1997 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
Teachers & Librarians
Find curriculum activities
Tomás and the Library Lady.
If you have an activity or activities to share, please email these
along with your name and school or library name.
The Family Involvement Storybook Corner at Harvard University has created a tool kit
for Tomás and the Library Lady.
Also available in Japanese, published by Hiroyuki Fujiwara.
Print and share this poem about Tomás!
"¡Vámos! Let's go to the library!"
Tomás says to his family.
He shows them his favorite books
and his cozy reading nooks.
"¡Vámos! Let's go to the library!"
Tomás says to his friends. "Hurry!"
They see libros in stacks and rows.
They laugh at funny puppet shows.
"¡Vámos! Let's all go to the library!"
Join the fun, a treasure house that's free.
Bring your friends and family.
Stories, computers, maps and more.
Like Tomás, open books and soar.
Be a reader. Explore galore.
In memory of the leader, educator and author, Tomás Rivera
© 2005 by Pat Mora
This poem will appear in the forthcoming book Bookjoy, Wordjoy, to be published by Lee & Low Books in 2017.
Bookmark from ALA Graphics, American Library Association
Thanks to the Texas State Library and Archives and the Center for the Book of Texas, Pat enjoyed a wonderful production of the play based on Tomás and the Library Lady at the ZACH Theatre in Austin in February 2016. Members of the Rivera Family, the cast and director, and the Center Coordinator Rebekah Manley are in this happy photo.
Tomás and the Library Lady
Knopf Books for Young Readers, illustrated by Raul Colón
Download a hi-res jpeg of the book jacket.
Tomás y la señora de la biblioteca
Tomás is a son of migrant workers. Every summer he and his family follow the crops north from Texas to Iowa, spending long, arduous days in the fields. At night they gather around to hear Grandfather's wonderful stories. But before long, Tomás knows all the stories by heart. "There are more stories in the library," Papa Grande tells him. The very next day, Tomás meets the library lady and a whole new world opens up for him. Based on the true story of the Mexican-American author and educator Tomás Rivera, a child of migrant workers who went on to become the first minority Chancellor in the University of California system, this inspirational story suggests what libraries--and education--can make possible. Raul Colón's warm, expressive paintings perfectly interweave the harsh realities of Tomás's life, the joyful imaginings he finds in books, and his special relationships with a wise grandfather and a caring librarian.
"A gentle text and innovative artwork depict a pivotal summer in a boy’ … Spanish words slip in naturally and unobtrusively throughout Mora’s text as she focuses on the snug library and the books that fire Tomás’ imagination, and on his friendship with the librarian. … 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
"From the immigrant slums of New York to the fields of California, it’s an elemental American experience: the uprooted child who finds a home in the library. Mora’s story is based on a true incident in the life of the famous writer Tomás Rivera, the son of migrant workers who became an education leader and university president." —Booklist
"One summer in 1940s Iowa, a librarian welcomed a migrant worker child who found the wider world—and his future—in books. This powerful story is based on the boyhood of Tomás Rivera, who would grow to become Chancellor of the University of California, Riverside." —Smithsonian
Watch a video from www.colorincolorado.org where Pat talks about Tomas:
Tomás on Stage
- Regarding adaptations of Tomás and the Library Lady, please contact the dramatic permissions department at Curtis Brown, Ltd., 212-473-5400.
- Childsplay, Arizona's Professional Theatre for Young Audiences and Families, launched its first national tour in 2007 with their production of Tomás and the Library Lady. It traveled to 40 cities in 17 states. As of summer 2015, 10 other theaters in 7 states have produced the play!
- Watch a video promoting the Seattle Children's Theatre's production of Tomás and the Library Lady.
- The November 2008 issue of Library Sparks featured a Tomás Reader's Theater for grades 2-5.
- Watch a video about Pat's visit to Perkins Elementary School in Des Moines, Iowa. With the help Des Moines Performing Arts' Applause Series, each class did a different type of performance based on their experience of reading Tomás.
Questions from students about the book:
Did you ever meet Tomás Rivera?
Yes, I did meet Tomás Rivera when I was an administrator at the University of Texas at El Paso. He was very intelligent, hard-working, and he loved to read. He also had a big smile and a wonderful sense of humor. I also went to visit him once when he was the Chancellor of the University of California at Riverside (CA).
What was your purpose in writing this story?
I was sad when Tomás died because I thought he was such a special man and leader. I wanted to honor him, and I decided to write a children’s book about him so that children, teachers, librarians and parents would know the story of Dr. Tomás Rivera who was a writer and educator. I also wanted my readers to think about the difficult life migrant workers have and how families and librarians help children succeed. I’m always surprised when even after having read Tomás and the Library Lady students can’t tell me what a migrant worker is.
How is your life similar to Tomás' life?
What an interesting question! Tomás and I were both born in Texas. He was born in Crystal City, and I was born in El Paso. We both spoke Spanish at home. (In my house, we spoke both Spanish and English.) We both loved to read and both liked doing well at school. We both went to college and became teachers. We both were parents and became university administrators. We both became writers and wanted our readers to know about the lives and dreams of Mexican Americans. We both felt lucky to be bilingual and wanted all people who are bilingual to be proud of their home languages.
When my first book of poetry for adults was published, I sent Dr. Tomás Rivera a copy. He was a very busy man, but he took the time to read my book, and he wrote me and said, “Don’t do what I did. Write.” I get teary when I type his kind words. What did he mean? When Dr. Rivera became an administrator, he had to stop writing because he had so many responsibilities. He was telling ms not to continue spending all my time being an administrator.
Tomás has such a big imagination and a love for acquiring knowledge. How can this story motivate children to begin their own quest for knowledge through reading?
I met Tomás' daughter once and asked her what she remembered about her dad. She said, "My dad had books everywhere!" Reading is a pleasant and powerful habit. Powerful? Yes. When we read, we learn to entertain ourselves, to teach ourselves about science, other places and other people. Reading gives us the knowledge and thus the power to be intelligent people who understand their world.
Tomás' family are migrant workers who move from place to place to find seasonal work on farms. How and why did the library become such an important place for Tomás to be when he moved temporarily to Iowa?
Tomás was not that different from people all over the world who discover that libraries are full of treasures. Yes, today there are computers, puppet shows, and movies in libraries, but I want to focus on books. In public and school libraries, we find books with great pictures of space, other countries, and the past. We find books about our hobbies and interests, and books that make us laugh. We also find books at our reading level that let us travel and read wonderful authors. Like many people, Tomás didn't have many books at home. I wrote a poem about Tomás and the library called "Library Magic." I think Tomás found magic in the library. When he could, he created his own library at home. That's fun!
Who was the "Library Lady"?
I did not know who she was when I wrote the story. Years later, I was told that she was a librarian in Hampton, Iowa.
How did your own love for reading and knowledge first start? Were there a special mentor like the "library lady" in your own life?
My mom was a great reader and always had books in the house for the family. She also would drive us to the library. My teachers loved books as did an aunt who lived with us.