Kunkel, Angela Burke

Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Paola Escobar. Kunkel and Escobar (illustrator of Planting Stories, rev. 1/19) present the lives of "two Josés." One is a child, known as Little José, living in La Nueva Gloria barrio in Colombia; the other is his neighbor, Señor José, the real-life José Alberto Gutiérrez, whose love of literacy inspired him to construct a community library at the turn of the twenty-first century. While the city of Bogotá sleeps, Señor José, a trash collector, uses his route to look for "hidden treasure...books!" Kunkel's implied metaphor--one person's trash is another's treasure--neatly structures this picture-book biography. Señor José rescues discarded books, and Little José can't wait to read them on Saturdays when the doors to "Paradise" (i.e., Gutiérrez's community library) open wide. Escobar's spacious digital illustrations alternate single pages (including characters' side-by-side perspectives), spot images, and double-page spreads, whose muted cool blue tones and predominant vertical lines offer sweeping panoramic scapes of Bogotá's streets and silhouetted mountains. Some of the images reflect readers' imaginary worlds (references to One Hundred Years of Solitude, Anna Karenina, and The Little Prince), capturing the unique experience that literature offers the mind. An author's note, "Featured Books," and websites are appended.


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