Anna the Bookbinder

Anna loves to sit in the corner of her father's workshop watching his skillful hands as they lovingly repair books. She understands what other people do not: Though the new large binderies that are stealing her father's business can bind books faster, their work will not endure as long.

To many customers though, speed matters more than skill. Her father's most important client threatens to pull his business unless his latest order of books is rebound in three days. Anna's father works long hours struggling to complete the order, but all seems lost when Anna's pregnant mother goes into labor the night before the order is due. Determined not to let her father fail, Anna decides to take the fate of the family business into her own hands.

My papa smells like paper and leather and glue. When I sit on his lap at night I find paper snippets in his hair. He lets me peel the dry glue from his fingertips.
Author perspective

n the early 1980's, when I was in my early twenties, I lived in Lausanne, Switzerland. I taught English in a school in the morning and apprenticed to a bookbinder in the afternoon. While I was living there, the bookbinder's business was slowing down because the libraries were taking their work to commercial binderies which were much cheaper. He was struggling to keep his business afloat. At the same time, he and his wife gave birth to their third child. It was not an easy time for them. These experiences became the seeds of Anna the Bookbinder. I changed the location to the United States and set the story during the Industrial Revolution.

School Library Journal

"Kindergarten-Grade 3. Anna, the young narrator of this quiet picture book, loves to help her father in his bookbindery. She shares his concern that customers are using cheaper, large-volume operations that glue bindings rather than carefully stitching them by hand. When a special rush job needs stitching just as Anna's mother goes into labor, the girl decides to do the work herself. Her father is surprised and delighted to find the job done and done well when he comes to tell her of her new brother's birth. Rand's luminous watercolor illustrations of an early-1900s home and business beautifully re-create the era, and his characterization is exact. Papa is the essence of a worried, hardworking, but caring father. Longhaired Anna, with her wire-rimmed glasses and blue pinafore dress, is the picture of Edwardian girlhood. Their motivations are clearly delineated, and it is easy to believe that this serious and determined child could have completed the difficult task on her own." Louise L. Sherman, formerly at Anna C. Scott School, Leonia, NJ. 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

- Jan 2003


K-Gr. 2. Anna and her parents live upstairs from her father's bindery, and she loves the smell of paper and leather and glue. Papa's biggest client wants him to finish a set of books in three days, but Papa is working hard, and Mama is waiting for the new baby to be born. When Anna's baby brother finally does make his appearance, it is Anna who finds a way to finish the books on time. Papa has a bookish surprise for Anna in return. Warm watercolors limn an early-twentieth-century home and shop of beautifully rendered accoutrements and equipment. Anna sews the signatures of a book that is not in a sewing frame and is still in its leather boards--possible, but highly unusual in terms of technique. The story of craft passed from father to daughter, the welcoming of a new sibling, and good work well done are lessons that shine here. A similar story, in a different historical period, with technique far more clearly delineated is Bruce Robertson's beautiful Marguerite Makes a Book (1999)." GraceAnne DeCandido. American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Book type: 
Picture book
Starwalk Media Kids
Kindle: 978-1623349158
Ted Rand
Publication date: 
Jul 2002
Interest level: 
Grade level equivalent: 
Fountas and Pinnell: 
Junior Library Guild Selection, Apr 2003
Cleveland Public Library Book of the Year, Feb 2003
Parent's Choice Recommended Award Winner, Feb 2003