Kit and Millie Ride Again

Short story collection published in 2006; author Valerie Tripp; illustrators Walter Rane, Renee Graef, Susan McAliley, and Phillip Hood


Kit is visiting Aunt Millie in Lonesome Hollow, where she lives with her friend Myrtle. One day Kit and Aunt Millie ride Myrtle's mule to Aunt Millie's schoolhouse, no longer in use. They clean it up anyway, dusting the books and making sure everything's in good shape, in hopes that it will be used again soon. Kit and Myrtle share Aunt Millie's displeasure that her former students have no way to get new books to keep their minds sharp; they're all so busy working their farms, especially with so many of their fathers at jobs far away. They're grateful for the jobs of course, but the men have to leave home for weeks or months at a time. That evening, as Kit watches a dewdrop snake its way from thread to thread on a spiderweb, she gets an idea. She and Aunt Millie can ride the mule around to different homes, snaking their way through the trails like the dewdrop, and deliver books to the children. They'll be like a traveling library. Aunt Millie and Myrtle love the idea too, and in the morning Kit and Aunt Millie set out.

But no one wants to borrow the books. They all politely refuse, saying there's no time to read them with all the chores or that they're concerned about outside influences. Confused and discouraged, the pair returns home. They tell Myrtle that everyone was friendly, offering them something to drink or eat or just a visit, but no one took any books. Myrtle immediately knows what went wrong: they turned down all the offers. Just like Kit didn't want to accept Ruthie's old Christmas dress as charity, the families don't want to borrow the books for nothing.

The next day they set out again, armed with knowledge about the town's culture. Kit asks for contributions to her Waste-Not Want-Not Almanac ranging from quilt patterns to soap recipes and they accept offers of food and drinks, and by the ends of their visits everyone accepts books. The Almanac is bursting with new entries and Aunt Millie's students can continue their studies. It's a success all around!

Looking Back

The Great Depression hit people in Appalachia hard. These sparsely-populated communities were already geographically isolated and often had very little money. While the people who lived there were proud of their traditional lifestyle, they were, like anyone else, eager to learn. One of the Works Progress Administration programs was to fund the delivery of library books by horseback. Other areas provided delivery with wagons or trucks, but the narrow trails and hills of Kentucky were inaccessible them. Most people were thrilled to have access to books, especially those confined to their homes because of illness (a few were concerned that the books might be bad influences, though). Because some people felt awkward taking the books without paying for them, they might offer recipes or quilt patterns in exchange.


It seems very convenient for the plot that Aunt Millie wouldn't understand that she and Kit shouldn't have refused the offers of food.

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