It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Since two of our friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have been joining this meme for quite awhile now, we thought of joining this warm and inviting community. We have just recently launched our bimonthly theme (which would run til the middle of November) on Books about Books and the River of Words, hence, my book reads this week celebrate this lovelovelove for books.

The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town

Story By: Mary Casanova
Illustrated by: Ard Hoyt
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 2011.
Borrowed book from public library.

This must be one of my most enjoyable reads this week. One of the reasons why we came up with our bimonthly themes is for us to get more acquainted with unfamiliar book titles, authors, and artists. I must say that my discovery of this book has served just that purpose. The artwork is simply glorious, I was oooh-ing and aah-ing as I take note of the little details, the lifelike expression on the faces of the characters, the dynamic movement in the lines and colors of each page. The narrative is also told in a cowboy twang that I enjoyed reading aloud.

Essentially, the entire town is all abuzz with the coming of this horrible outlaw, Dirk Yeller who went from one establishment to the next asking the most curious question from hapless postmasters and saloon owners. And he asks his questions in his usual swagger and tromp, frightful stance and growling voice. While most everyone was rightfully scared of this outlaw, the young, nosy Sam made sure that he followed [stalked] Dirk Yeller around – surreptitiously, of course. Dirk Yeller wanted to find out how he can take away the scratch fever from his cat, how to keep a coyote from bayin’ at the moon, how to keep jumping beans from jumpin,’ and to keep rattlesnakes from rattlin’! His frustration mounts each time his questions receive no definitive answers. The day [which could have been potentially disastrous] was saved by young Sam, who staunchly stepped into the outlaw’s shadow and declared boldly [only with a slight trepidation] that he knows exactly where Dirk Yeller can find all the answers to his questions. Care to hazard a guess where Sam brought our inquisitive outlaw? The library, of course, with the lovely, unafraid and sweet Miss Jenny who immediately brought Dirk the books he needed. It fills the heart seeing this huge mountain of a man plopped down in the middle of the library, totally absorbed by the books that Sam helps him to read and those which Miss Jenny believes he would enjoy. I have a feeling that this book would be wildly popular with many young boys.

Alfred Zector, Book Collector

Story By: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by: Macky Pamintuan
Publisher: Harper: An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2010
Borrowed from the public library.

Alfred Zector is definitely a character I can resonate with. I am certain that GatheringBooks ladies, Iphigene and Fats would quickly eye the caption, Book Collector. As we are compulsive book buyers and avid library-goers (as evidenced through our Sunday Book Hunting Expeditions), I knew that the book would be a lovely add-in to our current bimonthly theme.

Alfred Zector loves books so much that he started [not collecting, no] hoarding books into his “warm, weathered house.” His cabinets, shelves, even his aquarium – are filled willy-nilly with stacks and stacks of books. He was so single-minded in his pursuit of all the books in his town that he gathered every single one from each and every household and even traded in his shiny red bike for “the very last book owned by a tyke.” This meant, of course, that the townsfolk were left with no reading materials to enjoy: “… life for the people without books had become quite dullish, plain dreary, and wholly humdrum.” Alfred spent the next several years of his life just poring over each and every book that he collected. He thought that this would bring him happiness, but he felt that something was still amiss. It was quite late when he realized that his book-filled adobe “had created his tomb” – trapping him in his own home. How he was able to get around this dilemma, I shall leave for you to discover.

Nonfiction Monday

While this book is technically based on a fictionalized-retelling of the amazing Pack horse Librarians, I thought that it would still prove to be a wonderful addition to this week’s Nonfiction Monday which is hosted this week by Shelf-Employed.

That Book Woman

Author: Heather Henson
Illustrated by: David Small
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008
Borrowed from the public library.

Similar to Dick Yeller, this book also has a distinctive voice all its own. The narrative is told from the perspective of Cal who lives way up high in the Appalachian mountains. From the first page, I can already tell that this book’s got verve and character: “My name is Cal,/ and I am not the first one/ nor the least one neither./ But I am the oldest boy,/ and I can help Pap/ with the plowing/ and I can fetch the sheep/ when they take a-wander. 

Cal does not like reading ‘chicken scratch’ – he didn’t see the use for books when there were so many chores to do. He isn’t like his younger sister, Lark, who has her nose buried in a book at all times. Books that are brought by a lovely lady wearing britches, clippity-clopping up their hill to deliver literary goodies – and she isn’t asking for anything in return. “These books are free,/ as free as air!” Cal regards all these with shifty-eyed suspicion, while he begrudgingly admires the lady’s dedication in coming back every two weeks to swap the old books with new ones.

