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The Picture Book Buzz

The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Karen Henry Clark, Review of Library Girl, and Giveaway

Karen Henry Clark decided to become an author at age four.

While figuring out how to do that, she worked as a bookstore clerk, teacher, college administrator, and copywriter. Publishing success arrived in a picture book about her daughter and then another about a dear friend. In “Margin Notes,” Karen blogs about ordinary moments revealing simple truth and stunning magic at

She’s the author of Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale illustrated by Patrice Barton (2010).

Her newest picture book, Library Girl: How Nancy Pearl Became America's Most Celebrated Librarian, illustrated by Sheryl Murray, released September 27th.

Welcome Karen, thank you so much for coming by to talk about your newest book and your writing.

Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write? How long have you been writing? What is your favorite type of book to write?)

I wrote my first book on the living room wall in purple crayon. It did not receive positive acclaim, but I continued writing—on paper.

I’m always writing in my head and jotting ideas on scrap paper, but sitting at my computer is another matter. Procrastination plagues me until I feel the story tingling my fingertips. I adore picture books because the illustrator’s vision expands my words.

And I also love writing about my unexceptional life on my blog.

Sorry about that first book. But I am glad you've kept writing. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?

I’d love to be a professional gift wrapper. Seriously.

Bet there's a bookstore some where you could volunteer for during the holidays, as a trial run. 😊 Where did you get the inspiration for Library Girl: How Nancy Pearl Became America's Most Celebrated Librarian?

Nancy and I became friends while working in a Tulsa bookstore. That’s how I discovered her childhood challenges.

Wow! How lucky are you to call Nancy Pearl a personal friend. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or your favorite book as a child?

Dick and Jane books dampened my reading enthusiasm, so my mother took me to the public library. Curious George saved me. It was a real story, not kids repeating verbs back and forth.

Next, I checked out Dr. Seuss’s books. Horton meant so much to me that I drew the responsible elephant over and over as I read the rollicking rhyme.

Thank goodness for libraries. I think they have saved (and created) many a reader. Is there anything special you want your readers to know about Library Girl?

A child doesn’t have to love libraries or realize Nancy is a real person to connect with the book. It’s a universal story for anyone who feels different.

A helper is always present, as Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood showed us. For Nancy, librarians became helpers. Yet some of her strongest encouragement appeared through her own imagination.

And what child hasn’t personified an inanimate object? (I still do.)

I love the universal reach, beyond a great biography of a very influential woman. How many revisions did Library Girl take from the first draft to publication? How difficult was it to write this biography with the subject still alive?

Over 10 years, I can’t list the number of drafts.

Nancy was always the key. At first, she couldn’t remember specifics so the drafts were general, loose, wandering. But critique partners’ wonderful questions helped me interview Nancy, narrowing my search for dots to create a story arc.

Interesting. Sometimes finding the through-line or arc can be hard enough, but having to tease it out of someone's memories seems like a daunting task. What was the toughest aspect of researching and/or writing the book? Since you have dialogue by Nancy, the librarians, and kids is the publisher classifying this as nonfiction or historical fiction?

Maria, the word “toughest” threw me. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re not wrong. I gave up many times.

The publishing matter states Juvenile and Biography, but I suspect the book will receive a range of classifications. One will be as accurate as the other. I call it narrative nonfiction. Because all the adults in Nancy’s childhood were gone, she reconstructed their comments, as best she could recall, according to the scene.

The editing happened during covid, when Detroit, along with most of the country, was closed. Nevertheless, I had to provide illustrator Sheryl Murray with specifics about real places and people.

I cold-called Nancy’s Hally grade school, and a gracious secretary explained a third-floor fire had destroyed the early photographs. She knew the school’s first library had been relocated, but she described the original room.

Detroit Public Library’s archivist emailed vintage photographs of Parkman’s children’s room and found a staff photo of Miss Whitehead. Nancy provided descriptions of all three librarians—their clothes, jewelry, and hairstyles. Nancy remembered wearing a blue dress with flowers, captured beautifully by Sheryl.

Wow! That's an amazing amount of sleuthing! When you first saw Sheryl Murray’s illustrations in Library Girl, did anything surprise, amaze, or delight you? Which is your favorite spread?

Text © Karen Henry Clark, 2022. Image © Sheryl Murray, 2022.

When she captured the horse feature of the bike Charger, I was speechless. And Nancy hiding beneath the stark wooden table, yet imagining the vivid characters surrounding her—what talent. My words could never capture what Sheryl presents. I remain in awe of her. She makes the book soar.

I love horses and absolutely adore the cover. But because my bike was a horse, too, I really connected with this spread! Are there any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?

I’m returning to the first story I ever wrote about a laundromat in Taos. Back then a manuscript was expected to be 1000 words, so that shows how the industry changes. Several editors kindly rejected it with “Almost but not quite.” I know there’s something there.

Good luck with it! What is your favorite National Park or Forest, regional park, or city park? Or the one you’re longing to visit. Why?

The first time I entered Yellowstone, I saw elk grazing near a hot spring on a March morning. Steam rose through snow. I was so overcome by the unexpected natural beauty I cried. I’ve stayed at the Old Faithful Inn several times. It’s the only place I want to be. Ever.

