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.
Long before Kim Michele Richardson wrote The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and JoJo Moyes wrote The Giver of Stars, Heather Henson and David Small collaborated to bring us this gorgeous and heartwarming picture book. Cal does not understand the appeal of books even though his sister Lark "would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusty dark is Mama would allow." Then the Book Woman begins her visits. Every two weeks she brings them books that are "free as air." Her dedication to her route makes Cal want to find out what is so valuable about these books. He asks his sister to help him learn to read them, too. Before they know it, the Book Woman has made "two readers outta one." Such a beautiful tribute to the tireless efforts of those workers who were dedicated to bringing books where no bookmobiles could yet travel.
A big thank you to my GR friend, Debbie, for her 5-star review and for bringing this book to my attention.
A wonderful introduction, for old and young alike, to the Pack Horse Library Project, written in Appalachian dialect. I love how Cal, our protagonist, grows to appreciate what a pack horse librarian, or book woman, must endure to deliver free reading material to families living in remote areas of eastern Kentucky. His "gift" to the book woman is heartwarming. Highly recommend this as a read-aloud to children ages 8 to 12!
Cal, who lives with his family on a remote farm in the Appalachian Mountains, has scant interest in books and reading (and thus also considers his little sister Lark's voracious appetite for reading a rather negative trait). But when Cal realises that the so-called Book Woman who dispatches library books to his family's remote home (on horseback) will deliver her books even in the dead of winter, he yearns to know what makes "that Book Woman risk catching cold, or worse."
Heather Henson's That Book Woman was and remains an absolute delight, touching, poetic, with illustrations that, while neither flashy nor overly expressive, do a wonderful job mirroring the feel of the narrative, portraying the mood of the story and its cast of characters (now I am not always enamoured of David Small as an illustrator, but his pictures for That Book Woman are absolutely golden and a perfect compliment to Heather Henson's narrative). And I do love and appreciate how the story of That Book Woman is told from Cal's perspective, from the perspective of the doubter, the one person in the family with seemingly no desire for books (and who, at the beginning of the narrative, has a negative, even downright hostile attitude towards both his bookworm of a sister and the Book Woman). Seeing Cal's attitude towards learning, towards reading slowly change is both enchanting and satisfying (and part of that change is not simply that he begins to appreciate books, but more importantly, that Cal also finally realises that if the Book Woman will risk snow, ice and freezing temperatures to distribute books to remote homes and farms, that there must be something special, indeed, about books, about reading, about learning)
Heather Henson's poetic text, interspersed with splashes of local dialect, reads smoothly and flowingly (and there is just enough dialect usage to give the feel and timbre of authenticity, without reducing general comprehensibility). However, if I were reading That Book Woman with or to younger children (or with children whose first language is not English), I would probably explain some of the dialect words and their spellings beforehand (if only to make sure that children listening to the story, or reading along did not memorise and learn the dialect words and expressions as supposed standard English). That Book Woman is highly recommended to and for children who love reading/learning about books and librarians (and the history of the Pack Horse Librarians of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky in particular). And as such, the informative author's note at the back is an appreciated and added bonus, not only presenting enlightening historical details, but also listing online resources as well as some suggestions for further reading (making That Book Woman not only a wonderful and touching story in and of itself, but also a story that could be of much use in a preschool or elementary school classroom, perhaps as part of a unit on libraries and/or American history).
I loved how Cal came to embrace the precious gift of reading through curiosity in wanting to know what motivates the Book Woman to brave all kinds of weather to deliver books to them on their remote mountain top.
