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Book Review: Digging for Words: Jose Alberto Gutierrez and the Library He Built

Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built
by Angela Burke Kunkel and illustrated by Paola Escobar
From Miss Brindi at Madison 

This beautiful picture book is based on the true life story of José Alberto Gutiérrez, an uneducated garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia. During his nighttime shifts, he keeps his eye open for little treasures—books others have thrown out! He has dreams of one day opening a library, and sharing his discovered stories with book loversjust like him. Just like young José, too, who can’t wait for Saturday when he gets to visit the library. Throughout the book, Señor José’s mission is shared in two parallel stories. One shows Señor José’s love of reading, his joy at finding discarded books, and his dreams of sharing them. The other story gives us a peek at a young boy who loves reading and can’t wait to borrow a book from this very same library. This book really gives insight to why Señor José didn’t give up on his dream, and how his hard work is enjoyed by that young boy and all the children in his community.

I had a huge smile on my face the entire time I was reading this beautifully empowering picture book. It truly is a living testimony to what one person can do when he sets his mind to it. I liked how the Spanish words are sprinkled throughout, with no immediate definition, allowing readers to use context clues to figure out their meaning. Books are really the treasures of the world, taking us to “faraway times” and helping us discover other worlds just by turning the page. The short author’s note at the end includes more information and lists other resources to explore on the remarkable “Lord of the Books”. 

Check out this video below to see Señor José in action!


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