According to Cal: “That horse of hers/ sure must be brave, I reckon.” After awhile, Cal realizes that there must be something about all this that he might just be missing. These lines spoke a great deal to me, after Cal saw how the pack horse librarian risked life and limb on a cold winter night just to bring the promised books to his sister:

I stand a spell to watch
that Book Woman
And thoughts
they go a-swirling ’round
inside my head,
just like the whirly-flakes
outside our door.
It’s not the horse alone
that’s brave,
I reckon,
but the rider, too.
And all at once
I yearn to know 
what makes that Book Woman
risk catching cold,
or worse.

I love these lines – because it signifies the sound of a reader being born. I have to admit that this book has made me teary-eyed in its powerful subtlety. I could understand Cal’s resistance to books – since I hear much of this as well from quite a number of people who live in impoverished areas in the provinces who think that books come from another planet altogether. His reluctance is not unfounded – yet, he struggled to learn what it is about those chicken-scratches that were so special – and that pivotal moment is oh-so-beautiful. That click when the world begins anew through the written word.

In the Author’s Note, it was noted how the Pack Horse Library Project was founded  in 1930 to bring books to remote areas where there were neither libraries nor schools. This was an initiative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. The Author also went on to note the pack horse librarians’ courage, dedication, and resilience:

While there were a few men among the Pack Horse Librarians, the jobs were mainly filled by women, in a time when most people felt that “a woman’s work was in the home.” The Book Women were remarkable in their resilience and their dedication. They were paid very little, but they were proud of what they did: bringing the outside world to the people of Appalachia, and sometimes making readers out of those who had never seen much use for ‘chicken scratch.’

This book served as a reminder for me to never take our lovely public libraries here in Singapore for granted – and the river of words found in the pages of a book as it changes one’s life.

Currently Reading…

I have not made much progress with A Storm of Swords as I am buried in books that I have borrowed from the library related to our bimonthly theme. I have just finished John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things and there is a darkness in this book that can be touched and felt. I am hoping to review the book in a few weeks’ time. This week, I hope to finish Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

 As I have written down in my Facebook page, this is my first Bradbury. Read it on a Sunday afternoon. Tastes mighty fine with a burning sensation in my mouth (charcoal-grilled yumminess with the occasional ashes). Have to confess: Love at first read. 🙂

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

The Day Dirk Yeller Came to Town: Florida Reading Association Children’s Book Award Master List, Kansas Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award Master List

That Book Woman: Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award (NY), Beehive Award Master List (UT), CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book

AWB Reading Challenge Update: 97-98 (35)

Picture Book Challenge Update: 104-106 of 120

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

18 comments on “Monday Reading: Books about Books

  1. Our favorite book about loving books is The Dump Man’s Treasures. It makes me cry almost every time.


  2. wow – i’ve learned a lot with your post!
    didn’t know about the nonfiction meme – checking it out next…
    and your bimonthly theme – is it a meme?

    enjoy !


  3. Don’t know the first two books, Myra. They really look like fun, and are especially great because they are about libraries. You have a few great ones here too, like That Book Woman and Fahrenheit 451, so powerful! Thanks.


  4. I have the Book of Lost Things on my wishlist.

    My favorite book this week was Dr. Seuss: The Cat Behind the Hat by Caroline W. Smith. Please come see what I’m reading now.


  5. Ooo… Fahrenheit 451 is one of my all time favorites! Kathy (@thebrainlair) and I did it as a buddy read shortly after he died this year.


  6. Thanks for joining in Nonfiction Monday today, Myra. I’m not sure I’d be a librarian if my commute was on a packhorse in the snow! My minivan suits me just fine.


  7. I just bought Book of Lost Things a week ago for my kindle so I’m looking forward to reading your review.
    That Book Woman looks interesting. I’ll have to see if our library has it.


  8. These all look tempting…love the illustrations in the picture books.

    Fahrenheit 451 was an awesome read!



  9. I love Farenheit 451! I always wondered what book I would try to remember.

    Alfred Zecter and That Book Woman look really good! I will have to check them out, they look like they would fit in nicely in our school library where I work.

    Have a great week.


  10. All these glorious picture books about the joys of reading – happiness is a contented reader, right?!


  11. Gosh, I have never read any Bradbury and I feel so bad to admit that! I must remedy it soon. I do love some of the other books you mention, though. Dirk Yeller was lots of fun and I absolutely adore That Book Woman. I love the passages you chose to quote too! The Book of Lost Things is on my TBR shelf. It seems so intruging! Can’t wait to read your review 🙂


  12. I love the idea of reading ‘books about books’. The Book Woman looks beautiful and touching, I am adding it to my list. Thanks for sharing!


  13. I am finally getting around to some of the Monday posts! It has been pretty crazy with the Banned Book Week festivities and hosting all the giveaways… fun but crazy. I wanted to tell you happy reading this week 🙂 Oh and that Book Woman looks really good!


  14. Pingback: Reading in September: A Round Up and AWB Reading Challenge «

  15. Ooh, That Book Woman sounds wonderful. The others are intriguing, too. I must read Farenheit 451. Thank you for reminding me. So many books slip to the bottom of the list with no sound at all!


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