Appalachian Christmas Books For Children and Young Adults: Annotated Bibliography

 By Judy A. Teaford 
Mountain State University

    Snowman head      snowman head

Picture Books | Christmas Stories & Collections | Children's & YA Fiction/Nonfiction/Drama | Christmas Stories on the Internet

NOTES: *I have encountered several Christmas books that, while not exactly Southern/Central Appalachia, certainly have a very close bond to it, both geographically and culturally. These I have included in this list with a red asterisk in front of the author's name. 

**After some thought I have decided to include those Christmas picture books that, while not set in Appalachia, are written by Appalachians. These books are marked by two green asterisk marks in front of the author's name. 

See also Realistic Appalachian Picture Books.

Picture Books 

Balderose, Nancy Ward. Once Upon A Christmas Pony: A Mountain Christmas. Illus. Nancy Ward Balderose. Ridgefield, CT: Morehouse, 1992. Imagine it's almost Christmas Eve--the time somewhere around the 1940s. A young boy and his sister are eager to get to church to see the annual Christmas play and taste the sweetness of the striped candy canes Pastor Adkins always gives out after the nativity play. But first they have a chore to do.  Jess and Hannah Puckett are sent to the old coal mine to retrieve the buckets of coal left there by their father.  It's for the church.  Mama sends them on their way with Chester, the family horse, daddy's coal mining hat, and a lantern. The snow falls, getting deeper and deeper. Jess and Hannah collect the coal and start off toward Sugar Ridge Community Church. However, on the way they make two stops.  Widow Samples and Hezekiah are in need of coal. Of course the children leave each plenty. They even sing Hezekiah's favorite Christmas song, "Silent Night," since he is too ill to attend church tonight. The real excitement occurs when the children reach the church and Chester sneezes, waking Jeb McKinney's coon dogs, who then frighten Chester with their barking and nipping. Jess, Hannah, and Chester suddenly become part of the already in progress nativity play as the frightened horse clambers up the church steps and into the church. Pastor Adkins, not the least ruffled by this unexpected event, includes the three in the nativity story. When the other wise men offer their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, Hannah unwraps her scarf and offers the last few lumps of coal from the sled. Everyone proclaims this to be the best nativity play ever, and the best kept secret.  But "news travels fast in the country." Pastor Adkins praises the children for their good deeds. The illustrations evoke the atmosphere of a country town, a cold and snowy winter night, and the love and goodness of a small community. The small side pictures of Widow Samples and her children standing crowded at their door and Hezekiah in red flannel underclothes lying in bed are especially poignant.

Brown, Elizabeth Ferguson. Coal Country Christmas. Illus. Harvey Stevenson. Boyds Mill Press, 2003. Like George Ella Lyon's Mama is a Miner and Anna Smucker's No Star Nights (about a steel mill town), this is another beautifully written book that does not suppress the harsh realities of living and working in Appalachia. In this nostalgic story (1950s), young Liz, whose mother and grandmother share the same name, travels from New Jersey with her mother to the small coal mining town of Carbondale, Pennsylvania (located in the upper-Appalachian region, about 20 miles from DC) for Christmas. "Smoke, dark with soot, sends out its welcome from coal country chimneys."  Her "grandfather's empty rocker sits by the window....The lung sickness that comes to those who go deep into the mines day after day has left many empty rockers." Brown also shares her memories of the dangers of gas from coal stoves and mines beneath houses, of houses and streets that tilt "as old shafts collapse beneath them," of smoke that continues to rise in the still smoldering mines. Sadly, the holiday get-together consists of mostly women. Young Liz hears the "sad, lonely wail of a train whistle.  Its cry echoes off the mountains as it races against the night leaving coal country behind," reminiscent of the many forgotten coal towns, left to die alone. However, as in Lyon's and Smucker's books, Brown's book reveals the beauty of the mountains and the love of a close-knit family. Beautiful snow-covered mountains and a soft-eyed deer welcome the two Lizes home. Family traditions continue: Yule trees decorated with special ornaments, garlands decorating houses, the old stove, gathering family, grandmother's wonderful fruit cake, sleeping in grandmother's bed, "the bed of the three Lizs."  Home!  A lovely story!  (NOTE
To schedule a presentation, contact Elizabeth Brown through Boyds Mill Press or at She also has an absolutely wonderful teaching packet, Using Family Stories to Deliver Curriculum, that she wrote for this story! Coal Country Christmas is listed in the American Coal Foundation Resources Website.) 