I picked up That Book Woman, by Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small, reluctantly, thinking that it was undoubtedly a useful book for the beginning of the school year, when we librarians always choose books about books, but I was not expecting a Caldecott-quality picture book. I decided to look at the book in the way that Kay Vandergrift suggested in her article on Picture Book Analysis, that is, to ‘read’ the pictures first without the text and then go back and see how well the illustrations told the story. In the case of The Book Woman, I learned through the pictures alone that the glum protagonist, (identified in the text as Cal,) lived in an isolated cabin on a mountainside, part of a large family, that included a sister who was a voracious reader. Over the course of a year, a woman, presumably the Book Woman of the title, treks up the mountain, delivering books and apparently, gaining Cal’s respect as his expression changes over time from surly to smiling. In the end, Cal and his sister sit high up on the porch reading, as the sun, and the Book Woman, descend the mountain. This is exactly the plot of the story. In fact, the cover illustration alone captures the conflict and introduces the resolution. But on a deeper level, the delineation of the theme, setting, main character and mood is captured in the artwork through the use of the elements of line, color, shape and space. The line of the title page leads our eyes up the mountain, through the sunlight, to the isolated cabin on the hillside where most of the story takes place. The city, from which the Book Woman brings her books, is depicted on the front matter, in a soft watercolor spot, looking magical, suggesting perhaps the wonder of the gift she’s bringing to the mountain. The colors: yellows, grays and greens, suggest sunrise, the beginning of a new day, and foreshadow a new beginning for Cal, while the last page shows the same city, in blues and purples, at the end of day, mission accomplished. The size and color of the illustrations change in relation to the time of day, time of year and location. Indoor pictures are only one page while outdoor pictures expand from 1 l/2 pages to full 2-page spreads when we need to appreciate the vast distances traveled to bring books to mountain families. I especially like the use of both vertical and horizontal space, for example the house high up on the hill with birds flying lower down on the page, or Cal reaching up to hold onto a branch with one hand while reaching down for a lost lamb with the other. Lark is usually reading high up on the porch, or even in a tree, but looks up from a table at Cal when he asks her to teach him to read. These diagonals suggest movement, which Cal confirms in the text, that he “was not born to sit so stoney-still.” The written text sounds like mountain-speech, but is printed on the page as if it’s poetry. An example of how the text and the illustrations support each other might be the scene when the Book Woman first visits Cal’s family: “the way Lark’s eyes shine penny-bright, the way her hands they won’t keep still, reaching out to grab a treasure”. In fact, in the illustration, Lark has her hands behind her back, fingers laced together, just the way we would ask students on field trips to help them resist the temptation to touch treasures. Cal’s new understanding, expressed in the illustrations by his first smile, is articulated in the text as well “…but now I see what’s truly there” and we understand that it’s not just the words in books that he comprehends but the existence of a wider world. Hard as it is to believe, inner-city children live the same kind of isolated existence as Cal’s family, interacting mainly with people who look and talk and think just like them. Books can suggest futures that couldn’t be imagined otherwise, and I believe children will make that personal connection. Whether or not This Book Woman is the most distinguished picture book of the year, I don’t have the experience to decide. I would however be sure to buy it for my Chicago Public School students.
What a neat story! A book about the real-life Pack Horse Librarians, who brought library books to rural Appalachian families in Kentucky during the Depression. I enjoyed the story -- a great book to teach kids about life during the 1930s -- and about the importance of books and stories.
Loved it!!! The beauty of this touching story just crept upon me and I was surprised by how touched I was in the end--perfectly matching the way a love of reading gently but assuredly enveloped the boy in this story! I love the way the story is told, using Appalachian-style phrasing without sounding cliche, and the boy is just such a vivid character from his initial lack of interest (even dislike) of the chicken scratchings in books (which his sister loves) to his growing curiosity as he begins to wonder what makes books so powerful. "That Book Woman" is the person who gets him thinking--she braves the back-country trails through rain and snow on horseback and for what... to bring books to his family (and others in the rural Appalachian communities). Now, what could be so special about those books!? Of course, those of us who love books already know, but it's achingly beautiful to see this young boy fall under the magic spell of literature. Best of all, this story alerted me to an amazing aspect of US history when women (and a few men) did travel to rural parts of the country--the Pack Horse Librarians(part of the WPA program) the early (and very brave!) counterparts of our Bookmobiles today. Thanks so much to my friend Chandra for the recommendation. This is a treasure!
I loved this book, and I was as excited as Lark (the girl/sister in the story who likes to read from the start) when “that book woman” comes every two weeks with books to swap from the last one(s) delivered.
The narrator is a boy (Cal) who takes time to be convinced that books can bring pleasure. The story tells of the Pack Horse Librarians, mostly women, who made their rounds every two weeks, bringing books to residents of the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. The project was founded in the 1930s. (A note at the end of the story tells a little the history of these librarians.)
The illustrations helped bring me right into the story and the lives of a particular family and the arduous route of a particular “book woman” too. They’re wonderful.
This is a book “for young readers” but because of the dialect, cadence, and some of the variations on the spelling of words, and also some unusual (for early readers) words, I’m not sure if this would be a good book for a beginning reader to pick up and try to read on their own. It makes a good read aloud book though, and a good book for confident readers.
A family read-aloud binge of picture books for my daughter's 21st birthday!
I'm a sucker for stories where an individual's dedication and perseverance causes big changes in the life of another. In this case it's a librarian on horseback and a reluctant reader deep in the Appalachians.
This picture book is a much better tribute to the Pack Horse Library Project than the dreadful and melodramatic novel I previously read called The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.
