The Classroom Bookshelf
Inside The Classroom Bookshelf

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile and Biblioburro

Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile
Written by Gloria Houston and Illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb
Published in 2011 by Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-029155-6
All Ages
Young Dorothy dreams of becoming a librarian in charge of a “fine brick library.” She pursues this dream, obtaining the education that she needs. When marriage takes her to the Blue Ridge Mountains where resources are scarce, Dorothy advocates for the construction of a local library and finds like-minded book-lovers who instead raise funds for a bookmobile. Through rain, snow, and even floods, Miss Dorothy travels the countryside bringing books to readers of all ages. Eventually, Dorothy gets her library, a donated country farmhouse, and the community members all pitch in to set up the collection. Beautiful landscapes in soft pastels with careful details provide a strong sense of this rural area and the people who inhabit it. In an author’s note, Houston informs readers that Dorothy Thomas was her childhood librarian who touched the lives of many people by sharing her love of books and reading. Houston’s historical fiction picture book with its lyrical text is fitting tribute to the woman that she describes as her hero.
Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia
Written and Illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Published in 2010 by Beach Lane Books, ISBN 978-1-41699-778-8
All Ages
Deep in the jungles of Colombia, there lives a man who loves books. His name is Luis.” Jeanette Winter’s latest picture book biography, based on the life of Luis Soriana, a former schoolteacher and bibliofile, sends strong messages about community service and the power of reading. When Luis’s wife complains about the books that are overcrowding their house, Luis takes action. He buys two burros, builds carrying crates, and sets out to share his books with people in the hills of Colombia. His journeys are not without obstacles, the burros balk at flowing rivers and a bandit is disappointed by Luis’s cargo. Yet the children in the villages he visits are delighted by his storytelling and the books they take home to read. Winter’s signature illustrations, with bold tropical colors, bring this story to life and honor the journeys of this contemporary heroic traveling librarian.
Teaching Invitations
Grades K-8
  • Summer Reading / Exploring Local Library Resources. It is the perfect time of year to work with your community librarians to encourage summer use of the local libraries. Many libraries run summer programs and your local librarians would probably be delighted to have you talk up the programs with your students and their families. Organize a field trip to the library or a special visiting day for families on a weekend. Make it a point to make your students and their families aware of all the service that your local libraries offer, such as interlibrary loan, e-books, and the wide array of materials available for check out, including video, audiobooks, and often toys and games
  • Dramatic Play & Book Talks. Your primary grade students may enjoy an opportunity for dramatic play. Construct a bookmobile with the students that you can use to deliver books to the other primary grade classrooms in your school. A wagon or overhead projector cart could serve as a sturdy base. Use craft paper and other recycled materials to transform the car or wagon into a vehicle or an animal that could carry books (use the links in resources below for images of traveling libraries as models). Work with your school librarian to guide students to make decisions about what types of books to include in their traveling library. Alternatively, older students could pick favorite selections and prepare and deliver book talks as they visit classrooms to offer up their book choices.
  • Organizing a Book Giveaway or Swap. Invite your students to share books from home that they no longer use with others who may have a need for books. Your students could organize a book drive to collect titles to give to a community organization or you could organize a book swap within the school.
  • Interview a Librarian. Invite your community and school librarians to your classroom to discuss the work that they do and what inspired them to become librarians. You may want to make this a family event – invite parents and serve refreshments. Students should prepare for the visiting by developing interview questions for the librarians.
  • Thank You Letters. Miss Dorothy receives many thank you letters from people whose lives she influenced. Ask your students to think of a person in their life who has been a role model or contributed significantly to their learning or development. Invite students to compose, revise, and send a thank you letter to the person they have identified.
