“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

That Book Woman • Picture Book

That Book Woman
by Heather Henson • Illustrated by
David Small

October 2008 • Atheneum Books for Young Readers • Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing • Picture Book

A Tribute to Teachers and Librarians . . .
Story: 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 stony-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.
Story behind the story: David Small writes, “That wonderful book woman goes about her lonely, possibly futile mission with the determination and bravery born of the convition that what she is doing is right. To me, as I worked on the pictures for this book, she became a symbol of my own sometimes lonely work in the studio, and of the mission of all of us who worked on this project: to keep books alive and available in the face of tremendous odds.”

Keep an eye for the That Book Woman reading group guide which will be posted shortly on SimonSaysTEACH.com!


debnance said...

Oh, please send me a copy! :-)

Take care,

Laura said...

I would love to have a copy.

Kimberly said...

I would LOVE to preview this book. It's theme looks fabulous!


sarah said...

I would place That Book Woman in the gourmet category! Heather Henson gives us a glimpse into a fascinating period of library history that honors the pack horse librarians of Kentucky. I would love to use this book as part of a "book mobile" lesson comparing and contrasting the means of transporting books to children throughout the world. (Additional resources: Aunt Lulu by Daniel Pinkwater and My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruur). This also could lead into a lesson (and possible community service project!) about modern day approaches and efforts to promote literacy and a love of reading (i.e First Book, Reading is Fundamental, JumpStart, etc.)

I am a big fan of illustrator, David Small. His illustrations are simple and sweet, yet convey powerful and touching emotions as young Cal (the narrator of the story) gradually develops an interest and appreciation for books, reading and that brave, dedicated Book Woman who brings the magic of books into the home of a struggling and isolated Appalachian family. I'm definitely adding this one to my personal home collection!

Sarah Nixon
Medfield Middle School Librarian
First Book-Boston Board Member

RistauReadslibrary2 said...

I loved, loved, loved this book! The pack horse librarians are not something many children (or adults) know much about. I shared this with my daughters at bedtime last night. I think I might have loved it more than they did - they are five and seven and the language was a bit hard for the five year old to understand without me adding a little bit to make her "get it." However, David Small's illustrations are wonderful, as usual, and this is a great fiction selection to accompany Down Cut Shin Creek, my non fiction book about the pack horse librarians.

Janice said...

I really thought the book That Book Woman was both sweet and savory. When the book started out, I thought I was going to be disappointed but it turned around when it established the theme of getting the reluctant reader to read. It would be a great addition to any library trying to get those type of students inspired. The historical fiction addition was a big plus and I learned about the Pack Horse Librarians, which I had not known about previously. The illustrations were simple but added a touch to illustrate the time period.

wisteria said...

Heather Henson and David Small collaborate with great success as if they have been a team for years. I thought That Book Woman was an unforgettable historical fiction delight. The author captures the history of FDR’s WPA projects of the 1930s. There was a group known as the Pack Horse Librarians who lived in the Kentucky mountains. These were mostly woman who stepped out of their traditional roles and saddled up to deliver books; becoming a traveling bookmobile on horseback. They were tenacious in their willingness to travel over rough terrain and wild weather to get books to people.

Henson makes her writing look simple when in fact it is royally rich on every page. Your senses become acutely aroused with the careful imagery, simile and metaphor. You know exactly what Henson means when she writes “stoney still”, “dusky dark” and “red as clay”.

David Small, an experienced illustrator has won a Caldecott Award for illustrating So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George and a Caldecott Honor Award. He uses ink, watercolor and pastel chalk to create the subtle soft colorful setting of a quiet slow paced time period, when life was less hurried. He evokes a pastoral image that enhances Henson’s text, each a complement of the other.

There are a number of options to consider when teaching with this book. That Book Woman could be used as an introduction to researching skills, evaluating websites, author study, women studies and global awareness. Essential questions to consider; How are libraries different around the world? or What does a library look like around the world? How were women’s roles defined in history? What makes a website good for you?

Resources possible to use with this book for background are, Mary on Horseback: Three Mountain Stories by Rosemary Wells. Down Cut Shin Creek: The Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky,Kathi Appelt and Jeanne Cannella Schmitzer. My Librarian Is a Camel: How Books Are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs.

To appreciate the charming poetic prose of this book consider this as a read-a-load. Strongly recommended for all libraries as a first choice on their next list. A picnic basket must have.

Donna Lynn Edwards
Media Specialist
Pembroke Elementary School
Danbury, CT 06776

Allyn said...

That Book Woman masterfully written by Heather Hensen and beautifully illustrated by David Small is an absolute gourmet treat. When I first requested the copy, I immediately thought of a dear friend whose mother was a skilled and ever persistent librarian. She would drive the “Book Mobile” around town in areas where even the police were hesitant to tread. She too would have adored this book.

The voice of the book begs to be read aloud and many boys will identify with the reluctance to pursue that “chicken scratch” otherwise known as reading.

