Title: That Book Woman
Author: Heather Henson
Illustrator: David Small
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Concepts: human resources, services, child schooling, poverty
Review: Cal lives with his large extended family in a small house tucked away all by itself, up high in Kentucky's Appalachian Mountains. He takes pride in helping Pap with the plowing and herding, all the while having little tolerance for seeing his sister sit around much of the time reading books. How much good can it do to stare at all that chicken scratch anyway?
One day a woman on horseback braves the difficult trail to deliver books to their isolated house. Cal is baffled not only by her willingness to ride all day to make this delivery, but also by her refusal to take payment and her determination to repeat the visits no matter what the weather. It takes a particularly bad winter for Cal's pride to wear down and realize that the chicken scratch in those books she brings must have some value after all.
Motivated by the actual work of Kentucky's Pack Horse Librarians, this unique book touches on some of the difficulties faced by the rural poor and the power of volunteer efforts to make a difference. Stunning artwork in ink, watercolor, and pastel chalk by noted illustrator David Small adds a deep emotional element to help make That Book Woman as rich in artistic merit as it is in substantive content.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children