That Book Woman

( 3 )

Overview

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...

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
This book enables children to understand how being able to read truly opens up the world to them. The story goes back to a time, not all that long ago, when schooling was not universal. Through the mid-20th century, much of Appalachia remained remote and isolated, and schooling was a haphazard affair. This story is told in the folksy voice of Cal, a young boy who has trouble understanding how his younger sister Lark can be excited about making sense of all that chicken-scratch in books. It is the persistence of the "Book Woman" who rides her pack horse through heavy rain and snow to distribute the volumes that changes Cal's mind. As a result, he is willing to try to make sense of those chicken-scratches, with help from his little sister. This story celebrates the "Pack Horse Librarians," at the same time, it can inspire older students who are still struggling with reading to put in the hard work it can take to turn "chicken scratch" into a tale or a fact. Teachers of struggling readers are very likely to agree with the Book Woman that seeing a non-reader become a book lover is reward enough for all their hard work. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5

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

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)
Children's Literature - Joan Kindig
Cal is growing up with his family high in the remote Appalachia Mountains of Kentucky. Because of living in such an isolated area, Cal and his siblings do not have easy access to school and a library. Back in the 1930s, however, the Works Progress Administration funded an effort called the Pack Horse Librarians to take reading materials to families like Cal's. Made up mostly of women, these librarians rode as much as eighty miles a week over rough terrain and in all kinds of weather to take books and magazines to rural families. At the outset of the story, Cal is disinterested in reading while his sister, Lark, is a voracious reader. In actuality, Cal does not know how to read. The sheer determinedness of the librarian on horseback begins to change Cal's mind about reading and he finally asks his sister to teach him to read. This homage to those amazing librarians and the importance of reading translates nicely from book to DVD. The strong story coupled with Small's beautiful watercolors brings the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains alive and underscores the conditions these librarians faced on their routes. The one drawback is that the narrator is telling a story set in Appalachia yet there is no tinge of a mountain dialect heard. The author and illustrator interviews are well worth watching. A subtitling feature allows children to follow along with the text as it is read aloud. Running time: 12 minutes. Iconographic. Reviewer: Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—Originally written by poet Martha Baird as a radio play, The Comma That Didn't Belong Anywhere, this animated video about a comma looking for the right sentence is a literary example of aesthetic realism, the philosophy of the fight going on in every person. A person desires to like the world but also holds contempt toward it. Thomas, a comma, has ambition but doesn't feel that he belongs anywhere. That makes him sad. Because he is somebody, he won't become part of a sentence until it's the right one. He looks inside himself and realizes that if he wants to find a place, he needs an organized approach to finding it. He shuns modern literature and turns his nose down at newspapers and magazines. One day he awakens and realizes that his ordeal has made him a better comma. The hand drawn animation is simple but appropriate for the story line. Thomas, a plain black comma with an adult voice, shows his many emotions through facial expressions and body movements. Colorful scenes of different locations add interest level as Thomas searches for his proper place in life. This film, directed by Ken Kimmelman, offers a mature, metaphoric look at an individual's search for his proper place in life and the philosophy of aesthetic realism.—Robyn Gioia, Bolles School, Ponte Vedra, FL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416908128
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 10/7/2008
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 86,582
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD920L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.10 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Henson grew up in Kentucky and recently returned to her home state after spending many years in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked as an editor of children's books and a freelance writer. She now lives on a farm with her husband, Tim and three children, and is the author of several picture books and novels, including That Book Woman.

David Small is the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George. He received a Caldecott Honor medal for The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. He has also illustrated many other beloved picture books, which include The Library and The Journey, both by Sarah Stewart, and Imogene’s Antlers, which he also wrote. He lives in Michigan with his wife, Sarah Stewart.

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Introduction

THAT BOOK WOMAN
By Heather Henson
Illustrated by David Small

ABOUT THIS BOOK

High up on a mountain, right near the tippy-top, Cal and his family squeak out a living with their farm. There's no time for visiting or reading or learning, and that suits Cal just fine. But then a woman starts coming around with loads of books for borrowing, and Cal has to wonder if there's something to this reading after all.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What does Cal think about school and learning? Does it help the family survive on their mountain? How does Cal feel when Lark reads or tries to teach others?

Why is it so strange for the family to see a woman ride up with the books? Is there anything that would make a woman better for this job than a man?

Why is Cal so angry when his father offers up the poke of berries in exchange for the books? Does he change his mind about giving the book woman something in exchange for her work?

The book woman accepts very little from the people that she visits — she won't take payment for the books or shelter from the storms. Why? Why do you think the families keep trying to give her things?

What makes Cal decide to learn to read? Why would it have been hard for him to ask Lark to teach him?

Describe how Cal's face looks in the beginning of the book, when he talks about reading, and when the book woman first starts coming around. Does the expression on his face change as the story continues? How?

Why do you think we never see the book woman's face in any of the pictures?

Does Cal talk like someone who never reads? Does he use fancy words or expressions? If his way of talking doesn't come from books, where doesit come from?

What kinds of things does Cal learn before he knows how to read? Where does he learn them?

Is it important for Cal and his family to learn to read? What will it do for them?

