emergingreaders

A Tribute

Posted on: 16 August 2011

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile, by Gloria Houston. Illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb.

Each of my daughters has a middle name which is one of her grandmother’s names. For sometime I have been searching for other examples of those with the name Dorothy, to assure Elizabeth that she was NOT named after the Wiggles’ dinosaur. Rather, she inherited that name as a tribute to my much loved and missed mom, whom she never met but I have tried to convey through photos and stories. This book is a tribute to another lovely Dorothy, a librarian who touched many people’s lives via bookmobile.

If you grew up in a small or mid-sized Canadian or US city you may be familiar with the bookmobile either as an extension of the local library or the sole source of books. For me, this book also highlights the spunkiness of many women in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s – who were feminists. They had a vision of what they hoped for in their lives, but for many this vision ended up being sacrificed to accommodate marriage (and children). That was true for my mom who never had the opportunity to study or continue to build her career once she became a mother. This does not mean that women like my mom didn’t make significant contributions (I recall my mom’s involvement with all ages as a volunteer). But those contributions, like those of many women at that time, were unrecognized, at least until we were older and she returned to the paid labour force. Miss Dorothy’s vision luckily found a receptive audience in North Carolina, during a period in time when books were not so readily available. While she yearns to oversee a collection “in a fine brick library in the centre of town” she is committed to those who like to read. The importance of books is highlighted when the bookmobile becomes stuck due to poor weather. “Finally a farmer on his tractor came down the road and saw the bookmobile. ‘Miss Dorothy,’ he called. ‘Do you have a book of poems I could borrow?'” Books and librarian are rescued, but rescued as well was the farmer who needed poetry in his life.

It is beautiful how Miss Dorothy gracefully ages through the pages. The story ends with letters from those who benefited from her commitment to the notion that books are for borrowing. The final page provides an author’s note, a tribute to this much-loved woman in the form (a book) that meant the most to her.

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