Mrs. Blum


It was the way she made me feel. And her voice. Like Barbara Walters, but less annoying and pretentious. Mrs. Blum’s soft hands were spotted with nickel-sized spots, her fingers like giraffes floating in mid-air. She decorated her library section with posters, Romona Quimby books, and safari stuffed animals. She was one of the reasons we took the hour-long bus ride to her library. Mrs. Blum and her giraffes.

The library where I grew up was small, had bars on the windows, and was closed more often than not. And there was a lack of Romona Quimby. I read through most the books in the children’s section, so my mom had to do something. My father took our only car to work in the morning, so once a week, my mom packed grocery bags with books and we headed to the bus stop and hoped for seats next to open windows. My sister and I fought over who got to pull the Stop string as we approached our destination. We walked for 25 minutes to the library, always embraced by the sweet smell of pages and the chill of air-conditioning.

My sister and I would race up the wooden staircase, and slow to a walk when we discovered we were in the presence of greatness. When I passed Mrs. Blum’s desk at the top of the flight, I’d touch the clay figurine someone made her. A lilypad.

Mrs. Blum warned my mom I wasn’t allowed to check out more than 15 books at a time. I cried. My mother explained I was homeschooled and I’d likely finish the books before the week commenced. Mrs. Blum’s giraffes patted my chubby arm and said she’d make an exception. That summer she made me and my sister her assistant librarians for the Summer Reading Program. She treated us to an ice-cream buffet in late August for all our hard work.

Between my mother’s diligence and Mrs. Blum’s support, I fell in love with reading…which later proved to be the very thing that moved me from away from libraries with barred windows. And a future filled with giraffe-sized opportunities.

Many thanks to Candace Prokopets for sending me this book. Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington is truly remarkable…his grace, power, and dignity in light of racism in American was moving…and heart-breaking at the same time. I finished this book last week on my way home from Las Vegas and I cried in McCarran International Airport. Such a great read.

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  1. Bel

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    In 4 years when I graduate from university I hope to be a Mrs Blum kind of teacher =)
    Thankyou for sharing Jasmine xx

  2. Kim Hayes

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Hi Jasmine,
    I enjoyed this post… I grew up home schooled and spent many days in the wonderland of our local library:) Just nice to go down memory lane for a few minutes.

  3. Rachel

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    You’re a lovely writer 🙂 Where’s Ms. Blum now?

  4. Melanie

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I hope when I pass to the other side I might have the privelege of meeting Booker T. One of the most inspiring lives and should be a must read for every person!

  5. Sarah Danaher

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothing." — Desiderius Erasmus. I share your love of reading (though I struggle to find time for it now). Old books are the BEST. I have a well-worn antique copy of Jane Austen’s novels in one volume, and it’s such a surreal, lovely thing to trace my fingers over Mr. Darcy’s proposal, or Captain Wentworth’s love letter, knowing that generations of other women have traced their fingers there before me. Old books hold life and history in their pages, and the knowledge that emotions are shared across the span of years.

  6. Arjelia

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I’ve been doing reading on our history and I am amazed at the history we were never taught, like the fact that there were Blacks that actually were considered Founding Fathers. There were a couple of Black preachers that were pastors of White congregations, I love the ability to read; thank you for sharing your great growing up experience!

  7. Teresa

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    My mom would take me on the weekends to the public library after much begging. I would ask for library passes in elementary school just so I could hang out in it’s quiet solitude and read. I thought I must have been the only kid growing up that liked hanging out in the library! Good to know I wasn’t alone. 🙂

  8. Teresa

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Beautiful description of this woman, Mrs. Blum!

  9. Romonia I.

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Considering we are the same age, we read similar books and shared similar librarians. I grew up being teased and called "Ramona Quimby" and it never bothered me–I got use to it. I thought it was a compliment because to me Ramona Quimby could do anything!!;-) Granted we looked nothing alike! When I saw the first preview for the movie I thought, "Here we go" but then realized, "Well I’m not in elementary school anymore." Then my friend’s son called me "Ramona and Beezus!" I laughed! I have never read that particular Booker T. Washington novel, nor have I seen it before your post. I may just have to search for that novel and divulge my time into it. Thanks for sharing and have a great Tuesday!

  10. Ivona

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Whenever I finish a great book, I feel like I have a little secret that I want to scream from the top of a mountain…By the way, thank you again for recommending The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber!!!

  11. Megs

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I love my books and I loved my Romona books. I’m a bit hesitate about the movie coming out because it will not do the books justice at all. Should I feel old that all my favorite books are listed under Classics at Barnes and Nobles? 🙂 Reminds me of my blog about Library Love a yer ago 🙂

    Gooo bookgeek!

  12. Life with Kaishon

    August 17th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    So thankful for all of the Mrs. Blum’s in the world who make exceptions for the exceptional. And who make children feel special and treasured. YAY for them!

  13. Michelle Sidles

    August 17th, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Books and adults who encourage kids to read are world changers! My aunt was that person for me. 🙂

  14. The real L.A. love story.

    August 17th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    my dad has always encouraged me to read. read the great works, the stories that are timeless.

  15. Emily

    August 17th, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    Your depth is moving. You have just inspired me to make reading a bigger value for my own kids. Thank you. Isn’t it amazing what words can do? 🙂

  16. Lisa

    August 17th, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Your blog posts always sound like the first page of a great novel that I want to keep reading.

  17. Trude

    August 17th, 2010 at 6:53 pm

    Yes, yes, yes. 🙂 My parents are both big bookworms too, and I’m SO glad they passed that on. We would spend hours in the library, especially during the summer, and mom would take us to story times constantly.

