If you've never heard the story of Kentucky's Pack Horse Librarians, pick up the beautiful picture book, That Book Woman by Heather Henson, with illustrations by David Small.
Henson's poetic storytelling style is evident from the first page when a young Appalachian boy, Cal, describes his home. "My folks and me - we live way up as up can get. So high we hardly sight a soul - 'cept hawks a-winging in the sky..." And, Small, who won the Caldecott Medal for illustrations for So You Want to Be President?, captures the isolation in the picture of a lone house perched high above the soaring hawks.
Cal works hard, and resents his sister who sits and reads, and wants to teach the other kids in the family to read. He has no interest. And, it's even worse when a Book Woman arrives on horseback, filling his sister's life with books that can be exchanged every two weeks. When "that Book Woman" returns regularly, in all sorts of weather, Cal begrudgingly admires her horse for making it. It takes a snowstorm to force him into admiration of the librarian, and entice him into trying to learn to read.
With a likable young boy, a poetic story, and gorgeous illustrations, this book is for a much wider audience than four to eight year old readers. Those of us who are librarians will be proud of those who came before us. And, book lovers will fall in love with That Book Woman.
That Book Woman by Heather Henson. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, ©2008. ISBN 9781416908128 (hardcover), 40p.