The Horseback Librarians by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Alexandra Badiu

The Horseback Librarians by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Alexandra Badiu. Albert Whitman, 2023. 9780807562918

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Picture book, uncorrected proof (publication date April 2023)

What did you like about the book? During the Great Depression, the U.S. government created a program called The Pack Horse Library Project, aimed at delivering books to remote regions in the Appalachian Mountains. Yolen’s fictional character, Anna Mary (rhymes with library) represents a combination of over two hundred people who rode horses, mules, and even walked on foot to deliver books throughout Kentucky. As Anna Mary visits each community, she is greeted with warmth and hospitality as she spreads cheer with titles for young and old. Anna’s horse Sand is met with equal compassion and care, put up in barns, and given hay and a clean place to rest. As Anna makes her journey home, she stays one last night, reading a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems under the stars. Her “love of books, of words, of stories, and of poems that tell the deep truth are the reason she is a librarian”. The light and cheerful illustrations bring the reader back to simpler times and carry us through the journey alongside Anna Mary.

Anything you did not like about the book?  No, although it would have been helpful to include additional information beyond the author’s note, for readers who would like to research the Pack Horse Library Project.

To whom would you recommend this book? Elementary students who enjoy history or books that feature strong female characters will delight in learning about the determination of the librarians.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Picture books

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, if the topic is underrepresented in your collection, and as it’s by Jane Yolen, it seems worthy of space on the shelf of any library.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Linda Broderick, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: March 14, 2023

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