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That Book Woman

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,400 Ratings  ·  365 Reviews
Cal is not the readin' type. Living way high up in the Appalachian Mountains, he'd rather help Pap plow or go out after wandering sheep than try some book learning. Nope. Cal does not want to sit stoney-still reading some chicken scratch. But that Book Woman keeps coming just the same. She comes in the rain. She comes in the snow. She comes right up the side of the mountai ...more
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published October 7th 2008 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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8th out of 114 books — 141 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,472)
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Jan 19, 2009 Toby rated it really liked it
I picked up That Book Woman, by Heather Henson, illustrated by David Small, reluctantly, thinking that it was undoubtedly a useful book for the beginning of the school year, when we librarians always choose books about books, but I was not expecting a Caldecott-quality picture book.
I decided to look at the book in the way that Kay Vandergrift suggested in her article on Picture Book Analysis, that is, to ‘read’ the pictures first without the text and then go back and see how well the illustrat
May 05, 2010 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Loved it!!! The beauty of this touching story just crept upon me and I was surprised by how touched I was in the end--perfectly matching the way a love of reading gently but assuredly enveloped the boy in this story! I love the way the story is told, using Appalachian-style phrasing without sounding cliche, and the boy is just such a vivid character from his initial lack of interest (even dislike) of the chicken scratchings in books (which his sister loves) to his growing curiosity as he begins ...more
Apr 09, 2016 Manybooks rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: children who like to read about books and libraries, children who like history
Cal, who lives with his family on a remote farm in the Appalachian Mountains, has scant interest in books and reading (and considers his little sister Lark's voracious reading appetite a rather negative trait). But when Cal realises that the so-called Book Woman who dispatches library books to his family's remote home (on horseback) will deliver her books even in the dead of winter, he yearns to know what makes "that Book Woman risk catching cold, or worse."

This was and remains an absolute delig
Lisa Vegan
I loved this book, and I was as excited as Lark (the girl/sister in the story who likes to read from the start) when “that book woman” comes every two weeks with books to swap from the last one(s) delivered.

The narrator is a boy (Cal) who takes time to be convinced that books can bring pleasure. The story tells of the Pack Horse Librarians, mostly women, who made their rounds every two weeks, bringing books to residents of the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. The project was founded in the 19
Sep 12, 2010 Ann rated it really liked it
While this book isn't an account of any specific real-life person, it does explain the wonderful Appalachian Mountain women who would travel to remote places to get books into the hands of children and those unable to come to town often enough.

Every two weeks "That Book Woman" would show up at the doorstep of Cal and his family, to give a book to Cal's sister (for free, and to swap with a new book in two weeks).

The heart of the story sits with Cal, who doesn't understand reading and thinks it's
Clare Cannon
Mar 13, 2012 Clare Cannon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 08-12yrs, 04-8yrs

An understated but beautiful book about discovering the extraordinary value of reading, thanks to the dedication of "that book woman" who brings books to people rain, hail or shine. When she arrives with books in the middle of a snow storm, one young boy wonders what could possibly be so special about books that this woman will brave any weather to bring them. So he asks his sister to read to him... and then he reads for himself... and then he's hooked.

I think my life-long aspiration is to be "
Aug 24, 2010 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
The trouble with this book is: Apparently I can't read it aloud without crying. Such a beautiful book! A simply told story about a young boy in the Appalachian mountains, whose life is changed by That Book Woman, a Depression-era traveling librarian. Small's art is gorgeous as always, and makes the book even more tender and poignant.
Mar 10, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it
Great book. At first, Cal can't understand why his sister Lark is such a bookworm. He thinks writing looks like chicken scratch and he can't understand why the woman comes on her horse and leaves a book for them... without making them pay. But he is even more surprised when she returns. The illustrations show her coming in all kinds of weather, throughout each of the seasons. Slowly, Cal learns to love reading and to admire this brave Book Woman who climbs the Appalachian Mountains through snow ...more
Dec 29, 2008 Erin rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s-books
This is a soft, gentle story about a boy who doesn't understand his sister's love of reading until the "book woman" start delivering books every 2 weeks. After watching her go out in horrible weather and risking life to deliver the books he starts to realize that there must be something pretty amazing in books to make someone do what the book woman does. He asks his sister to teach him to read and offers the book woman the ultimate gift - he reads aloud to her. With historical notes in the back.
Michelle Pegram
Feb 27, 2014 Michelle Pegram rated it really liked it
I am ashamed to say that I had never heard of pack horse librarians before reading this book. I was fascinated by the idea from the start.

