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Story SummaryKit was standing on Aunt Millie's porch, admiring the scenery. Aunt Millie comments the view was pretty and Kit agrees. Kit thinks how much she loved visiting her Aunt Millie. She would never fuss at Kit and Mountain Hollow was a nice, green escape from Cincinnati. Kit comments that it was peaceful and quiet here, but Aunt Millie sighs that sometimes it was too peaceful and quiet for her. Aunt Millie nods her head at the old school house that was next to her own home and comments that she would have been teaching for a month by this date in the past. She stops herself and mentions that whining is like giving a wristwatch to a hog—a waste of time. Kit laughs as she gives Aunt Millie a hug. Kit knew since May 1933, the school had been shut down due to the Depression and the closing of the coal mines. Since Millie had lost her job, she moved in with her friend Myrtle Peabody.
That morning, the two borrow Myrtle's mule and ride to Aunt Millie's cabin to clean the cabin and school. Aunt Millie tells Kit she could get some books from the school house as she was finished cleaning her old cabin. Kit happily took the opportunity to borrow some books as Aunt Millie dusted the windows to let the light in. Aunt Millie didn't take down any of the spider webs, however, as she said plenty of times that spiderwebs were a work of art. Kit chooses 'Robin Hood' and 'Little Women' to read and the two ride off on Myrtle's mule. Kit reads 'Little Women' along the way and is so engrossed in the book she was startled when they stopped and the mule, Serena, brayed. Myrtle, who was reading on her front porch, greets Serena. She jokes that she and Serena were friends for so long, they could understand each other. She also jokes that they were both starting to look and sound alike and Kit giggles as Myrtle's laugh and Serena's bray did sound alike.
Kit shows off the books she was borrowing and Myrtle nods in approval. She then holds up the book she was reading, Kit's 'Waste-Not, Want-Not Almanac' and says it was the most cleverest book she had read in a while. Aunt Millie tells Kit she was happy she picked out some books as she was bothered seeing the books covered in dust. "A book's like a brain - It needs to be used." Kit says they could turn the school into a library and Millie thinks it's a wonderful idea. She asks Myrtle what she thought and Myrtle, both sensible and practical, takes her time to think. Myrtle finally questions if families would have the time to go all the way to the school house when they already had a lot of work at home and Millie supposes they probably wouldn't.Aunt Millie comments she was annoyed kids weren't stretching their brains and imagination by reading and comments it was another thing they lost due to the Depression. Kit hugs her books, wondering how she would feel if she lost her chance to read, and says that it seemed no matter the situation, the Depression won and the people lost. Kit knew how it felt to lose things to the Depression and notes the only reason she was at Aunt Millie's was because most of the boarders were at vacation. Kit also thinks how despite what she lost, she had a luxurious life compared to the people at Mountain Hollow. While the hills were beautiful, the town didn't have a lot of what Cincinnati offered like electricity, telephones, and now schools and books.
That night, Kit was thinking why the Depression always had to win and tries to think of a way to connect the townspeople with the books. Kit stares at a spiderweb outside her window, thinking how a spiderweb was a work of art. She notices a water drop on the web that moved by junction to junction, thus giving Kit an idea. The next morning, Kit goes onto the porch where Aunt Millie and Myrtle were drinking coffee, and she tells them about the spiderweb. Kit explains they could be like the water drop and they could walk from house to house, lending books. "Maybe this one time, we'll win and the Depression will lose."Aunt Millie loves the idea and Kit asks Myrtle if she would lend Serena and she allows her. Aunt Millie asks if Myrtle was sure Serena wouldn't get discouraged by the long route and Myrtle assures she won't. She hesitates, and adds slowly she hoped Kit and Millie wouldn't get discouraged either. Aunt Millie says neither bugs nor the Depression could discourage them and Kit agrees, although she suspects that Myrtle wasn't talking about the route or the Depression. Kit couldn't asks what Myrtle meant though, as Millie was telling Kit to get dressed so they could load up on books.
The next, early morning, Kit and Millie leave with the mule and two canvas bags filled with books. The two walk the long road to the McCorkle's house, the first house Millie wanted to visit. When they arrived, they saw Mrs. McCorkle stitching a quilt on the porch. She starts chatting with the two, offering them sassafras tea and asking if they would like to see her kids. She tells Millie her son Robert was proud about memorizing the Shakespeare poem she had taught him and he would love to recite it to Millie. Aunt Millie explains they couldn't stay and explains about their traveling library. Kit adds how they brought some books for them to borrow a while and Mrs. McCorkle's smile stiffens. She tells the two she and her children were too busy to read. Kit is astounded that anyone would say no to borrowing a book, but it was the same response at every house.
