We are once again very happy to join the meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Our participation in “It’s Monday, What are You Reading?” is actually inspired by our blogger-friends Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life.

We are currently at the tail-end of our current bimonthly theme Dusty Bookshelves and Library Loot. As such, my post today is interwoven with Nonfiction Monday which is hosted this week by The Swimmer Writer as we celebrate picture books that highlight the life story narratives of wonderful librarians across the globe.

Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile

Story By: Gloria Houston
Illustrated by: Susan Condie Lamb
Publisher: Harper, an Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2011.
Borrowed from the public library.

This lovely picture book shares the inspiring story of Dorothy Thomas, also known as Miss Dorothy who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The narrative begins with a description of Dorothy as a young child who loved books. She dreamed of being in charge of “a fine brick library” similar to the one they had in her Massachusetts hometown. She pursued this dream and went to Radcliffe College and went off to library school. Soon after graduation, however, she fell in love and her life took on a different path as she and her husband moved to a farm in “a land of high blue mountains, with deep green valleys and cascading streams splashing silver, shaded with oak, maple and fir” – with a description like that, how can you not fall in love with the place. As idyllic as it was, there was something missing in the community: a place where book lovers can gather together – a library! With the help of the people from the community, the townspeople managed to purchase a green bookmobile and Miss Dorothy had the awesome task of bringing the world to children’s doorsteps through her bookmobile. Miss Dorothy would drive around “over high hills and through narrow valleys”, even through soft and slippery embankments and oceans of mud to make sure that children would have a chance to borrow the books from her moving library. I especially liked how the community effort was highlighted in the story, the value given to reading, and how Miss Dorothy seemed to be universally loved by everyone she met. This is even more apparent in the Author’s Note found at the end of the story: “Everyone remembers the tiny woman with great fondness and how she touched their lives, though no one living today seems to know where she is buried. There is no monument to her – no stone with her name on it, that is. Her memorial is the love of books she engendered in the lives of her patrons, young and old.”

Biblioburro: A true story from Colombia

Story and Pictures ByJeanette Winter
Publisher: Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2010.
Borrowed from the public library.

This is a perfect companion to Miss Dorothy’s Bookmobile as Biblioburro tells the story of Luis Soriana who lives in a remote town in Northern Colombia. Luis is described to have filled their small house with books that his wife Diana started asking: “What are we going to do, eat books with our rice?” As a schoolteacher and an avid reader, Luis knows that books feed and enrich the soul and is confident of its power to transform lives. As Luis’ collection of books grew bigger, he decided to share this love for reading with other children and adults who are hungry for the written word. Most of them are isolated in distant hills where access to books is unlikely. Luis managed to create his Biblioburro or The Burro Library through crates filled with books which are then loaded onto his burros aptly named Alfa and Beto. Readers could not help but be in awe of this man’s dedication as he travels over the hills to bring luscious books for children and adults to borrow and take home with them. He also loves to read stories aloud to children, and he seems to do this with a great deal of theatricality and panache. It is evident that he loves what he does. The Author’s Note shared that while Luis started only with a collection of 70 books, it has grown to over 4,800 as donated by generous souls who believe in his cause.

The Librarian of Basra: A true story from Iraq

Story and Pictures By: Jeanette Winter
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc. 2005
Borrowed from the public library.

This is another book by Jeanette Winter and one that has been part of my recommended reading list each time that I would give talks/lectures and touch on picture book biographies. Alia Muhammad Baker, a librarian in Basra, Iraq, is a beacon of light amidst the darkness that war brings to any country and its people.

While soldiers fight their battles outside the city walls, Alia worries about the precious, ancient books, that are housed in the library. She feels that as the war is brought nearer to their home in Basra, it is fairly easy for angry bombs to burn down what it took a lifetime and more to preserve and collect in their library shelves. Armed with nothing but her foresight, wisdom, and concern to secure the city’s heritage and repository of knowledge, she asked a government official to move the books to a safer place, but he refused. And so, Alia took matter in her own hands and gradually brought the books to her own house until there was no more cupboard, bedroom, shelf left for the thousands of books that still need home. She sought the help of her friend Anis Muhammad who owned a restaurant beside the library to transport the books at a time when the city was being bombed. With the help of the community, they managed to save 30,000 books before a fire burned the library to the ground. The Author’s Note indicates that Alia suffered a stroke after the library was destroyed and went through heart surgery. She is said to be healing beautifully and remains determined to rebuild a bigger and better library.

