9 Children’s Books about Appalachia

I grew up in the mountains of Virginia, right in the heart of Appalachian coal country.   Appalachia, the region itself, is mapped from Alabama to upstate New York (following the Appalachian mountains).  [Pronounced App uh lah cha] Within the region there are obviously a variety of cultures, topographies, and types of people; however, Appalachia certainly has its own reputation.  As an avid childhood reader, I read books about the mountains, some from Appalachia, but I definitely don’t remember teachers or  librarians focused on regional literature (which was good because I read many books about other places!).  But, as an adult, I’m fascinated with looking back at children’s literature that’s set in the mountains.  If there are general “themes,” they would included poverty, family, and the landscape of the mountains.

App Books

Here are 9 of the more popular books about Appalachia [although, as I’m researching, there are certainly many more – check the links at the end of the post.] Please lend any other Appalachian suggestions!

Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds

Lyrical prose and warm watercolor illustrations bring a “certain part of the country called Appalachia” alive for young readers. Two award-winning artists, forever touched by their experiences growing up in this unique landscape, have teamed to create a quietly powerful and beautifully crafted portrait of life in a timeless place.

My Great-Aunt Arizona

Arizona was born in a log cabin her papa built. She grew into a tall girl who liked to sing, square-dance, and — most of all — read and dream of the faraway places she would visit one day.

When I Was Young in the Mountains (Reading Rainbow Books)

“An evocative remembrance of the simple pleasures in country living; splashing in the swimming hole, taking baths in the kitchen, sharing family times, each is eloquently portrayed here in both the misty-hued scenes and in the poetic text.”
-Association for Childhood Education International

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story

Acclaimed author Gloria Houston has written a tale that is as joyful and timeless as Christmas itself. Jewel-like paintings by two-time Caldecott Medal winner Barbara Cooney capture all of the season’s warmth and mountain flavor.

Ida Early Comes over the Mountain

“Ida Early is as tall as the tales she tells, a gangly scarecrow who comes to the rural Georgia home of widower Mr. Sutton during the Depression years. Her offer to help out for a spell delights the four Sutton children and their father … and life becomes a three-ring circus for the kids”.–Publishers Weekly. An ALA Notable Book.

Rabble Starkey

Many things change for twelve-year-old Rabble Starkey, her mother, and her best friend, Veronica Bigelow, when Veronica’s mother becomes mentally incapacitated and the Starkeys move in with the Bigelows.

Come Sing, Jimmy Jo (A Puffin Novel)

Written by Newbery, National Book Award, and Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal winner Katherine Paterson

The Johnsons are becoming country music stars. They’re on TV and the radio–and it’s all because of James. His voice and his guitar playing bring the songs to life, and make the audiences beg for more. Most kids would love it. Not James. He’s had to change his name to “Jimmy Jo,” dress in clothes he hates, and turn into someone else. Will he ever be able to cope with the fame?

Shiloh

When Marty Preston comes across a young beagle in the hills behind his home, it’s love at first sight and also big trouble. It turns out the dog, which Marty names Shiloh belongs to Judd Travers who drinks too much and has a gun and abuses his dogs. So when Shiloh runs away from Judd to Marty, Marty just has to hide him and protect him from Judd. But Marty’s secret becomes too big for him to keep to himself, and it exposes his entire family to Judd’s anger. How far will Marty have to go to make Shiloh his?

Borrowed Children

” Golden Kite Award winner, 1989 Booklist, Editor’s Choice School Library Journal, Best Books of 1988 Publisher’s Weekly, Best Books of 1988 Twelve-year-old Amanda Perritt is pitched head-first into adult responsibilities when she has to quit school to care for her newborn brother and invalid mother. She gets an escape, she thinks, when she’s offered a trip to stay with her grandmother and her sophisticated Aunt Laura in Memphis. But during the visit, she discovers unexpected parallels between her mother’s childhood and her own and comes to understand her own individuality as well as what it means to be part of a family.

[Excerpts via Goodreads]

Sources for more Appalachian Children’s Books:

Ferrum University’s Appalachian Fiction for Children and Young Adults

Appalachian State: Appalachian Literature for Children

6 Comments

  1. Destiny said:

    I love this idea of regional literature. Having grown up in Maine, I feel like there are a LOT of children’s books focused on where I’m from. But, in looking at this list, I realize I can’t think of any books I read that focused on Appalachia. I know that I learned about the area in my childhood, so I must have read *something*… but I can’t recall.

    Stopped by from the Kids Lit Blog Hop

    November 20, 2013
  2. Lina Dickson said:

    It is amazing you can find at least nine children’s books focusing one specific region. I am wondering what different aspects the nine stories tell about Appalachia. Great list! Thank you so much for sharing with us at Kid Lit Blog Hop!

    November 21, 2013
    • Tina Hanlon said:

      There are hundreds of Appalachian books for children and young adults about, and hundreds of pages in my web site about them and related topics. See the link below to my AppLit site at Ferrum College.

      November 24, 2015
      • Tina Hanlon said:

        OK. Now I’ve made a fool of myself for not checking my wording carefully above and I submitted before I was finished, and can’t see a way to edit my response. I meant to add that Robert Herrin’s bibliography lists hundreds of Appalachian children’s books, too.

        November 24, 2015
      • Brittany said:

        Thank you for stopping by! What a great and valuable resource!

        November 24, 2015
  3. […] family very well from the home deep in the holler to the dinners of beans.  As I discussed in a previous post on Appalachian children’s literature, poverty is a theme that represents the oft…James’ family is not rich, but they have sights on sharing their music to the rest of the […]

    November 26, 2013

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