My Great Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston, and illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb is a true tribute to teachers everywhere. I have seldom been touched by a book for young men and women as much as this one. The story is simple, but it is one of the most sincere works that I have seen for some time now.
The author's Great Aunt, Arizona Houston Hughes was born on Henson Creek in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She attended a one room school house and from the very start, dreamed of visiting far away places and seeing wonderful sights. The story follows the little girl, Arizona, as she grows from a young girl to a woman, a wife, mother and teacher. Yes there were hardships, obstacles placed in front of her, but her obvious determined spirit prevailed. Through sheer stubbornness and will, Arizona does indeed receive her teaching certificate and begins her life long teaching career teaching in the little one room schoolhouse where she herself attended.
The story follows the author's aunt through marriage, the birth of her child and her final retirement from a profession in which she excelled. Mrs. Arizona Houston Hughes ended teaching several generations of fourth grade students and having a great impact on their lives. She lived to the age of 93.
This is a well written work. The author's low keyed, yet precise and poetic prose is almost hypnotic at times. You feel and see what the young teachers feels and sees; through her eyes and the eyes of those around her and knew her. Her wish to see far away places was never actually fulfilled literally, but was fulfilled through the wonderful gift of knowledge, curiosity and wonder that she was able to passes on to her many students.
The illustrations in this small work are wonderful and perfectly executed. Each frame fits the story line perfectly. This team of Houston and Lamb is a winner by any standard. The background, dress, details and feeling of the Blue Ridge Mountains are captured perfectly.
As a side note; I have read this same story to the same group of third graders four times now. After this lat reading I had three little girls come up after class and inform me that they wanted to be teachers just like the "lady in the book." I have to admit that I got a bit choked up over that.
This is a wonderful read for children, either on their own, or as a group read. It is a strong, strong tribute to teachers, those in a profession which I personally feel is one of the most important we have. Not only should teachers read this one, but all those that are interested in their child's education and it is a good reminder to all of us that one person can indeed make a tremendous difference in many, many lives.