Strong recommend: 5

A. Hunt
8th Grade Language Arts Teacher
Fort Walton Beach, FL

John said...

That Book Woman rekindled the memories of stories told by my grandmother and others, speaks nobly of my profession, but contains some generalizations that should bother many mountaineers.
The story is tender and evokes great emotion. The colors of Small's illustrations also contribute greatly to the imagery, but sometimes in an unintended fashion.
Most mountaineers and hill people had more pride than to let chickens scratch around inside the house. That is illustrated more than once in this work. And the red metal chair on the porch? That seems a bit of a stretch given the remoteness presented by the creators.
The creators of That Book Woman have made mistakes that the Book Woman would not have made. They have exploited the people they are trying to champion.
Buy the book, read the book, add it to the collection, but be aware of its shortcomings and encourage dialogue.
3 out of 5

John Parker
Media Coordinator
Andrews High School
Andrews, NC

Mary Kirk said...

That Book Woman by Heather Henson; illustrated by David Small

What a wonderful book! I can’t wait to share it with the students and teachers in my k-5 school. I feel certain the book will generate lots of discussion. Unfamiliar vocabulary and unstated questions abound giving students the opportunity to use all kinds of higher level-thinking skills. Who is the woman? Why is she bringing around these books? What is the meaning of onliest? Passle? Greenbacks? Boughten? Will the students make the connection to modern-day librarians and bookmobiles? I can’t wait to find out.
Heather Henson does a great job bringing this little known bit of American history alive in this story. Her author note fills in the blanks left when the story ends. I am going to pair That Book Woman with Down Cut Shin Creek: the Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt. Down Cut Shin Creek is an interesting nonfiction picture book about the pack librarians of Kentucky complete with black and white photographs of the women and their horses or mules.
David Small’s illustrations in That Book Woman are beautiful. He does a wonderful job with the facial changes of the main character, Cal, taking him from a scowling, suspicious, nonreader to a glowing, grateful, avid reader. I am always happy when details of how an illustrator created the illustrations are included in the publication information. I look for this information when I read pictures books to my classes. I ask the students how they think the illustrator made the pictures. Then I read what is written about the illustrations in the publication information. In That Book Woman, David Small used ink, water color and pastel chalk. The students get an idea of how much work goes into illustrating a picture book.
I rate this book a resounding 5. A gourmet item for any picnic basket!

Mary Kirk
Media Coordinator
Sherwood Forest Elementary School
Winston-Salem, NC

B. Langan, children's librarian said...

Recommended without Reservation.

I am BLangan, children’s librarian at a public library. This book would be just one of many to add to my Library story time. This book portrays the watermelon, the dessert, the topping on the cake. This book brings stories like the “The Boy Who was Raised by Librarians” by Carla Morris and “Goldie Socks and the Three Libearians” by Jackie Mims Hopkins into the proper light. These books demonstrate just how important the role of the librarian and the library may play in a young person’s life.

I would use this to explore the early history of the libraries, post offices and other offices that have developed into what they are today. You could use this to demonstrate the differences in the social aspects of yesterday and today. You could start a discussion on how you think his reading affected his life. This book would lead to a great writing experience. You could tell the children to draw a picture to demonstrate what they saw in this book. You could even use it to demonstrate the changes of season. Then bring other books in to give more information.

This book could also be used in April for poetry month. Simple words to portray the sequence of events that led to the end of the story.

jacquieleighton@mac.com said...

Just finished reading That Book Woman and it's totally a book which belongs in the gourmet category for several reasons.

First, the message is one which is so real and believable. Here thru the story by Heather Henson and story in pictures by DAvid Small, we meet a young boy from the Appalachia of yesterday. In addition, we meet the his sister, the reader, and a nurturing family. Henson's main character, the young boy Cal, tells his very memoir like story of his encounters with one of the visiting Pack Horse Librarians, "that book woman." We read about how he resisted her visits. He'd rather help his Pap in the fields and herding sheep or fetching a wandering cow. He believes the pages of these books which are delivered and exchanged every 2 weeks to be "chicken scratch" and here the artists tells more of the story thru watercolor images full of character and gesture.

Cal comes to realize that this visiting woman appears despite hazardous winter weather and the long journey it must require from her. His curiosity about her visits despite her traveling hardships compels him to wonder more about what "the chicken scratch" could possibly hold. His story is one which captures the power and magic of the written word.

I will present this book to my students when we explore memoir like books and to share how the narrative can be told in verse. The narrator's voice is wonderfully authentic. The images add much to the story's setting. When an artist can leave behind opportunities for inferencing more into the message, well that's a treasure.

A "must read" for all ages who hunger for more understanding of the culture and history of time and place not always understood.

eiela said...

