Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise by Jan Pinborough

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children by Jan Pinborough, illustrated by Debby Atwell

Rating: 5 stars

In my last post, I wrote about how the new trend in children's books is to write nonfiction, educational tales for kids.  And about how, a lot of times, this produces books that are...well, heavy and "teachy" and not exactly books that inspire your kids to grab and settle into your lap for just one more read.

That is all true.

But the bigger truth (of course) is that there's a time and place--and space--for both types of books.

Yesterday Ben had an appointment in D.C. and, rather than return him to school for a few hours, we spent the rest of the morning together. Ben was pleased as can be: he's the most vocal about loving NOT having to share me.  A typical middle child in this way, he relishes one-on-one time more than Lorelei and Kiefer.  We had fun shopping, sipping chocolate milk (him) and coffee (me), and then spent an hour at the library.

It, along with dozens of new chapter books and a few other picture books, was on the New Books shelf for older kids.  We sat, squished together in our library's comfortable bean bag chairs, reading book after book until it was time for us to get home.

I can't think of a more fitting backdrop for this story.  It is the true tale of Anne Carroll Moore, a woman born with "ideas of her own."  She was born at a time when "children weren't allowed to go inside libraries.  People didn't think reading was very important for children--especially not for girls."  Ben gasped at all of this.  (And I loved that he gasped at all of this.)

While most girls stayed inside and did quiet things, Annie thought otherwise.  She rode on toboggans and bumped in buggies and dreamed of what she'd be one day (she had 7 older brothers who probably helped her see how fun these things were).

While most girls married or became teachers, Annie thought otherwise.  She first studied to be a lawyer, but then heard women could be librarians.  So she packed her bags and moved to Brooklyn to become one.

While most libraries shunned children, Annie thought otherwise. She created space for children's books, took down intimidating SILENCE signs, and let them borrow books they pledged to care for and return.  She worked with publishers and authors and illustrators to produce more books for kids so that the love of reading could start at an early age.

When a new library was being planned, it was none other than Annie who was summoned to create its new Central Children's Room.  She planned everything based on what children would like: small tables and chairs, inviting illustrations on the walls, warm tiles on the floors, and as many volumes as she could purchase. Once open, Annie continued to make the space welcoming--she invited authors to speak, storytellers to come, musicians to perform--and then inspired other libraries in the nation and around the world to create spaces for children to come and blossom among and within and through books.

It ends like this:
Today libraries across America have thousands of books for children.  And thanks to the help of a little girl from Limerick, Maine, who had ideas of her own, any child can choose a book from a library shelf, curl up in a comfortable seat to look through it--and then take it home to read.
For library loving me, with wonderful Ben cuddled up next to me, it was a pretty sweet moment.  Hopefully he'll remember a bit from the book, especially the bit about how one person can make such a big impact.  By starting small, thinking big (and, sometimes, "otherwise" or against the grain), and taking one step at a time.

Jan Pinborough has given us parents and educators SUCH a fantastic book!  Her research is fantastic; the additional author's note in the back gives more information about the norms of the late 19th century and how other librarians were also paramount in creating children's spaces in libraries.


  1. Thanks for your great review, Kate. I'm so happy that Miss Moore Thought Otherwise gave you and Ben a sweet moment in the library. Miss Moore would have loved that!

  2. I'm grateful for the sweet moment, and the book! I've already shared it with our preschool librarian--it is wonderful. congratulations to you and let me know when your next book is coming out!