The trouble with this book is: Apparently I can't read it aloud without crying. Such a beautiful book! A simply told story about a young boy in the Appalachian mountains, whose life is changed by That Book Woman, a Depression-era traveling librarian. Small's art is gorgeous as always, and makes the book even more tender and poignant.
Long before Kim Michele Richardson wrote The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and JoJo Moyes wrote The Giver of Stars, Heather Henson and David Small collaborated to bring us this gorgeous and heartwarming picture book. Cal does not understand the appeal of books even though his sister Lark "would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusty dark is Mama would allow." Then the Book Woman begins her visits. Every two weeks she brings them books that are "free as air." Her dedication to her route makes Cal want to find out what is so valuable about these books. He asks his sister to help him learn to read them, too. Before they know it, the Book Woman has made "two readers outta one." Such a beautiful tribute to the tireless efforts of those workers who were dedicated to bringing books where no bookmobiles could yet travel. *Review by Darla from Red Bridge*
While this book isn't an account of any specific real-life person, it does explain the wonderful Appalachian Mountain women who would travel to remote places to get books into the hands of children and those unable to come to town often enough.
Every two weeks "That Book Woman" would show up at the doorstep of Cal and his family, to give a book to Cal's sister (for free, and to swap with a new book in two weeks).
The heart of the story sits with Cal, who doesn't understand reading and thinks it's absurd to sit stone-still for hours with your nose staring at "chicken scratches."
But, when That Book Woman and her horse brave the snow and cold to bring a new book, respect and curiosity start to work their magic on Cal and he begins to wonder just what's so important and fascinating about those books.
Personally I wasn't totally enraptured with the illustrations on every page, though some I thought were simply splendid. And while I could appreciate the less-than-perfect English Cal uses, and while it did bring a charm to the story, at times I found the book a little hard to follow (part of this, I think, could be due to the formatting of the text on the page, because it felt/looked like it should have been a poem, but it really wasn't even though the text had a sort of lyricalness about it).
Overall I wasn't as moved as many of my Goodreads friends, but I did enjoy the book and really appreciated that it brings to light a subject so important and people who did such amazing and brave things!
Be sure to read the author's note! It's very informative.
This delightful picture-book, told from the perspective of Cal, a young Appalachian boy with no use for the "chicken scratch" to be found in books, is a celebration of the Pack Horse Librarians of the 1930s, who rode out in every kind of weather to bring their precious "treasure" to the people of remote areas of the country. High up on a mountain, Cal and his family eke out a living, with no money for luxuries like books, and little chance for a formal education, with the closest school a "jillion" miles down the creek. But every week, That Book Woman rides up regardless, bringing new titles for Cal's sister Lark, "the readenest child you ever did see." As Cal, scornful at first, observes the Book Woman's courage and determination, he begins to wonder if books might not be worthwhile after all...
Written in a dialect that feels authentic, rather than overdone, That Book Woman offers a convincing portrait of a young man's gradual awakening to the value of reading. Cal's resentment at the beginning of the story - captured in both word and image - feels very real, making his eventual transformation all the more satisfying. The artwork by David Small - done in ink, watercolor and pastel chalk - is understated but expressive. All in all, a wonderful picture-book to share with young bibliophiles and library-lovers!
An understated but beautiful book about discovering the extraordinary value of reading, thanks to the dedication of "that book woman" who brings books to people rain, hail or shine. When she arrives with books in the middle of a snow storm, one young boy wonders what could possibly be so special about books that this woman will brave any weather to bring them. So he asks his sister to read to him... and then he reads for himself... and then he's hooked.
I think my life-long aspiration is to be "that book woman". Thanks to my mother, who has been "that book woman" for me.
During the Depression the pack horse librarians of Kentucky ventured into the hills of Appalachia to deliver books to people without access to libraries. In this story one of these librarians travels way out of her way to the top of a mountain to deliver books to Cal's sister, Lark, who loves to read. Cal doesn't consider himself a "scholar-boy" and has no interest in books. But it's the librarian's persistence that causes him to become curious about reading. Will he become a reader too? For more about the pack horse librarians, combine this book with Kathi Appelt's Down Cut Shin Creek: the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. Recommended.
Great children's book set in 1930s Appalachian Kentucky. A woman employed by the Works Progress Administration's Pack Horse Librarian initiative delivers books every two weeks to a family. Over the winter a child previously uninterested in books and reading asks his sister to teach him to read. The illustrations reflect the simplicity of that earlier time period.