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq

Story and Pictures By: Mark Alan Stamaty
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2004.
Borrowed from the public library.

Alia’s Mission is another award-winning version of the life story of the “superhero” that is Alia Muhammad Baker. This version as can be deduced from the book cover is told in a graphic novel format, with the traditional comic book panels, and is done in monochrome. In contrast to the limited text found in Jeanette Winter’s version, this one tells the story in greater detail and with a lengthier build-up to the narrative. It also introduces the historical context from which Alia’s fear was grounded: the Mongol invasion which resulted in the destruction of the great Baghdad libraries and its treasures. The graphic novel also showed how the community rallied around Alia, helping her when government officials themselves did not heed her concerns. While I did think that the book was too tightly packed (with both text and graphics), I have always felt this kind of sensory overload with comic books/graphic novels, so it could very well be just a matter of preference. The book is a beautiful reminder for us to stand up and fight for ideals and glorious truths we believe in.

Currently reading…

As Iphigene posted her book hunting expedition yesterday, I did not have a chance to share my recent book treasures with you. Here are the two books that have kept me company while I was in Finland last week:

I bought these two books for 2.50 each (2 for 5 dollars) in Bras Basah. These are two of my amazing finds, really. Margaret Atwood’s The Door is a collection of her poetry – gritty, raw, and requires one to pause every now and again before returning once more with renewed, slightly-pained eyes. I enjoyed reading this while I was at the airport, as it does not require a momentum or a continuity in the reading. The same thing can be said with Daniel Handler’s Adverbs as it is a collection of love stories, written in the way that Lemony Snicket would do it – snarky, with the predictable peregrinations, as the words fumblingly traipse in the reader’s sensibilities – circumnavigating to be understood, yet on occasion failing miserably and succeeding in that failure. Vintage Handler.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?

The Librarian of Basra: Flora Stieglitz Straus Award for Nonfiction, Bank Street College of Education, Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies designation, NCSS/CBC, and Middle East Outreach Council honorable mention citation

Alia’s Mission, Saving the Books of Iraq: 2005 Middle East Book Award Winner for Picture Books

Biblioburro: Americas Award Commended Title, Booklinks Lasting Connections, CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children’s Book Council), NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 80-82 (35)

Picture Book Challenge Update: 87-90 of 120

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Update: 27-30 (12)

PoC Reading Challenge Update: 29-31 (25)

The Librarian of Basra, Iraq (Middle East), picture book/graphic novel, nonfiction

Reading the World Challenge Update: 6 of 7

39 comments on “It’s Monday, What are You Reading and Nonfiction Monday: Library-Themed Books

  1. Hi Myra, What a lovely theme! I can’t wait to read Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile. We had a bookmobile visit our school, and I so clearly remember waiting in line to go inside. Great fun! Thanks for sharing these books. Hope you had a good trip to Finland!


    • Hi Jeanne, it was a short trip – 6 days. And I was sick half of the time, so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I would have otherwise. It was fun book hunting though in Helsinki.


  2. Hi again Myra, I forgot to add that your two book finds sound like great ones! Bravo!


  3. I know all the library books Myra, except for Alia’s Mission, which also looks wonderful. I do love that Biblioburro story-what dedication, like all the others, I suppose. Also glad to hear about the Daniel Handler book. He is very clever. Thanks!


    • Hi Linda, Alia’s mission is a more elaborated version of the Librarian of Basra – but as I said, I found it too cramped – visual overload for me with the all-caps text and the images. Other than that though, it’s brilliant.


  4. readerbuzz

    I love your library theme. I’ve read three of your four books; thank you for sharing the new-to-me title.

