Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bringing Books To Readers

Happy World Read Aloud Day!  

Earlier this year (February 13, 2014) John Schumacher had a guest on his blog (Watch. Connect. Read.)Pam Allyn for LitWorld.  The post talked about The World Read Aloud Blogging Challenge.  The questions in this challenge could be asked and answered anytime of the year.  Each World Read Aloud Day raises awareness of the importance of reading aloud for readers and listeners.

It also shifts the focus to those children, people, who have no books, no access to libraries or other forms of the written word.  Published in 2010 Jeanette Winter's book, Biblioburro:  A True Story from Colombia (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division) pays tribute to the life of one man making a difference, bringing books to children who would otherwise have none.  His travels are creating transformations one reader at a time.

Deep in the jungles of Colombia, there lives a man who loves books.  His name is Luis.

Luis loves books so much his house is filled with them.  His wife, Diana, wonders about their growing numbers.  Her worries give Luis an idea. 

Two burros, Alfa and Beto, become new members of the Soriano household.  They will carry Luis and crates filled with books into the mountains to children.  Each week they travel to a different remote village.

These trips are not without their trials and tribulations.  The burros can determine the arrival time when one or the other refuse to move.  Once a bandit stopped Luis, taking a book but warning him money would be necessary next time.

Arriving in a village Luis reads to the gathered children; sometimes handing out masks for them to wear.  Books are eagerly and happily chosen before he leaves.  On his return home in the evening Luis knows the children he visited on this day will be doing the same thing he is before bedtime...reading.

What Jeanette Winter does in this book, making it more of an intimate experience for the reader, is to focus on a specific village Luis visits.  After introducing readers in the narrative to Luis, his wife, Diana, and the two burros, Alfa and Beto, she centers the story on a trip to the village of El Tormento.  Her descriptions of the time of day and surrounding hillside in the jungle help readers to feel as though they are on the burro with Luis.  The insertion of dialogue increases our personal attachment to the story.  Here is a sample passage.

Deep in the hills, the path is lonelier than ever.
Bird songs are the only sounds they hear.
Then, from deep in the shadows,
a bandit leaps out!
"Please let us pass," Luis says.
"The children are waiting." ...

Using acrylic paint with pen and ink Jeanette Winter depicts a true sense of place and people.  The matching jacket and case reflect the subject of the book filling the illustrations with flora and fauna found in the Colombian jungles.  On the back surrounded by white space Luis sits on a rock reading as butterflies land on his hat and shirt.  The opening endpapers are a bright turquoise; the closing endpapers a rich lavender. 

All of the pictures in this book extend from edge to edge across both pages using the same radiant color palette as seen on the cover.  Butterflies are featured on every visual (as are many other creatures) including the final evening spread.  Given the symbolism attached to them, this is particularly pleasing.  

One of my favorite illustrations is wordless.  Luis is seated on a rock reading to a group of children wearing pig masks.  The burros are watching as vivid orange butterflies land and fly about the people.  In small light turquoise ovals like speech bubbles we see the pictures from the story Luis is reading.  

Biblioburro:  A True Story From Colombia written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter is one of those very special books illuminating the life of single individual who choose to share his passion with others.  Who knows how the lives of those children he brings books to will be changed?  Jeanette Winter provides more information on a single page author's note at the book's end.  Here is a link to the publisher's website offering viewers a glimpse of more pages from the book as well as a video.

Another wonderful book which recounts the travels of Luis Soriano Bohorquez is Waiting for the Biblioburro (Tricycle Press, an imprint Random House Children's Book, 2011) by Monica Brown with illustrations by John Parra.  In this fictional story of a little girl named Anna, we learn her teacher has left their village.  No one is there to teach the children any longer, to give them new reading materials.  Ana makes up stories to fill her longing for books, entertaining her younger brother.  

One day, she hears the sound of burros clip-clopping into her village.  It's a man carrying a sign reading Biblioburro.  He explains his moving library, reads stories to the children and lets them choose books to borrow.  

At the suggestion of Luis, while waiting for his return and wondering when it will be, Ana writes a book about the two burros.  Guess what is placed in the book carriers when the Biblioburro leaves after his next visit?  A reader.  A writer.  Children are being changed.

In her author's note Monica Brown reveals how she came to write this book after getting to know Luis Soriano Bohorquez.  Beneath her author's note is a glossary of the Spanish words she wove into her narrative adding an authenticity to the telling.  The way she has written this book is to show the beautiful circle made by Luis's generosity.  One reader is reaching out to many; they in turn are reaching others.

There is a folk art quality to the illustrations created with acrylics on board by John Parra.  Pictures vary, extending edge to edge, across one or two pages.  His colors are more centered in earth tones.  His images of how reading fuels the imagination are simply beautiful.  I am especially fond of the two pages showing the days of the week in Spanish, time swirling about, as Ana waits for the return of the Biblioburro.  The inclusion of her parents, flora, fauna and elements from her daily life is excellently designed.

Please follow the links embedded in the author and illustrator names above to their websites.  There is much more about their work there.  

For further reading and information about Luis Soriano Bohorquez please visit this link to Teaching kids to read from the back of a burro at CNN and this link to a PBS documentary point of view page, Luis Soriano:  News Updates from the Back of a Burro.  Random House has many pages devoted to this book at their website linked here.  Included are a teacher's guide, an excerpt, a look inside and related links.  

I thank Alyson Beecher for hosting this challenge each week at Kid Lit Frenzy.  My reading of nonfiction picture books is increasing by leaps and bounds.


  1. Margie - I love how you tied in your nonfiction choices with WRAD. Hope you had a great day reading aloud. Thanks for linking up.

    1. Thank you, Alyson. I kept changing my mind about what to post today but I like these two books so much I knew they were the best choice. I am really enjoying this challenge. Linking to your site each week is a pleasure.

    2. Margie - I am so glad you are participating. It is fun for me to see what you are sharing.