Today I have a picture book biography to share with you.
Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children
By Jan Pinborough, Illustrated by Debby Atwell
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013
Format: Hardcover, Picture Book
Source: Public Library
As the title suggests, this is the story of Anne Carroll Moore, who had a major impact on the development of children’s libraries. The book starts with her childhood, discusses some of the challenges she faced, explains the limited availability of libraries for children, and shows some of the changes Moore begins to make. This is an interesting look into the origins of the library, and I think children will be surprised to hear how their familiar children’s libraries came to be.
Since I’ve studied children’s literature and am familiar with some of the historical development of children’s books, I knew about Anne Carroll Moore and was excited to see how she’d be portrayed in picture book form. Overall, I was happy with the text, although I do think this book stuck very close to the completely positive, inspiring woman message that was so common to many of the biographies I’ve been reading this month. Throughout the book, Moore rarely faced opposition for the changes she made and acted with complete selflessness and kindness for others. While I understand the “think differently, make change” message the book offers, I think children could handle a little less sugar-coating. Perhaps some source notes at the end of the book might have answered some of my questions and concerns, but there is only a list of additional resources.
My biggest disappointment is the art, which although bright and cheerful, seems flat and lacks detail. In some scenes, like the tobogganing image at the beginning of the book, I couldn’t identify the main character among all the other people. And in some cases, the depictions of women seemed unnecessarily gendered and stereotypical. In the first pages, Moore is wearing a pink dress, as though we wouldn’t otherwise be able to identify the only daughter among her seven brothers without the pink indicator. Later, when the book discusses the fact that children originally weren’t permitted to touch the books in libraries, the librarian is depicted as witch-like, wearing all black and with pointed facial features. I found that to be an unfair illustration, particularly because, as the text notes, those rules were the result of fear about the children’s misunderstanding the needs of a library rather than cruelty.
Ultimately, I would recommend this book, if only because Anne Carroll Moore is such an important figure in children’s libraries but is still very little known outside the children’s literature/library community. I think she’s a very interesting woman, and I’d love to see how children react when they learn about the woman responsible for creating libraries as they know them!
For more information:
Author Jan Pinborough’s official website
A brief interview with illustrator Debby Atwell that discusses her work on Miss Moore Thought Otherwise
The official website for the book, which includes information about Moore and praise for the book