Kit and Millie would walk long miles, only to have people very unenthusiastic about their books. Some said they were too busy for books, some said they were too impractical, and some said they were wary of outside influences. Some had said yes reluctantly, but most people said no. At the end of the day, Kit and Millie sat on Myrtle's porch, discouraged.
Millie comments the Depression won again. Kit tells Myrtle how when they offered books, people said no, and Myrtle asks what else the townspeople said. Kit mentioned all of them were friendly and generous, offering them food and drinks. Myrtle asks if they accepted any of their offers and Kit explains they had so far to go, they didn't accept. Myrtle pursed her lips, indicating it was a mistake. Aunt Millie argues if they had accepted, they would be taking food right from their mouths. Myrtle explains that Hill folks never had nor will take handouts, even in the Depression, because it hurt their pride.
Kit says she knew how it felt to have her pride hurt as she recalls the time Ruthie tried to give Kit a dress and they ended up in a terrible fight. Myrtle asks how they made up and Kit explains she wrote Ruthie a fairytale book. Since she had something to give Ruthie, Kit felt better about taking the dress as Kit could give something in return. Myrle raises her eyebrows and smiles and Kit finally gets the message. She asks Myrtle if she could borrow Serena and her 'Waste-Not, Want-Not Almanac' tomorrow, then tells Millie she had an idea and wanted to go around with the books again. Aunt Millie laughs and jokes "Kit and Millie ride again!" and agrees to try again. She doubts that tomorrow wouldn't be any better than today, but Kit says if they gave up, the Depression would certainly win. Myrtle laughs and tells Kit she sounded more like a stubborn Kentuckian everyday.
Mrs. McCorkle is surprised and a little flustered when she sees Kit and Millie at her door again. Kit tells Mrs. McCortle she noticed the quilt pattern she was sewing yesterday and thought it would be a great addition to her almanac as quilts were a pretty and practical way to use cloth. Kit asks if she would draw the pattern and Mrs. McCortle, after flipping through the book, said she would be proud to record it in a book like the almanac. Kit thanks her and Mrs. McCortle invites the two inside as it would take a while to draw the pattern. The two agree to go inside and Millie comments she would like to hear Robert recite the poem.
After Robert recited his poem, Kit gets directions written on how to collect Sassafras bark for tea. When it was time to leave, Kit and Millie thank Mrs. McCorkle for her generosity. Millie comments she knew it was hard for Kentuckians to take one thing without giving something in return. Mrs. MCorkle agrees and admits that's why she didn't borrow any books yesterday. Aunt Millie offers a book of Shakespeare poems and Mrs. McCorkle happily takes it.
Kit's almanac helped out at every house as people shared what they knew into the almanac and took a book in return. At the end of the day, Kit's almanac was bulging with pressed flowers while Serena's book bags were nearly empty. So while Kit and Millie were still as tired and bug-bitten as yesterday, they weren't discouraged.
Kit tells Myrtle she and Millie should think of what kind of books to bring back next time when they arrive back to the cabin. Kit comments she noticed people liked practical books, but also liked fanciful books. Kit starts to think up books they could bring when Myrtle asks Kit to pause and tell her why the traveling library was such a success today when yesterday it flopped. Kit grins and said it was because of something Myrtle had helped her see yesterday. Kit explains people felt good about taking a book when they could return something by contributing to the almanac. Myrtle comments the almanac was a clever book and Millie says "Clever? Why, thanks to the Waste-Not, Want-Not Almanac and Kit, this time the Depression lost and we won."
Meet The Author
Valerie Tripp shares that writing Kit is especially fun for her as Kit's family and friends remind Valerie of her own family and friends. Aunt Millie is like her mother, Charlie is like her husband, Ruthie is a lot like her childhood best friend, Stirling was like her daughter, and Kit was like her friend.
Looking Back: Kentucky's Packhorse Libraries
Discusses the Appalachian area and the use of packhorse libraries during the Great Depression. Topics covered:
- Life for the families that lived in the Kentucky mountains of Appalachia, where they had no contact to the outside world and were hungry for knowledge.
- The Works Progress Administration helping libraries bring books to remote communities, and the formation of the Kentucky Packhorse Library Project to deliver books to the Appalachian area of Kentucky.
- How the packhorse libraries worked, with librarians going from house to house delivering books to those they knew, and the types of books that were most popular.
- Librarians having to select reading material with care due to the resistance some people had over the possible negative influences of "outsider books".
- The quilt patterns and recipes librarians accepted in exchange for books, which they would paste into scrapbooks that later became high in demand.
- Children's impression of the traveling libraries, despite their parents believing storybooks would distract them during the farming months.
- The uses of horses and mules to help with delivery routes, with mules being more popular because they were stronger and well-footed, among other reasons.
- Lena Nofcier, a librarian that asked PTAs in Kentucky to donate one penny to help with buying more books for the packhorse libraries.