Buck, Pearl S. Christmas Day in the Morning. Illus. Mark Buehner. New York: HarperCollins, 2002. "Rob wants to get his father something special for Christmas this year--something that shows how much he really loves him. . . .Originally published in 1955, this classic story is now being issued, for the first time ever, as a picture book with glorious full-color art by acclaimed artist Mark Buehner" (Front Cover). Buehner notes that his children, Heidi and Grant, heard this story in church. On Christmas Eve his inspired children gave a gift to their parents; they cleaned the main floor of the house. "It's been an honor for me to illustrate this wonderful and meaningful story" (Illustrator's Note).

Caudill, Rebecca. A Certain Small Shepherd. Illus. William Pene Du Bois. New York: Henry Holt, 1965. Jamie is born on a cold November night in Hurricane Gap. That very night, before she dies, his mother moans, "For sure, it's bad luck trying to break in."  Father responds bravely, "Bad luck has no business here."  But little Jamie does have his share of bad luck.  Jamie can't talk. He can't talk when he is two, he can't talk when he is four, Jamie can't talk when he starts school at age six. But he listens. And Jamie learns many things. He learns about birds from his father. He learns about letters and numbers from his teacher, Miss Creech. Finally Christmas approaches. There will be a school play. And Jamie will be a shepherd. He practices very hard.  But it seems as though bad luck has come again. A strong storm keeps the children at home; the play is cancelled. Jamie is very disappointed.  He listens for the voice of the angel his father reads about from the Bible, the one that tells the shepherds of the coming birth.  But the storm only gets worse.  Looking out the window, Jamie sees something.  He calls his father and sisters to come see.  A man and woman come to the back door looking for a place to stay.  They have been to three houses before Jamie's. Father takes care of the couple, who insist that it would be better if they stay in the stable.  The next morning, Christmas morning, Jamie hears something, or maybe he says something to himself. Father awakens Jamie and his sisters. He wants them to see a miracle. As the children follow their father, he says that the stable is no place to stay, especially when there is a warm and comfortable church nearby. The children enter the warm church and see the woman sitting on an old buffalo skin, covered with quilts. There is a baby. Jamie runs out of the church and returns in his shepherd costume. As Jamie gives the baby the orange from his stocking, he says loud and clear, "Here's a Christmas gift for the Child."  To the mother he says, as he hands her his Christmas dime, "And here's a Christmas gift for the Mother." The illustrations definitely reveal the period during which the book was written, the 1960s. They also make a strong statement about the times; the couple who find refuge in the little church are black. Jamie’s frustration, his anger, his happiness are all realistically dealt with in this story that echoes that of the birth of Christ.  

Evans, Ron W. The Recipe for Christmas Snow. Illus. Terry Couch. Corbin, KY: Creek Sound Books, no pub. date. 
What happens when the recipe for snow is lost? How was it lost? And what of Santa's nieces? Will they hide from him forever? Will Santa's dark mood go away?  Will the sky once again be bright? Will there ever be snow again? Read the book and you are sure to uncover the mystery of the missing recipe. You'll also find simply crafted but creatively planned illustrations to accompany the text of the book. Imagine "A singing brook that flows close by / Makes music by the barrels / And splashes out the silver notes / For use in Christmas carols."  

Gorman, Nan Hagan. Appalachian Christmas: Stories & Illustrations. Hazard, KY: Ad East, 2004. 32 pp.

Hall, Francie. Appalachian Christmas ABCs. Illus. Kent Oehm. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 2008. "Exploring the whimsy and worship of Yuletide in the mountains, each letter captures a glimpse of the traditions, food, and frolicking shared by family and friends. Incorporating a legend about the animals around the manger, a program with angels announcing God's glory, and choirs softly singing carols, this A-to-Z book for all ages will become a new Christmas tradition for families who gather around the tree each December."

