Thursday, December 8, 2011

Module 10: Tomás and the Library Lady


Tomás and his family are migrant workers who travel from Texas in the winter to Iowa in the summer.  When Tomás discovers the town library in Texas, he finds not only a place to get a cool drink of water, but a place full of books that hold dinosaurs, tigers, and the friendship of the librarian there.  All summer Tomás reads books in the library and reads them to his family members too.  Eventually, the family must leave Texas to head back to Iowa, but this time, Tomás leaves a place with books and a love for the library in his heart.  This book for young readers is the true story of Tomás Rivera, who went on to become the chancellor of theUniversity of California at Riverside.  "The campus library now bears the name of the boy who was encouraged to read by a librarian in Iowa" (Mora, 1997).


Tomás and the Library Lady is a fast read (as are most picture books) and it's easy to like the protagonist, Tomás, and his desire to not only devour the books in the library but to share them with the people he loves, too.  Young readers will enjoy seeing the dinosaurs, tigers and Indians that Tomás imagines as he reads the books in this delightful book that also tells the story of a young boy's life being changed by the library.


"Gr 1-4-- Mora's slice-of-life account tells of the son of migrant workers (inspired by the boyhood of Hispanic author and educator Tomás Rivera) whose horizons and linguistic skills are thrown wide open by the guidance of a friendly librarian. The hardships of migrant life and the dreams that books and learning provide are carefully delineated in both text and muted illustrations" (School Library Journal, 2005).

"Gr 2-4--Tomas Rivera, who at his death in 1984 was the Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside, grew up in a migrant family. Here, Mora tells the fictionalized story of one summer in his childhood during which his love of books and reading is fostered by a librarian in Iowa, who takes him under her wing while his family works the harvest. She introduces him to stories about dinosaurs, horses, and American Indians and allows him to take books home where he shares them with his parents, grandfather, and brother. When it is time for the family to return to Texas, she gives Tomas the greatest gift of all--a book of his own to keep. Colon's earthy sun-warmed colors, textured with swirling lines, add life to this biographical fragment and help portray Tomas's reading adventures in appealing ways. Stack this up with Sarah Stewart and David Small's The Library (Farrar, 1995) and Suzanne Williams and Steven Kellogg's Library Lil (Dial, 1997) to demonstrate the impact librarians can have on youngsters" (School Library Journal, 1997).


There has since been a stage adaptation of this book. If possible, one could arrange a small group to perform the play if one's library has a community room large enough for such activities. "One library system, one theater company, and six grants later, [the stage production of Tomás and the Library Lady] is a reality. Through an MCLD partnership with Childsplay, a nationally known children's theater based in Tempe, a children's story has become a play performed in most Maricopa County elementary schools and library branches" (Pierce, 2006, p. 76). A book talk could accompany the presentation.


Colon, R. (2001). Tomas and the library lady, [online image] Retrieved December 7, 2011 from

Colon, R. (1997) Tomás y la señora de la biblioteca, [online image] Retrieved December 7, 2011 from

Colon, R. (1997) Tomás and the Library Lady,[online image] Retrieved December 7, 2011 from

Elleman, B. (1997). Preschool to grade 4: Fiction. School Library Journal, 43(10), 105.

Pierce, J. (2006). Grassroots Report. American Libraries, 37(4), 76.

Renner, C. (2005). Tomás and the Library Lady. School Library Journal, 51(7), 44.

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