ACTIVITIES

Working as a group, explore the history of libraries. Where was the first library? Are there other programs, like the Pack Horse Librarians, where books are brought to the people?

In any community, there are people who like books and stories but don't have access to them. Find a nursing home, hospital, homeless shelter, or doctor's office that needs books, and collect donations for them.

David Small's illustrations capture the feeling of living on a mountain and the love that the family members have for one another. Draw a picture of your home or family, and show what makes you special.

The Pack Horse Librarians must have loved books a lot, if they were willing to dedicate their lives and put themselves in danger just to share them. Choose one or two of your favorite books and tell others what they are about and why you like them.

Cal and his family live in the Appalachian Mountains. Look up some facts about this unique region and the problems that its people have faced over the years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

HEATHER HENSON is the author of Making the Run and Angel Coming. A former editor, she resides in Kentucky.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR

DAVID SMALL was awarded a Caldecott Medal for So You Want to Be President? and the Caldecott Honor for The Gardener. He has illustrated many other books, including When Dinosaurs Came with Everything and The Underneath. He lives in Mendon, Michigan.

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

Heather Henson grew up in Kentucky and recently returned to her home state after spending many years in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked as an editor of children's books and a freelance writer. She now lives on a farm with her husband, Tim and three children, and is the author of several picture books and novels, including That Book Woman.

David Small is the Caldecott Award-winning illustrator of So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George. He received a Caldecott Honor medal for The Gardener by Sarah Stewart. He has also illustrated many other beloved picture books, which include The Library and The Journey, both by Sarah Stewart, and Imogene's Antlers, which he also wrote. He lives in Michigan with his wife, Sarah Stewart.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

THAT BOOK WOMAN
By Heather Henson Illustrated by David Small

ABOUT THIS BOOK

High up on a mountain, right near the tippy-top, Cal and his family squeak out a living with their farm. There's no time for visiting or reading or learning, and that suits Cal just fine. But then a woman starts coming around with loads of books for borrowing, and Cal has to wonder if there's something to this reading after all.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

What does Cal think about school and learning? Does it help the family survive on their mountain? How does Cal feel when Lark reads or tries to teach others?

Why is it so strange for the family to see a woman ride up with the books? Is there anything that would make a woman better for this job than a man?

Why is Cal so angry when his father offers up the poke of berries in exchange for the books? Does he change his mind about giving the book woman something in exchange for her work?

The book woman accepts very little from the people that she visits — she won't take payment for the books or shelter from the storms. Why? Why do you think the families keep trying to give her things?

What makes Cal decide to learn to read? Why would it have been hard for him to ask Lark to teach him?

Describe how Cal's face looks in the beginning of the book, when he talks about reading, and when the book woman first starts coming around. Does the expression on his face change as the story continues? How?

Why do you think we never see the book woman's face in any of the pictures?

Does Cal talk like someone who never reads? Does he use fancy words or expressions? If his way of talking doesn't come from books, where does it come from?

What kinds of things does Cal learn before he knows how to read? Where does he learn them?

Is it important for Cal and his family to learn to read? What will it do for them?

ACTIVITIES

Working as a group, explore the history of libraries. Where was the first library? Are there other programs, like the Pack Horse Librarians, where books are brought to the people?

In any community, there are people who like books and stories but don't have access to them. Find a nursing home, hospital, homeless shelter, or doctor's office that needs books, and collect donations for them.

David Small's illustrations capture the feeling of living on a mountain and the love that the family members have for one another. Draw a picture of your home or family, and show what makes you special.

The Pack Horse Librarians must have loved books a lot, if they were willing to dedicate their lives and put themselves in danger just to share them. Choose one or two of your favorite books and tell others what they are about and why you like them.

Cal and his family live in the Appalachian Mountains. Look up some facts about this unique region and the problems that its people have faced over the years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

HEATHER HENSON is the author of Making the Run and Angel Coming. A former editor, she resides in Kentucky.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR

DAVID SMALL was awarded a Caldecott Medal for So You Want to Be President? and the Caldecott Honor for The Gardener. He has illustrated many other books, including When Dinosaurs Came with Everything and The Underneath. He lives in Mendon, Michigan.

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 7, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Children will enjoy this lively story of a boy and how reading becomes important to him. A must for any elementary teacher!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 16, 2011

    Love it!

    I consider myself a bookwoman; my license plate is BKWOMAN. When I saw the title of this book, I had to have it. The story is from the viewpoint of a rural North Carolina reluctant reader during the depression. It's written in the dialect of the area and the times. The pack horse librarians brought books to isolated farmers and mountain people who otherwise would not have had books. The women (and a few men) were determined and steadfast. The beautiful watercolors of David Small (Imogene's Antlers)add a richness to the story. I'm proud to be a librarian.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 26, 2010

    BEAUTIFUL STORY

    Heather Hensen has a beautiful way with language! She captures the spirit of another time and place. That Book Woman tells about the pack horse riders who bravely traveled through the Appalachian Mountains to bring books to impoverished children. This little told piece of American history underscores the importance of books, and how they widen our world. This provided some great discussion among my own children, and I think it would be a wonderful classroom story as well.

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