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Hispanic/Latino Literature

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Mora, Pat. Tomas and the Library Lady. Illustrated by Raul Colon. New York: Alfred a. Knoff, 1997. ISBN 0-679-94173-8.

“While young readers and future librarians will find this an inspiring tale, the endnote gives it a real kick; the story is based on an actual migrant worker who became chancellor of a university—where the library now bears his name." --Publishers Weekly 1997

This is a children’s book based on the life of Tomas Rivera who grew up to become a writer, a professor, an educational leader, and chancellor of the University of California.  Here Pat Mora depicts the life of migrant workers during the 1930s.  Tomas is the son of migrant workers that migrate from Texas to Iowa every year.  They spend the winters picking for Texan farmers and the summers working for Iowa farmers.  Tomas and his brother enjoy very much the stories their Grandfather shares with them.  During this particular summer, Tomas discovers the library where he develops a friendship with the librarian and is able to get lost in the wonderful world of books.  He borrows books to take home to share with his family who enjoy listening to his reading. 

The author depicts the life of the migrant worker as tiring and difficult.  Yet, she does not recur to the ethnocentric approach of the white supremacy by portraying Tomas’ family as helpless people.  They are people that work hard to earn a living and that value family and education.  The use of code-switching in the story from English to Spanish opens the doors for the readers to enter the actual the life and experiences Tomas encounters.  It shows to the reader that Tomas and his family speak mainly Spanish at home.  Although they mainly speak Spanish at home, they also enjoy listening to Tomas read the books in English.

The illustrations in the books harmonize with the story in a way that transports the reader to the 1930s and into Tomas’s imagination as well.  The hues used in the paintings reflect the sepia photographs that were common in the past.  The drawings are artistically done to show us how these people lived, worked, and enjoy the pleasure of spending time with the family.

The book has received very good critics and many awards.  Here are some awards received by Tomas and Library Lady:

Américas Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature Commended Title

1997 Notable Books for Children, Smithsonian

1998 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award

1998 Teachers' Choices Award from the International Reading Association

1998 Skipping Stones Multicultural Book Award

1999-2000, Texas Bluebonnet Master List Title

1999-2000, Nebraska Golden Sower Nominee

 

Reference:

Pat Mora Official Website, July 3, 2005. At http://www.patmora.com/tomas.htm.