It’s not often that kids are able to read the same story from two different sides. In today’s post I review two picture books about the inspiring Luis Soriano Bohórquez. The first book is from Soriano’s viewpoint, and the second focuses on the children whose lives are changed by his courage and dedication.
About the Holiday
Today we honor the more than 930 dedicated library professionals who bring books to remote places, shut-ins, and others in the community who have no access to libraries and the services they offer. For over 100 years, bookmobiles have delivered information, technology, and resources for life-long learning to Americans of all walks of life. To celebrate today’s holiday show your support for bookmobiles by thanking your library workers in person or by sending them a letter or email. You can also consider donating to a book drive or book fund to keep this vital service going!
Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia
By Jeanette Winter
Luis lives deep in the jungles of Columbia surrounded by his beloved books. In fact, Luis loves books so much that his entire house is filled with them, floor to ceiling. “What will we do with them all?” asks his wife, Diana. Luis thinks about it and suddenly has an idea. He can share his books with people who live in the faraway hills! How will he get them there? By burro!
Luis buys two burros and names them Alfa and Beto. He builds special crates that will fit on their backs to carry the books. He paints a sign to carry with him: “Biblioburro”—The Burro Library—it says. Every week Luis takes the burros to far off villages, but it is not an easy trip. On his way to El Tormento, the hot sun makes the burros thirsty. When they stop at a stream to drink the water, Luis has a hard time pulling Beto away from the cool oasis.
Among the jungle trees, bandits wait. As Luis passes through a lonely section of his path, a robber jumps out and demands silver. Luis has no money, so the bandit takes one of his precious books, demanding silver “next time.” At last Luis reaches El Tormento. The children run to greet him! Before they choose their books, however, Luis reads them a story. Today he has brought along a special treat—pig masks for everyone! As the children wear their masks, Luis reads the story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf. After the story the kids choose their books and head for home.
Luis leads Alfa and Beto on the journey back as the sun sets. At home he and his burros have a well-deserved dinner. Luis is tired from his long journey, but as Diana sleeps he sits in his rocking chair reading into the deep, dark night—just the same as the children of El Tormento.
The final page presents factual information about Soriano and his life. He has inspired many to donate to his cause, bringing education and literacy to hundreds of people since the year 2000. This book is also available in a Spanish language version.
Any book lover will be fascinated by this true story of a man dedicated to bringing books to children living in remote areas of Columbia. Jeanette Winter’s straightforward tale reveals not only the imagination and care it took to make Luis’s dream a reality, but also the perils he faces in carrying out his mission. Winter’s lyrical tone emphasizes the isolation of the far-off villages Luis visits and his solitary travels. The story is full of suspense and humor that will draw children into this unique biography of Luis Soriano Bohórquez.
Winter’s vivid illustrations bring the Columbian jungles to life—vivid green leaves and flowers are home to orange snakes, yellow caterpillars, multi-colored toucans and parrots, and other native species. Kids will wish they could reach out and pet the sweet burros that work so hard to carry the books. As nighttime falls, the hues cool to muted teals and blues—the color of dreams.
Ages 5 – 9
Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2010 | ISBN 978-1416997788
You can find Biblioburro: A True Story from Columbia at these booksellers
Waiting for the Biblioburro
Written by Monica Brown | Illustrated by John Parra
On a faraway hill in a small Columbian village, a little girl named Ana wakes to a day of feeding the farm animals, taking care of her younger brother, and collecting eggs to sell in the market. When the long, hot day is over, Ana retreats to her room to read her most precious treasure—the one book that her teacher gave her before she moved and the school closed.
Ana has memorized the book and wishes she had more, but there is no one to provide books or education in her tiny village. To make up for it, Ana imagines her own stories and tells them to her brother before they go to sleep. But one day everything changes. Ana hears an unfamiliar clip-clop and a loud iii-aah! Iii-aah!
