Book Reviews of Books in a Box


Carol Hurst’s Children’s Literature Site

Books in a Box by Stuart Stotts. (Big Valley Press, 2005 ISBN 0976537206. Order Info .) nonfiction. Grades 3+.

A quiet fictionalized biography about the work of Lutie Stearns in bringing boxed sets of books which circulated from town to town around the turn of the century providing the first free libraries many communities had ever had access to. A good nonfiction companion to novels and picture books set in this time period. This book brings back Lutie’s passion for books and her belief in the power they can have to change lives. In a time when so many of us take libraries for granted this book reminds us of their scarcity in the past and the power they still hold.


Cooperative Children’s Book Center School of Education UW-Madison

Lutie Stearns is a name that most Wisconsinites probably don’t know. But she is a woman to whom everyone in the state owes a debt of gratitude for her enduring work to establish libraries for citizens across Wisconsin in the early 1900s. In this fictionalized biography, Madison author Stuart Stotts introduces young readers to this passionate and compassionate woman who was a crusader and advocate for libraries, books and, above all, people. Working as one of the first two staff members of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission, Lutie established traveling libraries—trunks packed with a variety of reading materials for small communities that had no public library. It was a concept she had borrowed from the eastern United States. Traveling in the sticky heat of summer or the frigid cold of winter, she went from town to town. Lutie spoke with lumberjacks and miners, farmers and store owners, men and women and children, offering each place she visited a traveling library: a revolving collection of books for anyone to borrow and return—at no cost. Stuart Stotts was first introduced to Lutie by a Wisconsin librarian. He has turned his subsequent research into this engaging story. Vivid scenes imagine aspects of Lutie’s childhood in Milwaukee, when she first developed the stutter that she had all of her life, as well as her professional life, when she traveled Wisconsin and worked toward the ideal of free public libraries for all. In addition to the traveling libraries, Lutie helped establish more than 150 public libraries in the state. But it’s hard to imagine Lutie herself enumerating her accomplishments—her philosophy clearly defined success in much simpler terms: putting books in people’s hands. In an author’s note for young readers, Stotts talks about the questions he faced in writing a fictionalized biography, inviting children to contemplate the challenges of balancing fact and fiction. And at the story’s end, he writes, “Next time you go into a library, remember Lutie Stearns. Whisper her name.” Occasional archival photographs illustrate this lively volume. (MS) ©2005 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Midwest Book Review

A work of imagination, originality, and superb storytelling appropriate for readers from 8 to 80, Books In A Box: Lutie Stearns And The Traveling Libraries Of Wisconsin is the “biography” of a passionate pioneer librarian, who brought books to hundreds of communities in Wisconsin from 1895 to 1914. She traveled alone, defying winter weather and wilderness hazards to bring her libraries to loggers, students, farmers, and families. Her belief in the power of books to change the world was nothing less than inspirational, and she continued to work with the American Library association and write articles advocating social change and education long after retiring as a traveler bringing books. Her life, legacy, and personal triumphs make for a singularly uplifting read. A superbly written novel, Books In A Box: Lutie Stearns And The Traveling Libraries Of Wisconsin is a unique and very highly recommended read, as well as a “must” addition to all Wisconsin community library collections!

Larry Nix; Retired Director Public Library Development for Wisconsin says:
“I highly recommend Books In A Box for purchase by public and school libraries or for your own personal library .”

Just finished reading Books in a Box — Lutie Stotts is a very interesting woman and Books in a Box: Lutie Stearns and the Traveling libraries of Wisconsin is a well-told historical account of her efforts to bring literacy to every corner of Wisconsin.  The power of one woman — amazing.  Her accomplishments before the age of 48 when she left the library commission certainly make her a pioneer who made a mark in history.  The book’s epilogue describing her continued advocacy for literacy and peace for another 29 years shows how truly dedicated she was.  Well designed book, useful curriculum guide and great lesson in what one person can do with “one strong voice.”  Thanks for helping to make sure Lutie Stearns gets her place in history.   The 2006 National Library Week (April 2-8) has as its theme:  Change Your World @ the Library — it seems Lutie Stearns did just that.   Sharron L. McElmeel McBookwords (a literacy organization)

“Hail! Hail! Here’s a real-life account about the most important occupation in the world – the librarian! And this book is about one of the most important and underrated librarians ever – Lutie Stearns. Watch out for Stuart Stotts – he’s an up and coming writer.”
Rob Reid
University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

As I was reading Books in a Box by Stuart Stotts I kept thinking about what students would gain by exposure to this excellent piece of literature.  Every school library should own a copy of this book to bring Lutie and this incredible story to classrooms and into the minds of children.

Dr. Heather Terrill Principal Sugar Creek Elementary School Verona, WI

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