Tomas and the Library Lady

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A Common Core Exemplar Text by an award-winning author-illustrator team

Tomás is a son of migrant workers. Every summer he and his family follow the crops north from Texas to Iowa, spending long, arduous days in the fields. At night they gather around to hear Grandfather's wonderful stories. But before long, Tomás knows all the stories by heart. "There are more stories in the library,"Papa Grande tells him.  The very next day, ...

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A Common Core Exemplar Text by an award-winning author-illustrator team

Tomás is a son of migrant workers. Every summer he and his family follow the crops north from Texas to Iowa, spending long, arduous days in the fields. At night they gather around to hear Grandfather's wonderful stories. But before long, Tomás knows all the stories by heart. "There are more stories in the library,"Papa Grande tells him.  The very next day, Tomás meets the library lady and a whole new world opens up for him. 

Based on the true story of the Mexican-American author and educator Tomás Rivera, a child of migrant workers who went on to become the first minority Chancellor in the University of California system, this inspirational story suggests what libraries—and education—can make possible.  Raul Colón's warm, expressive paintings perfectly interweave the harsh realities of Tomás's life, the joyful imaginings he finds in books, and his special relationships with a wise grandfather and a caring librarian.  

"A gentle text and innovative artwork. . . . While young readers and future librarians will find this an inspiring tale, the end note gives it a real kick: the story is based on an actual migrant worker [Tomás Rivera] who became chancellor of a university—where the library now bears his name."—Publishers Weekly

While helping his family in their work as migrant laborers far from their home, Tomâas finds an entire world to explore in the books at the local public library.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Tomas and his migrant family must work hard and travel frequently, but thanks to a kind librarian, Tomas becomes acquainted with a whole new world through books-and receives a special gift from her when he must move on. Inspired by the life of Tomas Rivera, who became chancellor of the University of California at Riverside.
Children's Literature - Cheryl Peterson
Tomßs and his family are migrant farm workers who travel from Texas to Iowa picking fruits and vegetables. Tomßs and his brother, Enrique, listen to their Papß Grande tell stories in the hot afternoons. Soon Tomßs knows all the stories, so Papß Grande suggests that Tomßs go to the library to learn more stories to tell the family. At first, Tomßs is intimidated by the large library, but the friendly librarian coaxes him in with the promise of a cool drink of water. She helps him discover all sorts of books, and Tomßs spends his summer afternoons in the library engrossed by the wonderful stories. He takes the books home and reads them to his family in the evenings. This inspiring story is based on the true life of Tomßs Rivera, a migrant farm worker who became a writer, professor, and university administrator. He was chancellor of the University of California at Riverside before his death in 1984. Raul Col=n uses beautifully muted colors to illustrate Tomas' wonderful imagination. A heartwarming story for children from all backgrounds.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4Toms Rivera, who at his death in 1984 was the Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, grew up in a migrant family. Here, Mora tells the fictionalized story of one summer in his childhood during which his love of books and reading is fostered by a librarian in Iowa, who takes him under her wing while his family works the harvest. She introduces him to stories about dinosaurs, horses, and American Indians and allows him to take books home where he shares them with his parents, grandfather, and brother. When it is time for the family to return to Texas, she gives Toms the greatest gift of alla book of his own to keep. Coln's earthy, sun-warmed colors, textured with swirling lines, add life to this biographical fragment and help portray Toms's reading adventures in appealing ways. Stack this up with Sarah Stewart and David Small's The Library Farrar, 1995 and Suzanne Williams and Steven Kellogg's Library Lil Dial, 1997 to demonstrate the impact librarians can have on youngsters.Barbara Elleman, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI
Kirkus Reviews
A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tomás Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tomás likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tomás finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tomás reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tomás's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Colón's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375803499
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2000
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 163,757
  • Age range: 3 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.13 (w) x 6.84 (h) x 0.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Pat Mora, a Chicana educator, is a published poet and the author of several books for children.

Raul Colón was awarded the Silver Medal by the Society of Illustrators for Always My Dad, his first children's book.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 19, 2012

    Wonderful Book Adventures

    Tomas and the Library Lady is a really good book, with wonderful illustrations. The illustrations make the book come to life, there is quite a bit of text in this book, however, the pages are full of illustrative imagination. This book was actually inspired by Tomas Rivera who was "encouraged to read by a librarian." This book tells the story of a little boy traveling with his family and he meets a librarian whom he forms an inspiring relationship with because she shows him a whole new world through reading books. The book is also bilingual, there are some spanish sentences and words, although the author indirectly translates the spanish language. A very good book to have, especially in a bilingual classroom.

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