Ana runs outside to see a most unusual but wonderful sight! Riding past her house is a man with two burros loaded down with books! All the children leave the fields and run to this stranger. “Who are you?” the children ask. The man says he is a librarian and a teacher. His burros are Alfa and Beto, and his name is Luis Soriano. Together they are a moving library. Luis reads to the children and teaches them the alphabet. He then tells them they can choose books from the crates strapped to the burros’ backs and keep them until he returns.
Ana gazes at the selection—there are so many cuentos, so many stories! She hugs the books she has chosen and, before Luis goes on his way, tells him someone should write a story about Alfa and Beto. Why don’t you? Luis encourages her. With a promise to return, Luis is gone. Ana shares her books with her brother, reading until she can’t keep her eyes open.
It seems like forever and no biblioburro! “When will he come back?” Ana pesters her mother. Finally, unable to wait for a new story, Ana takes the librarian’s advice and creates a book about the biblioburros. Just when Ana has almost given up hope of seeing Luis again, she hears the now familiar iii-aah! Iii-aah. She runs to show Luis her special surprise. Not only does he read her book to the other children, he carefully packs it away on the burro’s back “ready to be carried away over the hills and through the fields to another child “who is dreaming of the stories the biblioburro will bring.”
This book is also available in a bilingual edition: Waiting for the Biblioburro/Esperando el Biblioburro.
Monica Brown’s telling of this inspirational story reveals how much one person’s actions can touch another. Through her expressive language and rhythms, Brown effectively reveals the thoughts and feelings of a little girl thirsty for knowledge but without any means of acquiring it. The girl’s enthusiasm for books and learning is infectious and will resonate with children. Listeners will empathize with her longing and celebrate when they hear of the biblioburro’s arrival.
John Parra’s well-known paintings are a highlight of this book, filling each page with the radiant sun, colorful architecture, exotic animals, tropical vegetation, and other sights of the jungles and hills of Columbia. Ana’s hopes and dreams are also illustrated in Parra’s unique style, creating a world of imagination fitting for a budding young writer.
Ages 5 – 8
Tricycle Press, Penguin Random House, 2011 | ISBN 978-1582463537 | ISBN 978-0553538793 (Spanish–English Bilingual Edition)
Discover more about Monica Brown and her books on her website.
To learn more about John Parra, his books, and his art, visit his website.
You can find Waiting for the Biblioburro at these booksellers
National Bookmobile Day Activity
Make a Box Bookmobile
Bookmobiles are love on wheels! If libraries are some of your favorite places, you’ll like making this box bookmobile! You can even use it as a desk organizer!
- Printable Book Shelves and Sign Template
- Cardboard box, 16-oz pasta or other recyclable boxes work well (I used a 5” x 7 ¼ -inch pasta box)
- Small wooden spools or bottle caps, large beads, or toy wheels
- X-acto knife
- Strong glue
- Paint brush
1.Gently pull the box apart at the seam and lie flat with the unprinted side facing up
2. To Make the Awning:
- On one of the wide sides of the box, measure a rectangle 1 inch from the top of the box, leaving at least 1 ¼ inches at the bottom of the box and 1 ¼ inches on both sides
- With the x-acto knife or scissors cut the sides and bottom of the rectable, leaving the top uncut
- Paint the top and underside of the awning (if you want to make stripes on the awning lay strips of tape side by side across the awning. Remove every other strip of tape. Paint the open stripes one color of paint. When the paint dries replace the tape over the paint and remove the tape from the unpainted stripes. Paint those stripes a different color.)
3. Paint the rest of the box on the unprinted side any way you like, let dry
4. Cut the Printable Book Shelf template to fit the size of your window opening, leaving at least a ½ inch margin all around
5. Tape the book shelf to the inside of the window
6. Reconstruct the box, making the original seam an inside flap
7. Glue the flap and sides together
8. If using small spools for wheels, paint them black. Let dry
9. Glue the wheels to the bottom of the box
10, Attach the Bookmobile sign, found on the printable template, above the awning
** To Make a Desk Organizer from the Bookmobile
- Cut an opening in the top of the bookmobile with the x-acto knife or a scissor