Breaking the Rules

Breaking the Rules Cover Image

It might be a little difficult for a toddler to grasp the idea of bending rules in the right context. Library Lion, is a book by Michelle Knudsen and beautifully illustrated by Kevin Hawkes that might help you in explaining this very concept.

One would think that the much written and talked about ‘Terrible Twos’ ends once the child is 2 and there is smooth sailing ahead. Yeah, right! I am yet to meet a parent who has had smooth sailing after the period of ‘Terrible Twos’. So we start introducing ‘RULES’. But rarely do we introduce the concept of bending / breaking the rules. It might be too difficult for a toddler to grasp the meaning of ‘context’ in which the rules work and that some rules can be bent / broken in the right context.


This book that I will be writing about today, does just that. Library Lion, is a book by Michelle Knudsen and beautifully illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, and is a much loved book in my home. It also happens to be the first book that M, my son, read aloud to me.


One day, sometime around Story Time, a lion shows up in the library. He enjoys hearing the stories and when the story ends, demands one more, in the only way he knows how. He roars and thumps his tail. Mr. McBee and Miss Merriweather, the librarian, is very particular about the rules in the library. No shouting or running in the library. However, these rules apply to people and no one knows what to do when a lion breaks these rules. But he is cautioned and becomes a regular visitor in the library, much loved by the children and their parents. At the risk of introducing spoilers, he does break the rules once again and what follows is a heart-warming story about understanding that rules can be broken but only if there is a need for it.


Michelle Knudsen has done an excellent job of describing what the lion does in the library, like wandering among the book stacks, sniffing the card catalog, and many more. The characters: Lion, Miss Merriweather, Mr McBee and others are very well etched. Each character thinks about rules in a different way: the Lion is new to the library rules, the librarian and her assistant are the rule enforcers and the children in the library are the mediators.


Using simple words, she has described the conversations among the characters, so much so, that it almost looks believable. Each page does not have more than 3 or 4 sentences, making it easy for kids to read along with you.

The illustrations by Kevin Hawke are illustrated with great love. Using light washes of water colors and color pencils to give definition to the characters, the sketches are evocative of lightness of message that is actually required for something as serious as breaking rules and then trying to deal with the consequences.


Here is a video of Kevin Hawkes talking about how every library in the world smells the same, like old books and that he wanted Library Lion to be a comfort read and that the children who read the book could have the same feelings as he did when he visited a library.


Reading has been an important part of my life since I was a child. I have memories of breaking rules, for reading, like sneaking in a Ruskin Bond novella in a Physics book and even spending an entire night reading Pride and Prejudice instead of studying for exams. But, since all this rule breaking business was for reading books, good books, rather than gossiping on the phone or talking about boys, my parents probably let it go. This book, stirred up those memories for me as I was reading it aloud for my son, so I feel a very strong connection to this Lion. I hope that those who love reading books, never ever outgrow this love.

Recommended Activities with this book:

  1. Watch Mindy Sterling read Library Lion.
  2. Visit a library and see the book stacks, the card catalog and most importantly Smell the Old Book Smell!
  3. Think of what other rules will a library have?
  4. What are the rules that your own home has and when they can be broken / bent?
  5. For more activities, download this:

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