That Book Woman is both an account of the impact of the pack horse librarians that brought books to isolated Appalachian families, and the story of how one illiterate boy, Cal, becomes a reader. As a librarian, this book made me tear up; I loved how Cal changes from resenting his sister's love of books and wondering why "that book woman" is so persistent, to asking his sister to teach him to read and thanking "that book woman" by the end of the story.
This book was much better received by the adults in my school than the students (K-5). The adults have uniformly loved it; the students gave it a lukewarm approval. The vocabulary and dialect make it a difficult read for them, but it works as a heavily scaffolded read aloud--meaning, take the time to explain what's going on as you read.
--eiela, TN

Mrs. Kondrick said...

I requested the book That Book Woman because my mother was a librarian. My personal library of thousands of books started from discards and gift from her. As a reading teacher I obviously value reading and hope that I can reach all students imparting in them a love of reading. That is the wish of the pack horse librarian of this book. Cal, the narrator of the story wants nothing to do with the woman who visits with books in her pack. When his father tries to gove the woman the berries Cal has picked, he likes her even less. The woman wants nothing in return for the books, promising to return every two weeks. She keeps her promise and eventually inspires Cal to read. I love the story in this book. The Appalachian dialect made the book even more interesting, after I practiced reading it aloud. The illustrations, beautifully painted, added to the feeling expressed by cal and his family. I would give this book a 5, and plan on promoting it to every student who walks into my class, student and teacher alike.
Karen Kondrick
Literacy Coach
Ripley Central School
Ripley, NY

Zion Lutheran School Library. said...

That Book Woman by Heather Henson
Pictures by David Small
Recommended without Reservation

I received my copy of ‘That Book Woman’ shortly before Thanksgiving, just when I was searching the library shelves for books to read with our lower grade students that focused on thankfulness. When I opened the book, I immediately thought what a great read-aloud it would be for older students studying history, particularly the Depression and Roosevelt’s public works programs. The dedication of the pack horse librarian is shown through the eyes of young Cal, a non-reader who finds his attitude toward reading changed through the tenacious dedication of the librarian. Leaving out specific details like miles traveled and number of trips made, Heather Henson shows how the hard work of these librarians brought the simple pleasure of reading to those without access to books. David Small’s illustrations gently capture the poverty facing Cal’s family, but more importantly, perfectly reflect Cal’s feelings towards reading. It’s wonderful to watch how Cal’s initial expressions of disdain for reading eventually change as he learns to read himself.

After reading the book a few times and setting it aside for a day or two, I realized ‘That Book Woman’ was not only a good book for history’s sake, but it was the perfect Thanksgiving book I had been looking for. When I finished reading it to our 3rd graders, we talked about what a blessing it is to be able to read and how thankful we are for the wide variety of books available to us, as well as the dedication of the teachers, librarians and parents who help us learn to read. We’re pretty sure Cal would agree!

Karen Sutera
Zion Lutheran School
Marengo, IL

Anonymous said...

I thought That Book Woman was a beautifully illustrated book. I thoroughly ejoyed reading it and found myself getting deeply involved in the story. I even got a little bit choked up at the end when the mom gave her recipe away to the book woman in thanks and said "Not much, I know for all your trouble... and for making two readers outta one." The Author used beautifully descriptive language. I would highly recommend this book to Grade 3 and above. As a grade one teacher, I had to stop and explain too much of the language for the students to really get the story and enjoy the flow. That Book Woman is an excellent book and I highly recommend it!

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful book! The lovely watercolor pictures so clearly captured the feelings and the expressions the author was conveying. I enjoyed the storyline- seeing a reluctant reader 'get hooked!' I also really enjoyed the historical content of the story- it's good to pass history on to the next generation.
I did disagree, though, with the publisher's choice of age range for this book. It's called a "Young Reader" book for ages 4-8. I found that there would be much explaining and clarificaion to do for children that age.

Brannin said...

After reading the first few lines I felt like I was transported back to the Appalachians. I find Cal's quiet resistance and curiosity charming. Underlying themes of perseverance, kindness, and the importance of literacy will be this book timeless.

I absolutely loved David Small's visual interpretation of the words and characters.

This book is a 5!

Brannin Dorsey
Parkmont Elementary
Fremont, Ca

Susan Appleton said...

Why haven't I received a copy of this book? It's been about 2 months since I requested it and still haven't received it. The note at the bottom of the page says that it's still open for people to request a copy. Should I request AGAIN? I'd really love one since I have a fascination with the Appalachian culture! Please let me know what I should do.

Deborah Sloan said...

To Susan Appleton/others: Have just left word with the publisher on the status of the sample copies and will let you know as soon as I hear back. This publisher (like most) is quite good at fulfilling requests, while they're available, quickly. Could be that they forgot to alert me that they've sent out all they had (or that I had one of those moments and just forgot to remove that link?). Sorry for any frustration -- and stay tuned for an answer.

Barbara said...

The watercolor/pastel illustrations are very inviting and just suggestive enough to encourage discussion. The words are sparse, but say enough. The combination helps to bring rural Kentucky a little more in focus to my students.
The story is appealing and can be used as a stand alone with my 6th graders. It can also be used as a picture book extension to a unit on FDR and the WPA with my 8th graders.
I'd rate it a 4.5.

Reading resource teacher