Author: Andrew Larsen
Illustrator: Katty Maurey
Target Ages: 5 and up
Genre: Picture Book Biography
When you open the door to a library, a world of opportunity awaits.
No one believed this more than Andrew Carnegie.
Andrew Carnegie came to America as a poor, young immigrant. He worked hard and made the most of his opportunities. Eventually, he created a steel empire that helped shape modern America. This made Carnegies a very rich man. But he never forgot the important role a library played in his success. Carnegie used his wealth to build public libraries around the world in hopes they’d help others achieve their dreams.
Andrew Carnegie was born in a tiny stone cottage in a small Scottish village. A large wooden loom took up most of the ground floor. Andrew and his family lived, ate, and slept upstairs in the attic.
Before reading this book, I was familiar with Andrew Carnegie, but I forgot most of what I learned in history class. This book, though, gave me a deep appreciate for his many contributions to the world—especially in the creation of libraries.
With is engaging storytelling, author Andrew Larsen focuses on three main parts of Carnegie’s life.
First, readers are introduced to his childhood. His parents struggled to make ends meet. Eventually, they came to America for a chance at a better life. Andrew worked hard in school and in his factory work. Despite his humble beginnings and limited educational opportunities, his work ethic and innovative thinking helped him succeed. His early life demonstrates that success is possible no matter what early opportunities a person is given.
Next, he did not waste his earnings on materialistic and wasteful items. Instead, he invested his money. Small investments led to bigger ones until he made millions. He reinvested that money into businesses, like steel. Carnegie ended up with so much money that he did not know what to do with it all. His early adult life illustrates the importance of saving and investing.
Finally, he believed his riches were for sharing. This conviction prompted him to build over 3,500 libraries worldwide. All of his libraries provided books free of charge to community members. Carnegie wanted all people to have the opportunity to learn and to better themselves. He knew literacy was the way to do so. His legacy is the importance of giving back to the community.
Each part of his story is illuminated further with Katty Maurey’s illustrations. She uses a neutral pallet with splashes of dusty blue, deep red, and muted yellow. The colors further give his life a humble but dignified tone.
The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie is an inspiring biography of a man who proved the sky is the limit—no matter what your background or privilege.
Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
- Writing: Encourage students to think about how they would use their money to give back to the community if they became rich. Younger students can fill out a simple sentence: “If I were rich, I would use my money to ________.” Older ones can write a paragraph.
- Math: Either individually or in small groups, have students pick a stock. There are many they will be familiar with like Disney, Apple, and Facebook. The class or family can pretend to buy a set number of shares, such as 10 or 100. Chart the stock’s progress for a month or more. How much money did each stock earn? Give a reward to the winning team or to the top 3 students.
- History: Learn about other important contributions Carnegie made like Carnegie Hall and the Golden Gate Bridge. Connect this story to a study of the Industrial Revolution.
- Compare and Contrast: Possible areas to compare and contrast—school then vs. now, teen life then vs. now, and educational opportunities then vs. now.
- Geography: Identify on a map the places listed where Carnegie opened libraries.
- Character: Identify and discuss habits that helped him become successful—reading, work ethic, innovative ideas, saving and investing, and so forth.
- Reading Comprehension: Use this Reading Guide for The Man Who Loved Libraries for question ideas.
For more great picture book recommendations, visit the Perfect Picture Book Friday Round Up.