cover image The Library

The Library

Sarah Stewart. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34388-0

The creators of The Money Tree paint a blithe yet affectionate portrait of a woman whose life centers on reading. Elizabeth Brown's obsession begins in childhood: ""She didn't like to play with dolls,/ She didn't like to skate./ She learned to read quite early/ And at an incredible rate."" Stewart's nimble verse follows the bibliophile through the years as she fills her home with books. Finally, ""when volumes climbed the parlor walls/ And blocked the big front door,/ She had to face the awful fact/ She could not have one more."" Elizabeth then decides to share her wealth: she donates her collection to the town, turns her home into a library and-of course-continues to read voraciously. Attuned to the story's humor and period setting, Small's (George Washington's Cows) airy illustrations charm with historical touches and soothing pastel hues. Triple-ruled black borders and filigreed corners suggest a family album of old, while black-and-white spot art highlights details of a singular life. The book's dedication adds a poignant note: ``To the memory of the real Mary Elizabeth Brown, Librarian, Reader, Friend 1920-1992.'' All ages. (Apr.)