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'Abuela’s Library' by Lissette Norman is a Love Letter to Librarians

By Amaris Castillo


Alfonso’s grandmother used to be a librarian. She tells him that books hold this world together – and you can never have too many. So every Saturday, Alfonso and Abuela visit the library to check out a book and bring it back to their building. They nestle in a chair under their favorite oak tree to read. 


The tree in front of their building is tall, with shiny, dark green-yellow leaves. It’s also home to barred owl and squirrels.


One day, Alfonso and Abuela learn something else about their beloved tree. It is leaning close to a power line. An electrician sent to examine the tree tells them the tree is sick. It’ll have to be cut down.


A week later, Alfonso and Abuela watch in heartbreak as their favorite tree is chopped down to a stump.


Now Alfonso stares down at a stump when he looks out of his bedroom window. Until an idea lands.


From award-winning poet and Plátanos Go With Everything author Lissette Norman and illustrator Jayri Gómez comes Abuela's Library, a sweet picture book about the ability to turn a negative into a positive – and lemonade out of the lemons that are handed to you. Norman brings her talent for tapping into a child’s voice as Alfonso undertakes a project bigger than he is.


"Abuela, what if we put a library inside the tree stump?" Alfonso asks.


His idea is uplifted and supported by his Abuela, his parents, and eventually members of his community. Norman takes readers step by step through the project of creating a new place for book lovers, a kind of redefinition of our classic, local government-funded library.


A great addition to Abuela’s Library are the vivid and lovable illustrations by Gómez, a children’s illustrator from the Dominican Republic. The round-headed characters have expressive eyes and beautiful, textured hair. Gómez transports us back to Uptown Manhattan and into a neighborhood where neighbors work together for a common goal.


Abuela’s Library, out on June 11 from HarperCollins, is a love letter to many things: our trees, books, and especially to librarians. Norman dedicated this book to her literary agent, Johanna Castillo, and Castillo’s son, also named Alfonso. 


The author also had this to add: “And to all librarians, who guide us to other worlds, to the unlooked for, to what we love, and to what loves us in return.”


Abuela’s Library is a great book pick for the young bookworms and a reminder of librarians’ powerful influence over children’s love of reading.


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Visit our Bookshop to purchase a copy of Abuela’s Library.


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About the Author:

Lissette Norman is a poet and the author of the picture books My Feet Are Laughing and Plátanos Go with Everything. She is also coauthor of the picture books Until Someone Listens by Estela Juarez and On the Line: My Story of Becoming the First African American Rockette by Jennifer Jones. Lissette received her BA in English at SUNY-Binghamton and currently lives in New York City. Visit her at lissettenorman.com.


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Amaris Castillo is a journalist, writer, and the creator of Bodega Stories, a series featuring real stories from the corner store. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, the Lowell Sun, the Bradenton Herald, Remezcla, Latina Magazine, Parents Latina Magazine, and elsewhere. Her creative writing has appeared in La Galería Magazine, Spanglish Voces, PALABRITAS, Dominican Moms be Like..., and most recently in Quislaona: A Dominican Fantasy Anthology and Sana Sana: Latinx Pain and Radical Visions for Healing and Justice. Her short story, "El Don," was a finalist for the 2022 Elizabeth Nunez Caribbean-American Writers’ Prize by the Brooklyn Caribbean Literary Festival. Amaris lives in Florida with her family. You can follow her work at amariscastillo.com.

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