  18. Tiesha

    August 17th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

    Oh my sweet sweet Jasmine. I luv to read too! The other night I stayed up until 2a.m. reading- "The Same Kind of Different as Me" it was so good I wanted to write Oprah! I guess you’ll do. 😉 Jasmine, it is a must read!

  19. Becky

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Not even joking – I *just* downloaded this on my Kindle ap after talking with my uncle, who’s been there, done that. He also recommended The Souls of Black Folk saying that Du Bois is a mentor to him.

  20. LEOLAK

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Love this post. I Mrs. Blum was Ms. Weathers…though not a librarian she was a teacher who encouraged and challenged her students to read some great classics…and I took a special interest in it more becuase of her. This is a lovely post honoring Mrs. Blum’s and others like her. Thanks for sharing…and for the book recommendation – I must check that out!

  21. whitney elizabeth

    August 17th, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    reading is so powerful. i love traveling to different places and eras and being a different person, just by reading a book. when my current husband and i were engaged and started to talk about moving in together after marriage and "meshing" our belongings together, i told him i would never, ever get rid of my books and he said the same thing…it was just another sign that we were supposed to be together 🙂

  22. MelissaF

    August 17th, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Wow, what a wonderful tribute to Mrs. Blum and what a wonderful thing she did for you! Libraries rock…no doubt about it. Sorry, but no kindle-thingy will ever replace holding a real book! To me, reading isn’t just about the story; it’s about the whole experience…holding the book, feeling the pages in my hands, the smell of the book…it’s a total sensory experience!

  23. Studio Hera Bell

    August 17th, 2010 at 11:37 pm

    I especially enjoy reading your personal stories Jasmine. They are so human and written with an open heart.

    We all had a teacher who marked us in positive ways.

    Thank you sharing the story with us.

    I LOVE following blogs who show us all facets of life. Yours is one of them. Cheers, Hera

  24. Maribel

    August 17th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    I heart your mom

  25. Kirk Decker

    August 18th, 2010 at 1:08 am

    I don’t think there is a pithy name for it, like Gaydar, but there is something about homeschoolers, that other homeschoolers can recognize. Reading your posts, the "I think she might have been homeschooled" thought has always popped up.

  26. Maureen

    August 18th, 2010 at 3:23 am

    I love this! 🙂 I was so obsessed with Ramona Quimby as a kid! Ramona actually "lived" in the neighborhood I grew up in, just down the street. I wrote Beverly Cleary a letter once and she hand-wrote me a whole one page response! It was one of my prized possessions. Ramona is the reason I loved reading too. Lovely reflection on your childhood 🙂

  27. Gail

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:00 am

    I’m pretty sure most people would pick your brain to talk shop about photography but nope, not me. I’d want to talk books with you 🙂

    PS – My librarian was a septuagenarian named Beulah. I remember her the way I remember my first grade teacher. As in, very very fondly. Much like your Mrs. Blum.

  28. Heather D

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:07 am

    I love this entry. It’s great to hear more about you and your life growing up. Reading is so important I hope to share that with my kids.

  29. Amber

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:48 am

    Wonderful post Jasmine, and it’s well timed too since today was my first day back in the classroom after the wedding and honeymoon. Happy Reading from your literary couple!

  30. Liz Kausteklis

    August 18th, 2010 at 5:23 am

    Mrs. Blum sounds like such an inspirational lady…and your mother too! I could get lost in libraries, they are filled with so much knowledge to be learned…(and that’s really neat that Candace sent you that book. I met with her a few weeks ago, we met over breakfast and chatted about photography…she’s pretty inspirational too).

  31. Evonne Wong

    August 18th, 2010 at 7:16 am

    I wish I have more time to read like you do. I guess I really need to MAKE time and not give myself all these excuses!

  32. Joyce D.

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Never met you nor your family, but listen to your dad long before I even knew about you and your sister. Thanks to this post, I see how great of a mother you have also…

  33. John B.

    August 18th, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I always get funny looks when I tell people I’d rather be in a library than just about anywhere else. I’m constantly in awe of all the knowledge packed into such a small space.

  34. Lynn Childs

    August 19th, 2010 at 7:04 am

    Jasmine…… your talents never cease to amaze me… After reading your recents post I have also noticed you have quite a talent for writing… If you ever have a moment to sit down, you should try your hand at writing….anything, I’d say photography but i think your talents far exceed just that …

  35. Magalie

    August 19th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    J*…I am grateful for you. Grateful, grateful, grateful! You make dreams seem un-lofty and attainable. And I know I’m not the only one that relates to spending the summer in the library. I still consider that fun.

  36. feuza

    August 19th, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    you are such an amazing writer, takes my breathe away sometimes, how with words you can create such a vision, such a story in my head so strong and clear

  37. Candace Prokopets

    August 19th, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    So happy you enjoyed the book! Hopefully, now that you shared it, others will read it too.

  38. Michelle Sibley

    September 2nd, 2010 at 5:30 am

    Jasmine, I can not tell you how much I enjoyed this post. All I can say is, "You took me there." I was right there with you and I felt the gentle, yet moving impact of Mrs. Blum’s giraffes on a child’s imagination. For me, it was Mrs. White. Mrs. White, 6th grade english, language and spelling teacher, read to us everyday after we returned from lunch hour. Fave book ever…Island of the Blue Dolphins. Mrs. White’s melodic reading voice was so smooth and hypnotic. It was the best part of the day. I think of the cliche’, "You are what you eat." TV=Junk Food. On the other hand, a Good Read, "Does a body good." Feed the imagination. Thanks for taking me there.