Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

Mora, Pat. 1997. Tomas and the Library Lady. Ill. by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. ISBN 0679804013


Tomas and the Library Lady is about Tomas, the son of migrant workers, and his discovery of the library.  When his family settles in Iowa to work for the summer, Tomas and his brother ask Papa Grande for stories.  Papa Grande tells Tomas about the library because Tomas already knows all of his stories.  He meets the librarian on the steps, and they develop a routine.  He comes inside and gets a drink of water while she pulls books for him.  All summer he goes into the library and reads new stories.  He also teaches the library lady words in Spanish.  In the end, his family returns to Texas, but the librarian gives Tomas a book as a parting gift.

As far as plot goes, it is straightforward and one that many children can relate to.  Tomas knows all of his grandfather’s stories and so his grandfather points him towards the library. Tomas views the library as the place where stories are kept.  However, Tomas becomes the family storyteller.  It isn’t that the new stories are better than the old, it is that they’re new.  Enrique most likely knew all of Papa Grande’s stories as well, but Tomas was the one who wanted more.

The illustrations are beautiful.  While the colors are all earth tones, each page looks like cloth.  There is texture and weave to the images that soften the lines and give the whole story a dreamlike quality.  The biggest problem I can see with the color scheme, is that from a distance, all of the colors start to blend together and the texture is lost.  The whole image isn’t lost, but the details are.

An interesting facet of the book was that some words and phrases were in Spanish.  Tomas was teaching the librarian Spanish as well.  This seems to make it a good book for children learning either language.  It provides reference points in the story.

Tomas and the Library Lady can be used as a lesson in friendship, but it would likely work well in a school setting before taking a class to the library for the first time.  Tomas is steered towards the books he likes by the librarian because he doesn’t know his way around the library on his own.  In the same way, kindergarteners and first graders will likely be lost in the library the first few times.  The librarian can help them find the stories they’re looking for.



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