Author: Heather Henson
Illustrator: David Small
Recommended ages: 4-8
Review by: Susie Sparks, Calgary Reads Volunteer Tutor
As a new ELL tutor with Calgary Reads, I’m delighted to be “discovering” new words with the children who are new English-language learners. The children have shown me how exciting it is to have new doors to open, and how none of us should ever lose the amazing childhood curiosity that can lead us to places we never imagined going.
When I discovered That Book Woman I knew it would be perfect for my ELL children!
It’s the story of a ‘library lady’ in the deep hill country of rural Kentucky who brings her books by horseback up the side of the mountain to the remote cabins where the families that live there have many children but few books. The children have no way to get to school, but one child from one family has learned to read and, much to the annoyance of her older brother Cal, that’s all she ever wants to do.
“My sister Lark would keep her nose a-twixt the pages of a book daybreak to dusky dark if Mama would allow. The readenest child you ever did see.” And when the book lady comes, “… she lays her saddlebag upon the table and what spills out might just as well be gold the way Lark’s eyes shine penny-bright, the way her hands they won’t keep still, reaching out to grab a treasure.”
Of course curiosity finally gets the best of Cal, and his grudging admiration of the book lady who comes every two weeks despite the foul winter weather finally causes him to ask Lark to teach him to read. When the book lady comes again, Cal shyly tells her that he wants to give her a gift, too. “I open up the book I’m holding, a new one brought this very day. Just chicken scratch I used to figure, but now I see what’s truly there, and I read a little out.”
Great questions to ask kids about this book:
- What is a “critter”?
- Have you ever heard anyone talk the way Cal does?
- What do you think Cal means when he says he’s been “a-staring at some chicken scratch”?
- The book lady is wearing “britches”. What does that mean?
- Have you ever been to a library outside of school? What did you find there?
- Do you think Cal is afraid of anything?
- What does Cal mean when he says the book lady won’t take “a poke of berries nor a mess of greens, nor any thing”?
- Why do you think Cal is always frowning at Lark?
- Does Cal change his mind about the book lady? Why?
- Why do you think Lark doesn’t laugh at Cal or tease him when he asks her to teach him to read?
Join the online book club discussion!
- Teachers, tutors and parents, what other conversations have you had about this book?
- What comments have children made?