Library Visit Number Five in Selma, AL – Home of Kathryn & Charlie

 “She was twice blessed, she was happy and she knew it.”

Kathryn Tucker Windham

The sign on the Selma water tower says, “History and Hospitality,” and we got both today with the extraordinary kids, teachers, and librarian wonder, Becky Nichols, gathered at the Selma Dallas County Public Library and then later a walk through the Live Oak Cemetery dripping with Spanish moss on the magnolia trees. We also displayed Lucy’s original art pages, and the kids loved her page of the Spanish moss illustration, which was shaped from an old green sweater she’d unraveled to hang from the trees created with real bark. She was inspired by the way Charlie Lucas grew up seeing art in everything, and that gave her the so many ideas about how to illustrate Nothing Fancy About Kathryn & Charlie.

Author Libba Bray once said if she ran the world all librarians would wear capes, because of their super powers, and Becky Nichols is one of those librarians with programs running every single day at the library during the summer. She also reminded me of Kathryn Tucker Windham’s favorite book, ERNEST’S GIFT, that Kathryn wrote about an African American boy, Ernest Dawson, growing up in the 1930s who wasn’t allowed into the library in Selma, which was segregated.

New South Books writes:

A man’s lifelong love of books and reading overcomes the hurt of a childhood humiliation in this touching true tale related by Alabama storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham on the occasion of the Selma Public Library’s 100th anniversary. As a child in the 1930s, Ernest Dawson loved books but was denied use of the library in segregated Selma. He grew up and became a teacher, and after segregation had ended, he left money in his will toward a children’s wing of the Selma library so that children of all races could read and learn.


Anyway, it felt good to be in that very same library with the kids making trees and telling stories. One boy made a tree with rope swing over a blue water. Another sculpted a grove of palm trees. A girl made a purple peach tree, and one of the teachers shaped an orange tree in the middle of town with a sturdy ladder so the kids could climb up it and pick one each day, and another artist’s weeping willow exploded with puzzle pieces.

At the end of the workshop, Olive made her appearance, too, and once she’d received plenty of love from the kids and at least three librarians, we made a trip to Hancock’s Barbecue, which was so delicious – tangy barbecue, ribs, cole slow, fried apple sticks (a new experience – more like fried applesauce) and onion rings with plenty of sweet tea. Becky told us Kathryn would definitely approve of a trip to Hancock’s. 🙂

Then we visited the Live Oak Cemetery and just before we found Kathryn’s grave, a redbird flew over my head, and I just felt her close by. It’s been a long time since I’ve walked around a cemetery, but it felt so peaceful being there with my girls after the workshop and an afternoon of art with the kids. The skies kept threatening rain, but the clouds only hung heavy with shafts of sunlight sparking up Selma at dusk. Then we took the winding roads back to Birmingham listening to Patsy Cline.

Oh, one more thing, the Rexall Drug sign reminds me of visiting Leavenworth, Kansas where my grandparents lived and paid many visits to Rexall Drugs, since that store seemed to carry just about everything back in the day or so it seemed to me as a child.

It’s going to be an early morning with more stories tomorrow from Gadsden, Alabama 🙂




About Kerry Madden-Lunsford

Kerry writes books for kids and teaches creative writing. Her books include: Offsides, Writing Smarts, Gentle's Holler, Louisiana's Song, Jessie's Mountain, Up Close Harper Lee, and Nothing Fancy About Kathryn and Charlie, and the latest - ERNESTINE'S MILKY WAY is out in the spring of 2019. She writes essays for the LA Times among other places and divides her life between Birmingham and Los Angeles. She is on the faculty at Antioch's Low Residency MFA Program and the Director of Creative Writing at UAB.
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3 Responses to Library Visit Number Five in Selma, AL – Home of Kathryn & Charlie

  1. Janis Madden says:

    Another remarkable adventure. I love journeying along with the three of you, (excuse me, Olive) the four of you. You make me smile and cry when I saw Kathryn’s grave. I so regret I never met her but I will read her stories. Goodnight, my loves.

  2. Love the journey and the photos.

  3. nancy glaub says:

    Awesome awesome awesome

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