    Here’s my It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?I hope you will stop by!


  5. I love reading about your Library books. I just added Miss Dorothy to my TBR–lovely!


  6. These all look like great books. I love picture books about books – what a great message to the kids.

    Have a great week!
    ~Kristin @ Always With a Book


  7. I love Margaret Atwood…and haven’t read The Door. Must add it! Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.


  8. I read Miss Dorothy with my son. There’s another book by the author called My Great Aunt Arizona, which is about a beloved teacher.
    Have a great week!


  9. I read The Librarian of Basra as a graduate student while earning my library science degree. Inspirational, isn’t it? Makes some of our challenges seem insignificant. Glad to see you picked it up. It’s a hidden treasure, I think.


    • I agree, it’s very inspiring. I always include it in my book-list whenever I give talk to teachers, definitely a must-have in every school’s bookshelves.


  10. Not too many picture books read in our house these days – our boys are now in high school and college!

    I can’t believe I have never read a Margaret Atwood book! It is a big hole in my reading that I need to repair!

    Enjoy your books this week –


    Great Books for Kids and Teens


    • Hi Sue, you should revisit picture books yet again. I don’t think I’d ever outgrow them, I am in love with the illustrations – pure art. Thanks for dropping by!


  11. The Librarian from Basra is an AWESOME book 🙂 Love it so much!! Great selection for this week!

    The Brunette Librarian’s Blog


  12. They all look great. For the longest time now, I haven’t had the chance to read a picture book again.

    Thanks for dropping by my Monday meme, Myra. (Umm, btw, by any chance, are you a Filipino?)

    Lei @ charmedlass: trifling thoughts under the radar


    • Hi there Lei, I don’t know what I’d do without picture books. 🙂 I’ve grown very attached to them. And yes, to answer your question, I am Filipino. 🙂 Based in Singapore for the past four years.


  13. They all sound so good. I’m adding some to my wishlist.

    My favorite book this week was Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith. Please come see what I’m reading now.


    • Great, I’m glad that you liked them. Strangers on a Train is unfamiliar to me, will definitely check that one out. Thanks for dropping by.


  14. I like all of these, they remind me of Kamishibaiman, from Allan Say.


  15. I have to read “Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile” and “Biblioburro”! 😀


    • Hi Erik, you definitely should find these books. They’re lovely. Will be hunting down the origami yoda books when I visit the library this week.


  16. I love this week’s theme! I’m noting all those books down for my Godsons 🙂
    Congrats on the challenge progress!
    Have a great week!


  17. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

    What an interesting theme! I couldn’t wait for the fortnightly visits of the bookmobile bus to my suburb growing up.
    Thanks for stopping by Book’d out earlier


  18. It’s funny that I’m working on a similar post. I love library themed books. I wrote at least one post earlier in the year: http://thechroniclesofachildrensbookwriter.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/review-my-librarian-is-a-camel/ and I can’t wait to check out “Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile”


  19. Oh, what lovely books! I know of The Librarian of Basra but have not seen Biblioburro or Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile. The bookmobile is dear to my heart. My elementary school in Maine was visited by the state bookmobile. When I discovered Parnassus on Wheels, I knew I wanted to have a bookmobile. Alas, it did not happen.


  20. Pingback: [BHE 164] More Reading Resources About China and the Middle East | Gathering Books

  21. Pingback: [BHE 183] Singapore Library Warehouse Sale 2015 | Gathering Books

  22. behindeveryday

    I happened upon your post today as I was doing an image search for the Librarian of Basra. Your picture of books looked almost exactly like one that I had taken so of course I had to come visit! I have been working on blog posts about Alia Baker, Luis Soriano (Biblioburro), and bookmobiles (after reading My Librarian is a Camel). I also wrote about the packhorse librarians in Kentucky during the Great Depression. I haven’t seen the book Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile. I’ll have to look for it at the library.


  23. Pingback: #GB101020 [Monday Reading] List of Ten Monday Reading Posts – Gathering Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: