Digging for Words

By Angela Burke Kunkel, Paola Escobar,

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

Book description

A gorgeous and inspiring picture book based on the life of José Alberto Gutiérrez, a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia who started a library with a single discarded book found on his route.

In the city of Bogata, in the barrio of La Nueva Gloria, there live two Joses. One…

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Why read it?

4 authors picked Digging for Words as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I love that this book is based on the true story of a former garbage collector who became famous for building his own library… starting with a discarded copy of Anna Karenina that he’d found on his route.

The story tells of “two Josés” who lived in Bogotá, Colombia—a young one and an old one. We follow them throughout the week, until their favorite day—library day, when the older José welcomes the younger one and other children into his hand-collected library.

As someone who loves thrifted, upcycled, and re-used treasures, I felt delighted by this heart-warming and inspiring story for…

Digging for Words is the beautifully written and illustrated story of how one person can make a difference. Former sanitation worker José Alberto Gutiérrez found a discarded book on his route and realized he could fill a gap—the absence of a library in his Bogotá, Columbia barrio. Collecting books he found, he created a library to empower himself and countless others. Angela Burke Kunkel frames the story with Gutiérrez’s work and the life of a young boy, also named José, who loves to read and can’t wait for Saturday when Señor José’s library is open. I love this book for…

From April's list on picture books for ages 6 to 106.

When José Alberto Gutiérrez, a garbage collector in Bogotá, Colombia, found a discarded copy of Anna Karenina on his route, he got hooked on books. For years afterward, he scanned sidewalks and dug through household trash to rescue more books, creating a home library that he opened to his neighborhood. Readers will be inspired not only by the hunt for treasure during everyday life, but how sharing one's passion can change a community.

The true story of an enterprising Colombian garbage collector who has built an entire library by snatching discarded books out of dumpsters. He regularly opens his home library to the community, a meaningful service in a neighborhood far from any of the few public libraries in Bogotá. The art toggles between the mundane everyday realities of his life and the imaginative worlds that books open up to him.

From Annette's list on children’s books for library lovers.

Want books like Digging for Words?

Our community of 10,000+ authors has personally recommended 88 books like Digging for Words.

Browse books like Digging for Words

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in libraries, Colombia, and South America?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about libraries, Colombia, and South America.

Libraries Explore 50 books about libraries
Colombia Explore 33 books about Colombia
South America Explore 37 books about South America