This book is told in the voice of Cal, one of many children and the oldest boy, who lives in the Appalachian region with his family. Cal has no time for books, and turns up his nose at his sister, Lark, who is always reading. One day a woman arrives with a bag full of books and Lark is overwhelmed from wanting one. Her father offers many items for trade, but
Patricia  Leon
Jun 02, 2012 Patricia Leon rated it it was amazing
“Not me. I was not born to sit so stoney-still a-staring at some chicken scratch.”
This is a quote from the historical-fiction book I read titled, “That Book Woman.” It is a tale that is inspired by true events and told from the perspective of a young man named Cal—southern accent included. Cal lives way up high in the Kentucky Appalachian Mountains with his family, in a rural area, where the majority of people live in poverty. He is hard-working, and always ready to help his father with chores t
Erin Prosser
Jan 23, 2013 Erin Prosser rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Randie D. Camp, M.S.
Mar 29, 2012 Randie D. Camp, M.S. rated it really liked it
I absolutely love a story written in verse, but a story about the dedication and bravery of a “book woman” written in verse is even better :-).

Cal and his family live way up in the mountains, isolated from others, schools, and books. A “book woman” comes on horseback in all sorts of weather to exchange books with Cal’s family. At first Cal is resistant to the books and only sees the strength of the horse that travels through the rough mountains and cold winter…eventually he sees that the rider
Samantha Morris
Audience: Primary
Genre: Picture Book/Historical Fiction
Pre-Reading Strategy: Word Wall

Word Wall Strategy:
This strategy works for this picture book, because it is a more challenging and less memorable story, therefore this strategy makes the book more meaningful to the students. After the children complete the activity they will be able to read the book and make connections to the word wall whenever they come across the one of the challenge walls.