Great book. At first, Cal can't understand why his sister Lark is such a bookworm. He thinks writing looks like chicken scratch and he can't understand why the woman comes on her horse and leaves a book for them... without making them pay. But he is even more surprised when she returns. The illustrations show her coming in all kinds of weather, throughout each of the seasons. Slowly, Cal learns to love reading and to admire this brave Book Woman who climbs the Appalachian Mountains through snow and rain and sleet and sun to deliver books to him and his family.
Cal is not the only one that admires the book woman. Henson includes a great author's note about the Pack Horse Librarians, also known as the "Book Women" that really did deliver to homes in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. I, personally, don't like to go out in the snow. I don't like to drive in it (although I often have to), and I certainly can't imagine riding a horse up and down mountains to deliver books in the middle of snow storms. What amazing courage and dedication that shows!! Wow!
Great reminder of how fortunate we are to have libraries/books so readily available and accessible. How I admire those, past and present, that have worked to get books in the hands of children in remote areas where they would not have had access otherwise.
An inspiring children’s historical fiction book written to tell the story of the Pack Horse Library Project founded in the 1930s. These brave Book Women would travel by horse or mule, the same arduous route every two weeks carrying a load of books to the Appalachian families high in the mountains of Kentucky. Why? The following quotes from this lovely book bring clarity:
The illiterate Appalachian boy says, “Now, what that lady brings it’s sure no treasure, not to me, but books! Would you believe? A passel of books she’s packed clear up the mountainside! A hard day’s ride and all for naught, I reckon.”
“And all at once I yearn to know what makes that Book Woman risk catching cold or worse. I pick up a book with words and pictures too and hold it out. “Teach me what it says.” Little Cal says to his sister who already knew the joys of reading.
As the story closes, the little boy expresses to the Book Woman how he wishes his family had some way to pay her. She asks him to read to her from one of the new books she had delivered and he “read a little out.”
“That’s gift enough’, she says and smiles so big, it makes me smile right back.”
My dear friend, who knows me well, and shares my desire to see children love to learn to read, gave me this book for my birthday. What a beautiful gift for anyone who has a passion for reading and a desire to pass it on!
This is a soft, gentle story about a boy who doesn't understand his sister's love of reading until the "book woman" start delivering books every 2 weeks. After watching her go out in horrible weather and risking life to deliver the books he starts to realize that there must be something pretty amazing in books to make someone do what the book woman does. He asks his sister to teach him to read and offers the book woman the ultimate gift - he reads aloud to her. With historical notes in the back.
What a lovely story! It's about the women who worked for the WPA and brought library books to families who lived in the Appalachians of Kentucky, far from schools and libraries. They were called the Pack Horse Librarians, and they brought books to families every two weeks, rain, snow, or shine. Such dedication!
I love these children's stories based on real people and events that worked so hard to make life better for others. And...well...bringing books to those in outlying areas is, to me, the BEST way to make life better for others!
“Not me. I was not born to sit so stoney-still a-staring at some chicken scratch.” This is a quote from the historical-fiction book I read titled, “That Book Woman.” It is a tale that is inspired by true events and told from the perspective of a young man named Cal—southern accent included. Cal lives way up high in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains with his family, in a rural area, where the majority of people live in poverty. He is hard-working, and always ready to help his father with chores that need to be done like herding sheep, and plowing the fields. His younger sister is an avid reader thanks to, “That Book Woman”, who carries books up the mountain in a satchel, by way of horse every two weeks, rain or shine. At first, Cal is annoyed by her presence, as far as he is concerned that chicken scratch contained within the books is not for him. He cannot understand why his younger sister is always reading. That year, the family experiences a very harsh winter, and with nothing much to do Cal asks his sister if she would teach him to read. She excitedly agrees and soon Cal is the one looking forward to, “That Book Woman’s” visits. In gratitude for making two readers out of one, Cal’s mom gives, “That Book Woman”, her very special berry pie recipe. Cal also wants to thank her, but he is saddened about not having anything to give her. Before leaving, she calls Cal over and asks if he would read from the book he is holding. Cal is excited to read from the book he just picked out. When he is done reading “That Book Woman”, lets Cal know it is the greatest gift she could receive—he gave her a big smile. This book, honors the Pack Horse Librarians, who were a group of woman that provided reading materials, in the 1930’s, to rural areas in Kentucky that did not have access to public library facilities. They were funded through the government’s federal works program. They traveled by mule or horse through treacherous mountain side roads, forever changing the lives of hundreds of families.
