This sparkling ode to libraries, enhanced by emotionally rich illustrations, is based on author Nikki Giovanni’s experiences as a child visiting her grandmother during the summer in Knoxville, Tenn., helping with household chores and spending time at the Carnegie Library.
Inside the library, the girl thinks about all the things a library is: “A place to be free / to be in space / to be a cook / to be a crook / to be in love / to be unhappy / to be quick and smart / to be contained and cautious / to surf the rainbow / to sail the dreams / …to be wonderful / to be you / a place to be / yeah … to be.” When the girl returns home, she helps her grandmother prepare supper, then grabs a book and sits outside to read and “to be another me.”
In author notes, Giovanni relates the influential role her first librarian, Mrs. Long, played in her life: “She encouraged my reading and always encouraged me to go through the card catalog to see what else was there. I grew up during the age of segregation and would want to read books that were not in the Carnegie Branch of the Lawson McGhee Library, which was the colored library. Books by Walt Whitman or Alfred North Whitehead. Mrs. Long would go up to the main library to get them for me. I was almost grown before I understood what she must have gone through to get me the books I was interested in. Mrs. Long always knew what I needed.”