That Book Woman
By Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books, 2008
Told from the point of view of an older brother who resisted reading, thinking it more important to work the land, we learn about the brave Pack Horse Librarians, known as the “Book Women” (most were women) who, through the US Work Progress Administration program, served people in remote regions where even schools aren’t available. They came every two weeks.
We open with Cal glowering at this sister Lark who “would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusky dark”. Without his nose in a book, he is the first to hear the lady riding a sorrel mare. The lady brings in a leather bag of books and leaves them. The family offers a poke of berries for a trade, but the women says they are free, there is no charge, and the children are relieved they will have their cherished pie. Cal thinks this is all a waste of time. The women comes rain, snow or shine; she even came during the worst blizzard, knowing, “My horse will see me home.” Why would that women risk her life in the blizzard, Cal begins to wonder. What’s in those books? He picks up a book and asks Lark to teach him what it says. It’s not until next spring before the woman sits and visits a spell and mom gifts her with her most prized possession, her mother’s recipe to berry pie. Cal says he wishes he had something to give, and the librarian asks him to read something to her, and says, “That’s gift enough.”