When I first picked this hard cover book up at the Educational Library on the UK campus, I was easily taken in by the vibrant colors on the front cover and funky illustration of the mountain boy caught my eye since it reminded me of a boy you see in the mountains down here(with the overalls and everything.) It made me very excited to open it up, read on and find out what the book was all about. In "That Book Woman," Cal is a hardworking young boy who work up in the mountains to support his family. In the beginning of the book, Cal scolds his sister for enjoying reading. A mysterious woman on a horse comes to his home and drops off books, which does not interest Cal at first but interests the rest of the family. However, once he realizes all of the strife, bad weather and trouble the woman goes through to drop off books, Cal decides to give reading a try to see for himself. He then realizes how great reading really is and proceeds to personally tell the Book Woman how much he enjoyed reading and thanks her. When i first started reading the book, even though I found it somewhat difficult to read the story to myself, in my mind because the sentences didn't seem to flow right for me, making me have to read it a couple of times. There was also some vocabulary in the book that might be over a younger childs head. I would say this book would be meant for 4th or 5th graders because some of the younger kids might not be able to grasp the ideas that are presented. The illustrations are very beautiful but they might not grab or keep the attention of small children. This would be a great book to read when it comes to the part of the year in social studies when you start talking about the Appalachian mountains and Kentucky's heritage and history, considering it is based off of a true story about traveling librarians in the Appalachian Mountains. I would give this book 3 out of 5 stars because even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, it might be a little too "wordy" for younger students and hard to keep them paying attention.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
A boy on a remote homestead does his chores and helps his family run the farm, and doesn’t have time for anything as useless as books, unlike his younger sister. But one day a Book Woman adds their farm to her route, and suddenly Cal is making a surprising connection between books and a love so passionate that it’d drive a woman through all sorts of conditions just for the pleasure of sharing it.
The Pack Horse Librarians rode through remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to bring books to people without access to schools or libraries as part of a WPA program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. The idea was the foundation for today’s bookmobiles: the librarians would carry a selection to trade for and ride on a two week circuit. Since it was staffed mostly by women the riders were often referred to as the Book Women.
The rhythm of the story is great fun to read aloud. And it was interesting to see Cal blossoming into a reader and the thought process that led to it.
The artwork is very nice, and the artist has skill at drawing people. Everyone here is thin and angular, and look a little ornery, even the silent Lark.
THE VERDICT? I saved this one for Christmas since it’s a story of a boy being given the gift of a love of reading. It’s a hope of mine that, when I have some nieces and nephews to shop for, I’ll be known on Christmas Day as that Book Woman.
That Book Woman by Heather Henson Rating: 4/5 stars Best For: 10 - 13 year olds, 4th through 8th grade. Worth a Check Out: Yes. Buy It or Not: Librarians should definitely have this in their collection, and possibly their personal collections as well. Read Aloud: Upper elementary and middle school librarians and teachers could use this in many historical lessons. Lesson Ideas: History, 1930s West Virginia, Pack Horse Librarians, Power of reading, Great depression.
That Book Woman is a great book. It's beautifully written and the illustrations are fantastic. I feel the message the story shared was great and would entice the reader to want to learn more about these super tough and awesome Pack Horse Librarians.
This book is best suited as a read aloud for 4th through 8th grade in my opinion. It's a great book, but I don't see students gravitating to this book on their own. I also see few students wanting to read the book on his or her own even after a teacher or librarian reads it aloud. It's a great book, but it is limited in it's audience. I think this limitation is the main reason this book lost a star in my rating. It's a good historical picture book, but it isn't a great book that will be read over and over again.
A great teacher and/or librarian could use That Book Woman to spark a study on life in rural settings during the great depression. They could research more about life in the mountains, education for children during that time, and how the Pack Horse Librarians started. Overall, it's a book with a lot of educational value, but a limited audience.
Audience: Primary Genre: Picture Book/Historical Fiction Pre-Reading Strategy: Word Wall
Word Wall Strategy: This strategy works for this picture book, because it is a more challenging and less memorable story, therefore this strategy makes the book more meaningful to the students. After the children complete the activity they will be able to read the book and make connections to the word wall whenever they come across the one of the challenge walls.
Pre-Reading Strategy Script: "Hello students, today we are going to read a Golden Sower Nominee book called, "That Book Women," by Heather Henson. This book has some challenging words however, so before we begin, I want us to page through the book and find some of the words we don't know, and create a word wall. We will do this by finding all of our challenge words and writing them down with a bold, black marker on a bright sheet of construction paper. Once we have gathered all of our words we will practice reading them and spelling them out loud as a class, so that eventually these words become automatic and part of our everyday speech. Later on when we read the book as a class, and bump into one of our challenge words, we will not only be able to read and spell the word correctly, but we will also be able to see how the word fits into a sentence and therefore be able to discuss the meaning and purpose of the word. Ok class, let's get ready to build our Word Wall!"