The Wheelers have a 13-year-old daughter, Honey, and numerous horses. It is a bit of a rocky start for the two girls because they come from very different backgrounds but soon become fast friends. Their adventures begin when they discover a boy living in Trixie’s neighbor’s rundown mansion. Jim is the nephew of the old miser who recently was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. Local legend is that the miser hid his money after his beloved wife’s death. Jim is determined to find the money and use it to escape his evil stepfather’s grasp, but his stepfather is closing in on both the fortune and Jim.

There are 39 books in the series, which were written between 1948 and 1986; all of which I own and most of which I purchased with my babysitting money. This series marks my own first obsession with books and mysteries. I remember going to the small, independent bookstore in my hometown and purchasing two or three books at a time as I earned my babysitting money. I appreciated the simpler life that harkened back to growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s even though some of the language dated the stories. And . . . with full honesty, I will admit that Jim was my first book crush!

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Mary Lennox is a selfish, ill-mannered child born in India to wealthy British parents. When a cholera epidemic kills her parents, she is sent to England to live with an uncle she has never met, Archibald Craven, at his home, Misselthwaite Manor. Mary is pretty much ignored and confined to two rooms, but slowly she befriends her maid Martha. Mary is given a little bit of freedom and begins to explore the house and gardens. She finds a key and discovers a secret garden. She also discovers another child living in the manor; Colin is the son of her uncle who suffers from some unknown spinal ailment. Mary, Martha, and Dickon, Martha’s brother, work to restore the garden and bring it back to life. Colin joins them in his wheelchair, and his restoration parallels the garden’s renewal.

I think this book probably solidified by choice to be an English teacher, although it took me a long time to realize it. I love all the symbolism and metaphorical descriptions of both the garden and Colin’s rejuvenation. One of my favorite passages is Mary’s description of her discovery of the garden; the idea of a secret magical place hidden in plain sight is a beautiful image of peace and serenity. I think many people search for their own secret gardens. The copy of the book I currently own was one that I gave to my daughter for Christmas when she was 6 months old. I have read it to both my daughters; it is a beautiful book to share.

All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor
Five sisters living on the East Side of New York City at the turn of the century?? Yep! I started loving historical books at a young age. The girls have all sorts of adventures, as girls will do, as they interact with the peddlers in their papa’s shop, they visit the library, they do their chores, and they travel on the streetcar to Coney Island. There are five books in the series: All-of-a-Kind Family, More All-of-a-Kind Family, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown, All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown, and Ella of All-of-a-Kind Family.

These books are truly timeless. As one of three girls myself, I could relate to and appreciate the bond and strife of these five sisters. The author did a wonderful job at evoking the feel of turn-of-the-century New York and I remember being drawn into the story through the descriptions of sights and scents and sounds. This series made me truly appreciate what good description can do to a story. The family is Jewish and there were a lot of descriptions of religion and customs. As any good nerd of the 80’s would do, I spent a lot of time looking up holidays and traditions in our family’s trusty World Book Encyclopedias.

The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois
When Professor William Waterman Sherman wants to escape his life as a schoolteacher and enjoy his solitude, he embarks on an adventure in a giant balloon. As he floats over the Pacific, seagulls puncture his balloon and he lands on the island of Krakatoa and discovers an amazing civilization of families. Many years prior, a young sailor was shipwrecked on the island and discovered its vast diamond mines. Realizing that this incredible wealth could be exploited by many, he instead chose 20 families to live on the island together and create an uptopian society. Instead of using their wealth, the families worked together in a very democratic way to employ of barter system of survival. Krakatoa is also the home of a very active volcano and when it becomes evident that the volcano is going to erupt, the families escape on a giant balloon barge. Professor Sherman is rescued and shares his incredible story with the members of the Western American Explorers’ Club.

Taking a balloon ride is on my bucket list and I know that the idea originated from this story. As an adult, I appreciate and understand the concept of creating an uptopian society and the social commentary the author is making, but as a child, I just thought what an amazing adventure! The creativity of how the governing structure of the island was formed and the really cool inventions captivated my imagination. The scientific descriptions coupled with a tongue-in-cheek type of story-telling appealed to my sense of humor. The simple, yet quite humorous illustrations, only increase the enjoyment value of this book. This is a great book to enjoy at both a child and an adult level.

So, how about you?  What were your CHILDHOOD FAVORITES?