Pre-Reading Strategy Script:
"Hello students, toda
Dec 17, 2010 Dolly rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
This is a wonderful tale, told in a southern dialect, of a young boy who learns to love reading due to the efforts of his sister and one of the "book women," who were librarians who traveled to remote locations bringing books to the masses. The story begs to be read aloud with an accent and the narrative is pure poetry. The story is engaging and I recommend it for young elementary school children, followed by a discussion of what life was like in rural Kentucky in the 1930s. The illustrations ar ...more
Jun 21, 2010 Agnes rated it really liked it
First person storytelling about a faceless "Book Woman" representing The Pack Horse Librarians of the 1930s who brought books to the people of Appalachia. A little history lesson with a heroic faceless "book woman" who makes a new kind of western hero, riding the hills of Kentucky braving the elements, with young readers in mind. An interesting take on the figure of a librarian, especially in the world of the western, as she rides out into the sunset. Also a great lesson in literacy and reaching ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 19, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
A beautiful and inspiring story made just a little awkward for the Kentucky accent and dialect. The reader never gets a good look at the book woman, perhaps reflecting Cal's initial attitude toward her. Expressive illustrations by David Small.
Amy Carr
Jul 01, 2009 Amy Carr rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-book
This was an absolutely beautiful book based on a real historical event. During the late 1800's and early 1900's, women, riding on horseback, would take saddlebags of books up into the Appalachian Mountains to families living in remote areas to try and encourage reading and literacy. They were known as "book women". I had never heard their story but this did an amazing job of introducing who they were and the sacrifices they made to ensure a better life for these people who struggled so hard. I l ...more
Brittany Trinh
Apr 24, 2016 Brittany Trinh rated it really liked it
Shelves: project-1
Henson, H., & Small, D. (2008). That Book Woman. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Review: Cal is the oldest son out of his family. He does a lot of chores around the house and outside. His sister, Lark, is a different case. She "keeps her nose a-twist the pages of a book." Cal is not too happy about doing all this hard work. He watches as the book lady appears from time to time. She brings the family books to read. She does not ask for any payment, but to swap the old books for
Maggie Cheesman
Feb 02, 2016 Maggie Cheesman rated it it was ok
Shelves: ky-author-book
When reading the book That Book Woman, the illustrations caught my eyes for many different reasons. I felt like the illustrations helped tell the story a little better than the words. In my opinion, there were too many words on a page for a child's picture book, so I think that the illustrations helped tell the story a little more than the words did. Also, the illustrations were very detailed and this made them more fun to look at. I think the cover of the book caught my attention, especially kn ...more
Emily Egbers
Jan 29, 2016 Emily Egbers rated it really liked it
Shelves: ky-authors
This book was not about a specific individual person from Kentucky, but it did explain the Appalachian Mountain women who would travel by horse to get books into hands of children in places where there were few schools and no libraries. In the 1930s, these women were called Pack Horse Librarians and were apart of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Work Progress Administration. Henson does a terrific job of capturing the true dialect of the Appalachian people through free verse. In the book, the book woman ...more
Lindsey Hooker
Dec 03, 2015 Lindsey Hooker rated it liked it
Shelves: kentucky-author
This book was definitely a new type of read for me. It's about a young boy named Cal, who's family lives in Appalachia. The family gets by with what they do best, carrying on their daily chores and manual work. When a lady starts visiting their house every couple weeks or so, Cal gets angry with her. He doesn't like that she's bringing books for him "to read." He likes what he already knows how to do and he doesn't want to change any of that, especially for That Book Woman. But when Cal sees all ...more
Lonnie Martin Jr.
Apr 23, 2015 Lonnie Martin Jr. rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this book. As someone who always wasn't interested in reading in the past I can relate to Cal. However much like him sometimes it just take a little bit of time to come around. Ironically this was not the case for me on this book. It provides a very good almost inspiring message. Cal who you find out is hard to impress (not that she is trying) eventually is captivated by the effort and persistence that book woman shows as she climbs the mountain side to bring Cal and his family books. ...more
Mar 05, 2015 Annie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ky-author
That Book Woman is a wonderful picture book about a woman who travels the Appalachian mountains with books. She visits families that are far away from towns, so that they can learn to read. The main character does not like to read, but through the course of the story he realizes that the book woman is very brave. She comes to his family no matter the weather and brings books for his sister to read. By the end of the story, he decides to try books himself, since the book woman would risk her life ...more
Hannah Mitchell
Cal doesn't like to read. His sister, Lark, loves to read, but Cal would much rather help his father in the fields. The "book woman" shows up with a sack of books to give to them. She returns every 2 weeks to swap them out. He doesn't understand why she would do this just to bring them books. When he realizes how much she is risking to bring the books to them, he decides to give them a chance. Cal asks his sister to help him read. The FDR administration's Works Progress Administration funded the ...more
Emily Horn
Jan 29, 2015 Emily Horn rated it really liked it
The book That Book Woman was very different that I expected. I anticipated a book about someone reading but instead was greeted by a courageous woman who traveled miles to bring books to poor children up in the Appalachian Mountains. The oldest son of the family, Cal, tells the story of the "book woman" coming to their home despite any type of weather to bring "treasures" as his sister saw it. But it wasn't until the book woman brought books is a terrible snow that Cal realized the woman was bra ...more
Sep 12, 2014 J.S. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vine, childrens
Cal lives with his family high up in the Appalachian Mountains. He's old enough to help out and kind of thinks his sister Lark's habit of reading is a waste of time. So he's surprised when a woman stranger starts showing up and lending books. He thinks her horse must be pretty brave when she continues to come regardless of the weather. But when she shows up in the bitterest cold, stopping only to slip books through the doorway to keep the family from getting cold, Cal decides she's pretty brave, ...more
Alyssa Roberts
Sep 10, 2014 Alyssa Roberts rated it really liked it
The children's picture book, That Book Woman, written by Kentucky author Heather Henson and illustrated by David Small, is a heartwarming story about a southern kid named Cal, who, at the start of the story, claims he "was not born to sit so stoney-still a-staring at some chicken scratch". Cal seems like he's just a little intimidated by the fact that his By the end of the story, Cal finally can see that reading books can be fun and that books are more than just "chicken scratch"! I love the ide ...more
Andrea Boyd
Jul 17, 2014 Andrea Boyd rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
That Book Woman was inspired by the work of the Pack Horse Librarians who would travel through the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. They were founded in the 1930s as part of President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration to bring books to those who may not have had access to them otherwise. I had never heard of this program so to learn about it through this book was a big surprise. This story is about a boy who has no use for books. He does not know how to read but his sister does and loo ...more
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Share This Book

“Come here, Cal," she says real gentle, and I come close.
Read me something."
I open up the book I'm holding, a new one brought this very day. Just chicken scratch, I used to figure, but now I see what's truly there, and I read a little out.
That's gift enough," she says, and smiles so big, it makes me smile right back.”
More quotes…