Sunday, September 20, 2009

That Book Woman

That Book Woman is a beautiful book, written by Heather Henson.  It's about a boy named Cal.  Cal lives in the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky in a remote area.  A woman arrives with her saddlebag full of books; she's a Pack Horse Librarian who returns every two weeks with a new collection.  Cal's sister loves the book lady, but Cal's not sure... Why on earth would someone let you have books "free as air"?  Why does she keep coming back up the mountain, despite the weather, just to deliver and "swap" books? 

The trouble is... Cal doesn't know how to read, so he wants nothing to do with her until one winter evening when that book ladybraves the snowy mountain weather to deliver new books. Her courage makes him realize that her job must be very important.  So he gets up his courage and asks his sister to teach him to read.  He overcomes his pride and learns... all thanks to this woman's persistence and nudging.
The illustrations by David Small are amazing!  And, the author got her idea through the photographs she found of New Deal Pack Horse librarians, part of the WPA system.  Check for actual pictures of these brave women!  Here are a few:

It's a part of our history we should explore.  I'd never heard about this unique library system until I read this book... it's a wonderful book to teach stamina.  That Book Lady is one of my new favorites!
In Conferring: The Keystone of Reader's Workshop I write more about the notion of helping students develop stamina and endurance using picture books as a guide (coming soon... in November by Stenhouse Publishers).

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