Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile, written by Gloria Houston and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb, is based on the true story of one of the author's childhood heroes. Dorothy Thomas, aka Miss Dorothy, drove a little green van around a rural area in North Carolina, bringing books to children and adults in an area with no standalone libraries. Miss Dorothy, as depicted in the book, knew as a young girl that when she grew up she would be in charge of "a fine brick library just like the one where she checked out books in the center of the town square in her hometown in Massachusetts." She trained as a librarian, but when she married:
"Her new husband wanted to move to a farm
in a land she had only seen on maps
but had read about in books,
a land of high blue mountains,
with deep green valleys
and cascading streams
shaded with oak, maple, and fir,
at the base of high Mount Mitchell
in the Blue Ridge Mountains
of North Carolina."
Miss Dorothy spent hears longing for that "fine brick library", which she never did get. But she traveled around in a little green van, bringing the magic of books to people on farms, in churches, and even parking lots. She even one day gave a book of poems to a man who helped tow her bookmobile out of a river. A few of the real people she touched are mentioned in the book.
Lamb's illustrations match the tone of the book. Nearly every scene takes place outside, with natural beauty brimming forth. In the page quoted above, we see Miss Dorothy and her husband driving into a mountain sunset, a lovely pinkish glow suffusing the entire scene. There's an old-fashioned feel to the pictures. The women and young girls wear skirts, the cars and vans are old-fashioned. While readers won't know exactly when this story took place, the pictures make it clear that this takes place in the past. Dorothy herself has lively red hair and glasses, and a jaunty, friendly look. Author and illustrator are clearly in sync.
Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile is an homage to librarians, and to one particular woman who spent her life striving to connect people with books, despite difficult circumstances. Miss Dorothy was a librarian by avocation more so than by vocation, and the fact that she inspired the author to write this book, many years after Miss Dorothy's death, speaks volumes.
This is not a picture book that young children are going to find gripping. I could almost see it more as a gift book for librarians and other adult book-lovers, who will be able to identify with Dorothy's struggles. But I think that kids who are mature enough to appreciate librarians, and to see the little green bookmobile as charming, will enjoy Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile, too. I would have loved it at around age 9 or 10, as an incipient bookworm and fan of my elementary school librarian.
Recommended for librarians and bookworms of all ages, six or so and up.
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Mary McKenna Siddals
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).