I’ve got a delightful picture book for lovers of libraries and folktales today. Inspired by the author’s experience at the grand opening of the library in his childhood home, Nia and the New Free Library by Ian Lendler is a delightful picture book retelling the classic folktale Stone Soup.
It all starts off quite dramatically, with the Littletown Library being swept away by a tornado after years of neglect. Everyone has a different idea about what to do with the space, but a clever girl named Nia wants to rebuild the library. The town isn’t convinced, but Nia comes up with a plan to change their minds.
Nia gathers at her favorite place, under the tree in front of the library that was, and begins writing. She doesn’t stop until she has a wagon full of books. She begins to offer them to townspeople, creating the New Free Library. When the townspeople find that the tales aren’t exactly as they remembered, Nia hands them a pencil and encourages them to fix the errors. Before they know it, the whole town has rallied together to make the New Free Library the best library the town has ever seen.
Nia and the New Free Library is a clever story about the way communities come together. I am looking forward to my local library fully reopening, and I can’t wait to see my community coming back after the pandemic to learn, share, and create together again. But for now, I will happily settle for Nia’s New Library.
The illustrations by Mark Pett are fantastic. The level of detail put into capturing the individual personality of each townsperson was so impressive – from the mayor, all the way to the distracted mom and her son, I felt like I understood the characters right away.
Nia and The New Free Library releases next week (June 1, 2021), but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Ian Lendler is a journalist and award-winning author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more about him and his work (including picture books, nonfiction, and graphic novels), please visit his website at ianlendler.com.
Mark Pett is an author and illustrator (or “authorstrator”) of several books for children, and is based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please visit his website at markpett.com/authorstrator.
I want to thank Chronicle Kids for sending me a copy of Nia and the New Free Library. It was such a treat, and I’m sure it will bring joy to all the young readers who are missing their libraries these days.