Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesdays with David: My Great-Aunt Arizona and Miss Dorothy

When I was seven, my Great Grandma Grace died. After she passed, I was given one of her books. The picture book had been given to her when they renamed the local elementary school after her, in honor of a lifetime of teaching and loving children. It was this book:

My Great-Aunt Arizona
By Gloria Houston
Illustrations by Susan Condie Lamb
Harper Collins 1992

This book tells the true story of Ms. Houston's great aunt who always wanted to be a teacher. She went to college, got her degree and returned to her small town to teach in the one room school house. Arizona spent fifty-seven years teaching children. 

"She taught students about words and numbers and the faraway places they would visit someday. 'Have you been there?' the students asked. 'Only in my mind,' she answered. 'But someday you will go.'"

This book was a huge part of my childhood, because my Great Grandma Grace had been a huge part of my childhood. I knew what it was like to have someone like Arizona love you, even if she wasn't your teacher in a classroom. I have cherished this book for the 19 years, not realizing that the author and illustrator had done any other work together. I was browsing the new arrivals at the library and spotted a book out of the corner of my eye. Without remembering the names of the author or illustrator, I immediately knew that they were the same and I took the book home to share with David. 

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile
By Gloria Houston
Illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb
Harper Collins 2011

This is another true story, this time of Miss Dorothy who always dreamed of working in a library. When Dorothy and her husband settle in the mountains of North Carolina, there is no library. So she starts one, bringing books all over town in her green bookmobile. "...She was smiling the broad smile of a happy librarian, who enjoys nothing so much as sharing her books with her friends."

When I placed these two books on the sofa to read to David, I really wasn't sure he would sit through them. But he enjoyed both of them. The illustrations by Ms. Lamb are gorgeous paintings that place the carefree joys of childhood alongside the beauty of nature. And the stories? These beautiful true stories remind us to remember the people who inspire us - the teachers who helped us figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up or the librarian who showed us the new world that existed between two covers. These books would be a perfect gift for a special teacher or librarian in your life.

Thoughts from David regarding Miss Dorothy: “I like when she drives the bookmobile and when they made her a library. And I even like it when she gets stuck in the water.”
"Why are librarians important?" I asked him.  "Because they check out books," he replied. 
"Why is reading important?"  "Because reading teaches you things," he said."

Thoughts from David regarding Great-Aunt Arizona:  “I like when she goes to school with her brother and when she hugs the boy in her class and when she sits on the porch.”

Have a wonderful week of reading, friends! 

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