Michelle Knudsen and Bonny Becker, Award-winning authors

September is Library Card Sign-up Month. Designated as such in 1987 by the Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, the month was set aside to promote opportunities for children to obtain and use library cards. Though Library Card Sign-up Month has existed for nearly 30 years, libraries and librarians have always been important staples in the lives of many, including award-winning authors Bonny Becker and Michelle Knudsen.

“I was a huge reader as a kid—the kind of kid who went to the library and walked out with a stack of books up to my chin,” says Becker. “My mother was a big reader and our home had hundreds and hundreds of books. There were bookshelves in every room and one room was a library. I think what librarians and teachers and my parents did the most for me in terms of my love of reading was to let me be. They let me browse the books at home and the books at school and in the library and just pick whatever took my fancy. I particularly loved books about magic.”

“Libraries have always been special to me,” adds Knudsen. “When I was very young, they were cool, quiet places where I could go to find new stories, with seemingly endless options just waiting for someone like me to come and read them. In junior high school, when I worked as a library monitor, I started to become fascinated by some of the behind-the-scenes workings of the library, of all the care and attention that went into shelving and organizing and even the rules that allowed the library to function effectively. I’ve continued to love all of those things about libraries, visiting them as a devoted patron and working in them and helping others to find the things they need.”

With both authors having strong ties to libraries, it is no small wonder that they have incorporated libraries into their books. One of Knudsen’s most loved and popular titles is Library Lion (Candlewick Press, 2006), and this month her newest novel, Evil Librarian (Candlewick Press, 2014) was released.

Evil Librarian certainly has more darkness than Library Lion,” Knudsen shares, “but they’re both stories that center around strong friendships, and really I think the novel has far more light than darkness in it. It’s also a humorous book, which helps balance out some of the more serious and scary elements. I didn’t start Evil Librarian knowing that it would involve a library, actually. It was one of those books that I just started writing without knowing very much about it at all. But I’m not surprised it ended up involving the library.”

Earlier this summer Becker also released a library-themed book: A Library Book for Bear (Candlewick Press, 2014). Continuing the popular Bear and Mouse series, this book—like Knudsen’s—revolves around happenings in the library.

“I wanted Bear to go to a library first of all so he’d be in a place where he was supposed to be quiet, since Bear has a very, very hard time keeping his voice down. Then, as someone who loves libraries and books, I needed to come up with a reason for his reluctance. Fortunately, Bear gave me one. He’s so persnickety and set in his ways that, of course, he considered his seven books—three about honeybees, three about kings and queens, and one about pickles—as sufficient. But, as someone who’s been accused of having too many books, I knew he needed more, many more. You don’t have to own books (although I can’t imagine a home without lots of bookshelves!), but a lot of book choices is a very good thing.”

Though libraries were featured prominently in this year’s titles, it looks like both authors are shelving the theme for now. Knudsen’s newest picture book, Marilyn’s Monster (Candlewick Press), comes out in March 2015. She is currently working on the third book in her middle-grade fantasy trilogy, The Mage of Trelian (Candlewick Press), that is scheduled for release next fall. And Becker has another Mouse and Bear adventure in the works, two picture books coming out soon, and a middle-grade fantasy book that she just finished.

Both Becker and Knudsen maintain busy work schedules that include writing, editing and coaching, presentations, and, of course, library and school visits, but they welcome readers to contact them via email through links on their websites. They warn fans, however, that responses may be delayed. “It can sometimes take me awhile to get back,” says Becker. Knudsen agrees. “Sometimes it takes me a little while!”

Arthur Geisert