Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
I have mentioned this book on the blog before, but I read it recently and wanted to share it again.
In the story, a lion wanders into the library. He's allowed to stay, as long as he follows the rules, and becomes great friends with the head librarian. When she falls, he roars to get the attention of someone who can help her, even though he believes he'll be banished from his favorite place for breaking the rules.
The moral of the story is ostensibly that sometimes it's ok to break the rules. Truthfully, that's not the best part of this book. What makes this book so wonderful is how the librarians and the lion interact, how friendships can form and be strengthened by our acts and sacrifices.
Miss Merriweather, the head librarian, comes to depend on the lion for his gentleness and eagerness as he helps her with whatever chores he can do around the library. All the library patrons love the lion and watch hopefully for him every day after he breaks the rules. Mr. McBee, who was always ambivalent about allowing a lion in the library, notices how Miss Merriweather is mourning her friend, missing him every day, and sacrifices for her sake to seek out the lion and let him know he'd be welcome back in the library. He gives great joy to the lion and to Miss Merriweather in reuniting them, and perhaps to himself as well.
The illustrations in the book are also delightful. They are, in my opinion, the perfect companions to the story. I particularly love the small illustration of the lion rubbing his head against the new book collection.