That Book Woman
That Book Woman

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Annotation: A family living in the Appalachian Mountains in the 1930s gets books to read during the regular visits of the "Book Woman"--a librarian who rides a pack horse through the mountains, lending books to the isolated residents.
Catalog Number: #32400
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Publisher: Atheneum
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition Date: 2008
Illustrator: Small, David,
Pages: 40
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-416-90812-9 Perma-Bound: 0-605-22491-9
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-416-90812-8 Perma-Bound: 978-0-605-22491-9
Dewey: E
LCCN: 2007018156
Dimensions: 21 x 26 cm.
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Cal describes his way-up mountain home o high / we hardly sight / a soul" t that changes when the Book Woman, a traveling librarian, rides up to the house. The Book Woman is a boon for Cal's sister, Lark, "the readenest child you ever did see," but no use to Cal, who is not "born / to sit so stoney-still / a-starin at some chicken scratch." However, he is impressed by the librarian, who rides in all weather; finally, he asks Lark to teach him to read. This tribute to the Pack Horse Librarians of Appalachia has a lyric, simple style that lends itself to reading aloud. Henson, a Kentucky native, creates a reliable narrator in Cal, whose journey to reading is gentle and believable. There are a couple of stereotypes here (Mother is pregnant and barefoot), but overall, the mixed-media illustrations (ink, watercolor, pastel) support the text's genial flow. Mountains and sky achieve a lofty spaciousness that makes the Book Woman's ride even more impressive. An author's note gives background on the WPA's Pack Horse Librarian program.
Horn Book
Cal sees no cause to sit "stoney-still / a-staring at some chicken scratch." His sister Lark, however, is an avid reader, and their parents warmly welcome a librarian from the WPA's Pack Horse Library Project into their remote Appalachian home. Small's deft lines and masterful watercolors convey the family's affection and Cal's mixed emotions about reading.
Kirkus Reviews
Young Cal lives high in Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. Sister Lark keeps her nose in a book nearly from daybreak to dusty dark. Cal's a mite suspicious—and more than a mite resentful—of this, as he spends most of his time helping Pap with chores. One day, he spies a sorrel mare clippity-clopping slowly up the mountain; the rider's not a man neither, but a lady wearing britches! She carries a passel of books in her saddle packs; all the family (exceptin' Cal) welcomes her warmly. Back she comes several times a year, no matter how bad the weather. This causes Cal to wonder why she's so dedicated, and he asks Lark to help him learn to read. By the time the Pack Horse Librarian appears again, she's made another convert. Small's illustrations, combining ink, watercolor and chalk, add an appropriately earthy warmth, complementing the precise prose beautifully. Every line oozes character: The hound dog's ears flop like nobody's business, and Cal's face in the foreground displays every emotion as he moves from scowling suspicion to wonder. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)
School Library Journal
Gr 25 A simple and heartfelt paean to the Pack Horse Librarians of the 1930s who were part of a WPA program founded to take books to remote areas. Cal and his family live high in the Appalachian hills. He's proud to be a hard worker and scorns his sister, who'd read all day if allowed. When a stranger appears on horseback to deliver books, Cal wants nothing to do with her until one winter evening when she braves the snowy mountain to deliver her goods. Her courage and strong will make him realize that her job must be very important, so he asks his sister to teach him to read. Henson's free-verse narrative is peppered with colloquialisms and authentic-sounding language that might be tricky for some readers, but lend immediacy and atmosphere to the story. Done in pale browns and greens, Small's signature ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict an austere mountain home and the hardscrabble lives of family members who have little to spare. Cal's expressions of resentment and anger, and then his acceptance and enjoyment of reading, are shown with simple yet effective lines. Pair this poignant book with Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer's Down Cut Shin Creek (HarperCollins, 2001) for an excellent unit on these dedicated women and for a great discussion starter on the importance of books. Angela J. Reynolds, Annapolis Valley Regional Library, Bridgetown, NS, Canada
Word Count: 1,184
Reading Level: 4.3
Interest Level: P-2
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.3 / points: 0.5 / quiz: 124697 / grade: Lower Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:4.5 / points:1.0 / quiz:Q44906
Lexile: AD920L

An exquisitely illustrated paean to everyone who struggles to learn how to read, and to everyone who won’t give up on them.

Cal is not the readin' type. Living way high up in the Appalachian Mountains, he'd rather help Pap plow or go out after wandering sheep than try some book learning. Nope. Cal does not want to sit stoney-still reading some chicken scratch. But that Book Woman keeps coming just the same. She comes in the rain. She comes in the snow. She comes right up the side of the mountain, and Cal knows that's not easy riding. And all just to lend his sister some books. Why, that woman must be plain foolish—or is she braver than he ever thought?

That Book Woman is a rare and moving tale that honors a special part of American history—the Pack Horse Librarians, who helped untold numbers of children see the stories amid the chicken scratch, and thus made them into lifetime readers.

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