Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Clara and the Bookwagon

Clara and the Bookwagon

Nancy Smiler Levinson
Illustrator:  Carolyn Croll 
Historical Fiction
For ages 6 to 8
HarperCollins, 1988   ISBN: 978-0064441346

Clara lives on a farm with her father, mother, little brother, and baby sister. There is always so much work to do and Clara helps in the house, in the fields, and she takes care of the little children. Clara is unable to go to school for there is no school for children who work and live on the farms in the country. More than anything Clara loves to hear stories and she wishes that she could read stories for herself, but poor Clara does not know how to read and she does not have any books. There are no books to answer the many questions that she has about the world, and no books to give her a break from the farm chores.

Then one day Clara goes to town with her father and in the store she sees a shelf full of books. The books are part of a free lending library and Clara so much wants to borrow one so she can learn how to read. But Papa will not allow it for books are only “for rich people” and not for farming folk like them.

Some months later a wagon comes to Clara’s farm. It is a library wagon full of books of all kinds and a kind librarian lady manages to convince Papa that books are for all people and are not “a waste of time.” At long last Clara is finally allowed to learn how to read and to borrow books.

This tale is based on the true story of a Maryland librarian who created the first mobile lending library in 1905 so that people in rural areas of Maryland could have access to books. Many young readers will be astonished to read that Clara could not read, that she had no books of her own, and that her parents thought that being literate was unnecessary. They will realize how lucky they are to have so many books in their lives both at home and at school.

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