  • The Age of E-Books and Book Apps. We have entered a new era of reading practices now that e-readers, smartphones, and iPads have become more readily available. Make arrangements through your school or local libraries for your students to explore some of the available e-books (fiction, nonfiction, and picture books). Discuss the e-reading experience and how it may be similar to and differ from the experience of reading a book. You may want to delve into the history of bookmaking. Have your students create a timeline of book printing technologies and predict how the reading experience may continue to change as new technologies emerge. The “History of Books and Printing” research guides maintained by the New York Public Library (see link below) may be useful to you.
Critical Literacy
Grades 3-8
  • Budgetary Decisions: Reading is Fundamental (RIF) is a nonprofit program designed to put more books into the hands of children. The program operates largely on federal funding and this funding is currently in jeopardy. Open a discussion of the impact of access to books for children. You may want to share some of the research that has been done on the disparities in access to books that exist in the United States ( Ask students what factors our legislators should consider when they are forced to make hard choices about how funds should be allocated.
  • Library Funding. In Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile, community residents raised funds for the bookmobile and ultimately for the library. Luis Soriana used his personal resources to begin his traveling library, which later benefited from donations. Investigate the funding resources for your school and local libraries. Ask your students to form an opinion on whose responsibility it is to ensure broad access to library resources. How should libraries be funded?
Further Explorations
Online Resources
Gloria Houston: Author Website
CNN: Biblioburro
Biblioburro on YouTube
New York Times: Biblioburro
The Bookmobile
Wisconsin Library Heritage Center: Bookmobiles
Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy: Traveling Libraries
Pack Horse Librarians: Photo Gallery
History of Books and Printing
Reading is Fundamental (RIF)
RIF’s Funding
Appelt, K. & Schmitzer, J.C. (2001). Down Cut Shin Creek: The packhorse librarians of Kentucky. New York: HarperCollins.
  • Describes the 1930’s WPA initiative and includes a fictionalized day’s journey with a “packhorse librarian.”
Bunting, E. (2008). Our library. Ill. by M. Smith. New York: Clarion Books.
  • A team of animal character take action to prevent their local library from closing.
Cummins, J. (1996). The inside-outside book of libraries. Illustrated by R. Munroe. New York: Dragonfly Books.
  • Detailed illustrations and brief text describe all kinds of libraries from bookmobiles, to libraries on board an aircraft carrier.
Gibbons, G. (1985). ChItaliceck it out!: The book about libraries. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
  • An informational book about libraries and their functions. Since the book is dated, it could serve as a launching point for a discussion of the new technologies employed in today’s libraries.
Henson, H. (2008). That book woman. Ill. by D. Small. New York: Atheneum.
  • In this historical fiction picture book set in 1930’s Appalachia, young Cal (whose sister is an avid reader) slowly comes to understand the joys of reading through visits from the packhorse librarian.
Hopkins, L.B. (1990). Good books, good times! Ill. by H. Stevenson. New York: HarperCollins.
  • An anthology of poetry about books and reading.
Hopkins, L.B. (2011). I am the book: Poems. Ill. by Yayo. New York: Holiday House.
  • Another collection of poetry about books and reading.
Lewis, J.P. (2005). Please bury me in the library. Ill. by K.M. Stone. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.
  • A collection of illustrated poems that celebrate the pleasures of books and reading.
Mora, P. (1997). Tomás and the library lady. Ill. By R. Colón. New York: Dragonfly Books.
  • Based on the life of educator Tomás Rivera, this picture book describes Tomas’s discovery of the local library in the town where his migrant family is working.
Ruurs, M. (2005). My librarian is a camel: How books are brought to children around the world. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills.
  • The author describes varies means of transporting books to young reader, ranging from camels to boats, in thirteen countries around the globe. Illustrated with photographs.
Stewart, S. (1995). The library. Ill. by D. Small. New York: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux.
  • Inspired by a real-life librarian, this rhyming picture book depicts a book lover who donates her collection to create a library.


Erika Thulin Dawes About Erika Thulin Dawes

Erika is a professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former classroom teacher, reading specialist, and literacy supervisor, she now teaches courses in children’s literature, early literacy, and literacy methods. Erika is the co-author of Learning to Write with Purpose, Teaching with Text Sets, and Teaching to Complexity.


  1. Hi, I just found your website via a link from Clare Vanderpool's Moon Over Manifest website. I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying reading your posts. There are so many creative ideas and I love how they all encourage critical and creative thinking! I can't wait to incorporate some of the books and activities into my classroom next year. Thank you!

  2. Hi Marisa,

    We're so glad you're finding our blog to be helpful! Thanks so much for your comment.


  3. Thanks for sharing great links…