a list of…five books saluting sensational librarians!

When I was a kid, I went to the library in my small, northern-Minnesota town… quite a lot.  I would walk down the broad, granite steps to the basement — the children’s library — and there, sitting at her wooden desk, with her typewriter and inky stamp pad was Mrs. Johnson, the librarian.  I LOVED Mrs. Johnson.  And I loved when she checked out my books, pressing that wooden-handled stamp onto the date due slip.  So cool.  Oh, how I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up! 

Today’s blog is a fond tribute to The Keepers of the Books!   You can keep your Kindle…I’m celebrating books-that-you-hold-in-your-hands-and-turn-the-pages and those wonderful people who let me have them…for free!  Librarians!  Huzzah!


That Book Woman, by Heather Henson, pictures by David Small 

Way up in the lonely Kentucky hills where hawks might circle, but mostly no other folks gather, Cal lives with his folks, his sister Lark, and a few more  young’uns.   While Lark always has her nose in a book, Cal does not have a spit of patience for sitting “stoney-still a-staring at some chicken scratch.”  Therefore, Cal is not particularly pleased when a woman on a pack horse makes her way to their place with saddlebags full of books…to borrow; not to buy!  Crazy.  But that Book Woman.  She keeps a-comin’ in the fiercest weather.  And enticed by her bravery to know what it is that’s so special about books, Cal finally asks Lark to teach him to read that chicken scratching.  

This absolutely lovely book was inspired by the Pack Horse Librarians in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky, a group founded in the 30s as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal.  Mostly women, they would travel their route every two weeks, carrying loads of books into the wild country on a horse or mule.  Eventually, roads were built in these hills, and Bookmobiles took the place of the Book Women, but the story of their dedication to literacy and literature is a beautiful piece of Americana. 

Heather Henson has written this story with a lovely poetic sense of Appalachian life and lingo, and David Small transports us there with his compelling, yet soft, homey drawings of golden mornings and log cabins full of critters, of vast spaces, rocky ridges and a woman on a horse struggling through all kinds of inclement weather.  I really love this book. 

(For a slightly more advanced,  non-fiction account of the Book Women, I found this title highly interesting:  Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, by Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer.  Ages 8 and up.)

My Librarian is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World, by Margriet Ruurs 

In the desert sands of northern Kenya, nomadic children are visited every two weeks by the library camel!  These camels travel about, five days a week, lugging hundreds of pounds of books and a tent for the librarian to pitch for the day’s business.  

On the coast of Finland, rocky islands are home to children who get their books from a book boat.  The little boat sails among the islands from May to October, bringing a librarian and about 600 books for eager readers. 

In northern Thailand, where many remote villages are tucked away in jungles and mountains, a team of twenty elephants makes up the Books-by-Elephant delivery program.  They carry slates as well, so the librarians can teach village children to read when they visit. 

The unique ways librarians have found to bring books to children in 13 countries on six continents are described and photographed in this book, written in 2005.  A colorful map shows the locations of all the countries, and each country’s pages also include a map, its flag, and a bit of information about the country and the languages spoken there.   Quite intriguing!

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians, by Carla Morris, illustrated by Brad Sneed 

Carla Morris dedicates this book “to children’s librarians everywhere — may you be comforted by the knowledge that your daily small acts of kindness and service to children will result in adults who will do the same!” 

And in this book, librarians are super heroes indeed! 

Marge, Betty, and Leeola are librarians at Livingston Public Library, where a little bespectacled boy named Melvin seems to live, he spends so much time there.  Melvin is a curious boy who wants to know something about everything, and lo and behold, no matter what he is currently curious about, those librarians have a knack for steering him in the right direction.  They pull books off shelves.  Search websites.  Help him with Science Fair projects.  You name it, they’re on top of it.  Because that’s just how librarians are.  Time goes by, and the Livingston Public Library eventually gets a new librarian — a tall, bespectacled young man who loves to help curious boys who visit. 

The watercolor pictures in this book glow with warmth and fun and vivacity.  The librarians are almost caricaturized, incredibly happy, helpful, energetic women.  As the pages turn, Melvin grows up, and the librarians age…with great aplomb.  And…a very nice touch…if you look closely, you will likely recognize some of the books on the library shelves. 

Biblioburro: a true story from Columbia, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter 

 This little book is as brilliantly colored as a tropical rain forest.  Green-and-pink billed toucans, lime green palm fronds, orange-sherbet butterflies, flaming birds-of-paradise bedazzle the pages and magnetically draw us in to the story. 

It’s a true story about a man named Luis who lives in the jungles of Columbia and loves books.  Luis realizes one day that he could share his collection of books with those that have none, who live far off in remote, hard-to-get-to places.  So, he buys a couple of darling burros, named Alfa and Beto and christens them “Biblioburro,”  meaning, “The Burro Library.”  Luis treks far, far away to the villages where he reads stories aloud to the children and allows them to choose books to borrow and read in the deep, blue, darkness of the jungle at night. 

The story is told succinctly, descriptively, beautifully.  Very young children can listen to this one.  An author’s note at the end tells a bit more of the work of Luis Soriana, who began the Biblioburro in 2002 with just 70 books, and now has received donations of thousands of books to bring to villages each week-end.  A great story of what one person can do to enrich his own small corner of the world.

Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley 

If there is an opposite of Melvin (the boy who was raised by librarians), it is Missy.  Missy is a little squirt in dungaree overalls and a green-and-pink knit hat pulled down over her scraggly brown hair.  And, she has no time for books.  She is quite bored by them.  She finds them too …pink.  Too silly.  Too kissy. 

Miss Brooks, on the other hand, is the school librarian, and she loves, loves, loves books!  Miss Brooks dresses up in c-r-a-z-y costumes for reading circle and simply crows with enthusiasm over Book Week. 

The problem comes when Missy is required to pick a favorite story and share it with the class — in costume mind you, with flair. Miss Brooks offers Missy many, many books to preview with her mom…and Missy rejects them all.  Her mom says she is as stubborn as a wart.  Unexpectedly, this gives Missy a great idea for her book!  And from there, it’s a downhill run to a costume that just suits her and a lively presentation. 

The moral of the story is, that even if you are mainly attracted to stories about appalling things such as warts…you can find something to love in your library. 

Very cute story, with hilarious, quirky illustrations by a fabulous illustrator.   Your kids will giggle over this one.