10 children’s books about Appalachia that every child should read

If you’re like me, you’ve got kids. And you love Kentucky. So fill up your home library with some Kentucky tales and stories that are good and straight from the heart of our Mountains. This week’s Wednesday list comes from guest contributor Courtney Hall. More about her and her blog, The Bourbon Soaked Mom, is at the bottom of the post. – {from Peter}:

Courtney offers these 10 books about Appalachia that every child should read (the titles and images link to each book on amazon.com. The Kaintuckeean receives a percentage of each sale from these links – thanks!):

Trouble in Troublesome Creek
by Nancy Kelly Allen

An inspiring story of bravery, and courage. I grew up on the banks of Troublesome Creek, and this book is a reflection of times when one could wander along creek banks and splash in watering holes with a child’s spirit. Beware: reading is sure to make you nostalgic.

When I was Young in the Mountains
by Cynthia Rylant

My all time favorite children’s book. Rylant explores life as a child of Appalachia. She recalls her Grandfather coming home, covered with coal dust, her love of fried okra, and having to be chaperoned outside late at night to use an out-house. This book is a wonderful, and poetic reflection of simpler times, when family and love was all you really needed.

The Relatives Came
by Cynthia Rylant

Rylant illustrates the simplicity of life in Appalachia again, in this tale of an annual visit from far away relatives. She notes the anticipation and excitement that is brought by the mention of “relatives” coming, along with all those little inconveniences that are endured when accommodations have to be made. “It was hard going to sleep, with all that new breathing in the house.”

My Mountain Song
by Shutta Crum

A beautiful tale about Brenda Gail, who is spending the summer with her grandparents in the mountains of Kentucky. Grandpa tells her everyone has a song, just waiting to come out. That summer, Brenda finds her own song, and learns about life along the way. The illustrations in this book are so wonderful, and will make you want to head over to Grandma’s and get out your fiddle.

Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds
by Cynthia Rylant & Barry Moser

Once again, Cynthia Rylant paints a true and honest picture of the beautiful, unique and sometimes harsh realities of life in Appalachia. Both Rylant and Moser draw from their own upbringings and memories of this much fabled region, and the unique group of people who inhabit “those shimmering painted mountains.”

My Great Aunt Arizona
by Gloria Houston

A beautiful, true life story about the author’s Aunt, who against all circumstance and hardship, became an inspiring teacher in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Houston touches on the days of one-room schooling, and how even the most unexpected teachers can inspire us in more ways than we could ever dream.

Ida Early Comes Over the Mountain
by Robert Burch

Set in rural Georgia, during the Great Depression, Ida Early turns up at the doorstep of the Sutton family, whose household in wholly unhappy. Even though Ida exaggerates much of her life, and her accomplishments, it is she, the non-conformist, who teaches the Sutton family what life is all about.

A Penny’s Worth of Character
by Jesse Stuart

Stuart epitomizes the value of honesty in this well loved classic. Set in Stuart’s native (and mine, as well) Eastern Kentucky, Shan Shelton is faced with a dilemma. Be dishonest and receive what he wants, or face the repercussions and guilt of gain by being deceitful. I have always loved this book, and it is a great way to show your children strength of character.

The Big Toe: An Appalachian Ghost Story
by Ellie Kirby

This well known Appalachian folk story has been passed down from generation to generation. I remember my Grandmother telling it to myself and my cousins, and being completely bewildered by it. Children are sure to enjoy this spooky addition to the colorful folklore of this area, and be just a little scared by it, too.

Miss Dorothy and her Bookmobile
by Gloria Houston

Set in the North Carolina mountains, Miss Dorothy is a librarian with a problem. There are no libraries. She decides that if the folks in her community have no library, she’d bring the library to them. She used her bookmobile to distribute books to children and families who otherwise would have no means to get books. A beautiful and inspiring story of determination and love of community.

I hope you all enjoy reading these books to your children. If you are familiar with Appalachia, I hope they make you smile. If you aren’t, I hope you gain insight into this lovely area and come to appreciate it’s beauty and simplicity.

Courtney Hall is a wife, mother of two and daughter of Appalachia. Hailing from Hazard Kentucky, she writes a blog, The Bourbon Soaked Mom, that continually aims to draw positive attention to her hometown, her region, and all things Kentucky.

Read more from Courtney at