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Tomás and the Library Lady

Children's Picture Book Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Cover art of children's picture book Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora
Alfred A. Knopf
Tomás and the Library Lady is the story of a Mexican American boy named Tomás during one summer in Iowa and the impact that a kind librarian and a multitude of books had on his life. Pat Mora is the author and Raul Colón the illustrator of this children's picture book.

Tomás and the Library Lady: The Story

Tomás travels with his family of migrant workers from their winter home in Texas to Iowa for a summer of work picking fruits and vegetables. Tomás loves the stories his grandfather Papá Grande tells. His grandfather encourages him to go to the library for more stories, and with excitement and apprehension, Tomás does so.

Before he even gathers the courage to enter the library, the librarian approaches him and invites him in for a drink of water. He spends the day at the library but is transported to other times and places as he reads some of the books. At the end of the day, the librarian checks out two books on her card for Tomás to take with him. Tomás eagerly shares the stories with his family and continues to visit the library whenever he can. At summer's end when he visits the library with a farewell gift for the librarian, she has a gift for Tomás: a book of his own to take with him.

Tomás and the Library Lady: The Artwork

Throughout the book, Raul Colón's illustrations beautifully portray not only the warmth of summer and family love, but also the great leaps of imagination that Tomás enjoys when he is reading the library books. The combination of watercolors and colored pencils in earth tones creates the hazy feel of summer days, which nicely complement the heartwarming story by Pat Mora.

The Life of Tomás Rivera

The story is even more affecting when we realize it is a fictionalized account of one summer in the life of a real person. An afterword reveals that the story is based on the childhood experiences of Tomás Rivera, a migrant worker whose desire to learn led him to a career as a writer and educator. He died in 1984, while serving as the chancellor of the University of California at Riverside.

The Author and the Illustrator

Pat Mora is is a Mexican American author who has written a number of books for adults, teens, and children. Her children's books include Yum! ¡Mmm! ¡Qué Rico! America's Sproutings, Confetti: Poems for Children, and A Birthday Basket for Tia, as well as Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers, which she edited. Her bilingual picture books include The Bakery Lady/La señora de la panaderia and The Desert is My Mother: El desierto es mi madre.

Raul Colón is an award-winning artist. He has illustrated numerous children's books, including Yolanda's Genius, José! Born to Dance, My Mama Had a Dancing Heart, Grandmother's Garden, and A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers.

My Recommendation

I recommend Tomás and the Library Lady as a read-aloud for children 6-10. It is also an excellent book for elementary school age children who are independent readers. (Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. ISBN: 9780679804017)

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