Thank you, Karen for participating in this interview. It was wonderful to get to know you.

To find out more about Karen Henry Clark, or contact her:

Review of Library Girl: How Nancy Pearl

Became America's Most Celebrated Librarian

Before I even read the subtitle and realized the book was about the PNW beloved librarian Nancy Pearl, I fell head over heels in love with the cover. With a girl (without glasses and lighter hair) who could have been me; surrounded by books, horses, and a vivid imagination. This is a gorgeously illustrated, wonderful biography of Nancy Pearl and a brilliant capture of the refuge and fun that books and one's imagination can provide.

Library Girl: How Nancy Pearl Became America's Most Celebrated Librarian

Author: Karen Henry Clark

Illustrator: Sheryl Murray

Publisher: little bigfoot (2022)

Ages: 5-9



Imagination, librarians, and the power of books.


Library Girl is the inspiring childhood story of how beloved librarian, author, and Seattle icon, Nancy Pearl discovered her strengths and realized her passion. It is a loving tribute to the power books and librarians have to transform children’s lives.

Nancy Pearl loved books and spent so much time in her school library that her grade school classmates teased her, calling her “library girl.” When she discovers her neighborhood public library is open on Saturday, she begins the adventure of her lifetime. There, an inspiring librarian recognizes her abilities, recommends books that ignite her vivid imagination, and provides experiences to bolster her burgeoning self-confidence. As she loses herself in the books she finds herself in their pages and comes to recognize her strengths. Her self-discovery brings a realization at a young age that she wants to become a librarian so she can help children discover their dreams.

This young girl, Nancy Pearl, grows up to become “America’s Most Celebrated Librarian,” devoting her life to talking about books up and down library aisles, on radio and television, at conferences and colleges around the world. Ultimately, she authors books about books, believing that reading allows people to find dreams of their own . . . with the turn of every page.

Opening Lines:

Nancy loved reading more than recess.

Whenever she tried talking about books, kids ignored her.

Or they shouted, “Go away, library girl!”

This made Nancy sad.

Why do they tease me about the library? she wondered.

What I LOVED about this book:

As a young girl, Nancy loved books. Her classmates didn't understand her and she didn't understand them. But she had friends in books and a kindred spirit in the school librarian.

Text © Karen Henry Clark, 2022. Image © Sheryl Murray, 2022.

The school library held Nancy’s best friends—

all those characters tucked into pages.

She never felt lonely reading their stories.

I love the way Sheryl Murray pulled characters and scenes from books and surrounded Nancy with her best friends in translucent bubbles of imagination. I think a lot of kids and adults will identify with this young girl; I still love getting lost in books. When Nancy bemoaned the fact that school is closed on Saturdays, the librarian drew her a map to her closest public library - "Hope fluttered like pages turning in Nancy’s heart." Observant listeners and readers will note the imaginary bird perched at Nancy's elbow excitedly watching the map take shape. This little bird helps guide Nancy to the public library and returns again when she finds her calling - "her own magic."

Like Karen mentioned above, one of my favorite spreads is Nancy riding her stead (bike) 'Charger' across town. Sheryl does such a phenomenal job bringing Nancy's imagination to life. I wonder how many bibliophiles remember when they first saw an enormous building - full of books! Karen and Cheryl beautifully capture this moment of wonder and excitement for Nancy - “Charger, this whole building is filled with books!”

Text © Karen Henry Clark, 2022. Image © Sheryl Murray, 2022.

Shyly, Nancy asks, “Are kids allowed in here?” and discovers "a room with enough books to build a bridge to the moon." What an awesome thought and I love Sheryl's representation of Nancy imagining floating in space, surrounded by books, and reaching for the moon. The two public librarians, Miss Whitehead and Miss Long, not only supply Nancy with stacks of horse books each weekend, they encourage her to overcome her shyness and fear by giving a presentation about horse books to other kids. Determined not to let them down, Nancy packs up her toy horses (for emotional support), precariously balances, and crashes. The "neighborhood milkman" safely sees Charger back to Nancy's porch, as she gathers her fallen horses, and then he drives her to the library.

Text © Karen Henry Clark, 2022. Image © Sheryl Murray, 2022.

This pivotal moment in Nancy's life, celebrated by both the librarians and the library itself, helped Nancy find her own magic, other kids who liked books, and what she wanted to do - "become a librarian." The final spreads are delightful and equally fanciful. Throughout the soft, pastel illustrations, Sheryl employs a wonderful use of light, imagination, and magic to bring Nancy's story and forever companion, Charger, to life. An author's note expands a bit on Nancy's road to becoming a librarian and a public speaker. Overall, this is a very enjoyable and gorgeous biography of a woman determined to help others discover books and their own dreams.


- make a horse bookmark.

- do you have a favorite book or topic? Write a review, make a collage, or draw a picture of your choice.

- draw them a picture, make a card, or write a letter of thanks to your school or public librarian.

- check out the Educator's Guide and other activity pages on Karen Henry Clark's website.

Library Girl Giveaway

Great news, Karen is offering one lucky reader a signed copy of Library Girl AND a Nancy Pearl Superhero Figure.

- Simply comment below to be entered in the random drawing on November 25th.

- Be sure to say where (if) you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry US Residents only.*


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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