Houston, Gloria. Littlejim's Gift: An Appalachian Christmas Story. Illus. Thomas B. Allen. New York: Philomel, 1994. This story, like most by Gloria Houston, is based on her own family stories and Appalachian holiday traditions. Littlejim wants more than anything to attend the church Christmas tree celebration. But his father is a stern man: "No time for celebrating. Most of our boys from off the Creek here are across the water trying to whup the Kaiser. What with the war and all, Christmas is just another day. And that's that."  Still, Littlejim dreams of attending the Christmas tree celebration.  He learns that there will be a contest, a Bible verse competition. Whoever wins the contest will recite verses at the Christmas tree celebration.  Littlejim will enter the contest. This way his father might attend the Christmas tree celebration. Littlejim also dreams of building things. But Bigjim doesn't have time to teach him. Littlejim saves the money he makes from working at his Uncle's sawmill on Saturdays, a dime each work day. He will buy a set of tools. One day Bigjim needs Littlejim to help him in the woods. Littlejim works hard. But he takes off his mittens just as Bigjim throws him the header-grab. The steel is so cold it burns like his mother's cookstove when it is hot. Littlejim ends up in bed with his hands wrapped.  Every day, Littlejim's sister, Nell, reads to him, listens to him recite his Bible verses, and brings him special gifts. Littlejim remembers how longingly Nell looks at the beautiful doll in the window of Burleso
n's store.  His sister has been so good to him. Littlejim wins the contest, and he, his mother, and Nell attend the Christmas tree celebration. Bigjim stays home. When the gifts are given out, Nell gets the beautiful doll from the window. Littlejim realizes that giving is what is most important about Christmas. Littlejim's surprise is the set of tools.  His mother has purchased the gift with her egg money.  And as an added surprise, Bigjim enters the church just after the gifts are passed out. Bigjim still seems stern, but he squeezes his son's shoulder as he sings along with the rest of the congregation. The hazy illustrations recall a time past, and often give the impression of  memories, half-faded.  

Houston, Gloria. The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. Illus. Barbara Cooney. New York: Dial, 1988. This Christmas, "when the village almost did not have a Christmas tree," is a Christmas  that young Ruthie will never forget. Tradition is very important in the Appalachian mountains of Pine Grove. Each Christmas a family is chosen to pick a special tree for the village church–a rhododendron, a cedar, and this year, a balsam. Papa tells Ruthie it is important to pick the tree early. Early that spring, the two ride "across the high cliffs and along the craigs looking for the perfect Christmas tree," to the  top of Grandfather Mountain. Since custom also dictates that a child of the chosen family be the angel in the Christmas play, Papa believes it fitting that Ruthie tie the red ribbon to the top of the chosen tree. The year is 1918, and the Great War makes it hard on everyone. Papa is called to serve. Finally a letter arrives from Papa. The Armistice was signed; he will be home for Christmas. Mama and Ruthie wait and wait for Papa's return. The day before Christmas, Papa is still not home. Miss Jenny and her students practice the Christmas play. Ruthie needs a white dress with big sleeves, so they will look like angel wings. But there is no money, Papa is still not home, and the Preacher wants to let Chad McKinney provide the tree. Mama says, "Tom is as good as his word. Our family will give the tree this year." That night Mama and Ruthie head out to get the special balsam Papa chose. It is a long walk, and cold. With determination and hard work, Mama and Ruthie cut the tree and pull it to the village church. A white dress for Ruthie is fashioned out of Mama's wedding dress. Last-minute preparations are made for the special night, Christmas Eve. At the end of the program, Papa is still not home. It is time to pass out the Christmas presents. Ruthie wants a doll, just like the one her Mama secretly makes for her the night she makes her angel dress. But Papa is still not home. The Preacher says the benediction, and the families begin leaving for home. Yet there standing next to St. Nicholas is one more gift for Ruthie, her Papa. He has made it home, just as he promised. "That's how it happened,  the Christmas of the heavenly angel and the perfect balsam Christmas tree. Grandma Ruthie told me so." A beautifully told story, full of description of the Appalachian mountains, Houston's story is one that might prompt the beginnings of new traditions, or at least memories of similar traditions. Cooney's illustrations are a perfect complement to Houston's tale of a long Christmas tradition.  

Marie, Nancy. Country Christmas. Illus. Delores Rylan. Grafton,
WV, 1979. This story is reminiscent, both in text and illustrations, of picture books from the early sixties. What makes this book unusual, however, is the scratch and sniff labels that are sprinkled throughout the pages. Readers of this book have the added pleasure of Christmas scents–pine, candy cane, gingerbread, hay, chocolate, bayberry, ham, pudding, and peanut butter cookies. Marie has certainly made use of a powerful sense to evoke memories in the minds of her readers.  

Moser, Barry. Good and Perfect Gifts: An Illustrated Retelling of The Gift of the Magi. Illus. Barry Moser. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997. "Master storyteller Barry Moser has put a warm and uniquely southern [Tennessee] twist on a tale that speaks as clearly to today's audience as it has to generations past" (Front cover). Moser begins his tale with Rebecca teaching her Sunday school class the story of the birth of Jesus. Rebecca doesn't pretend to know all the answers; she just tells the story from her heart. (Teachers will certainly associate with, if not enjoy, the remarkably realistic battery of questions and verbal banter from the children in Rebecca's class.) A treasured prize quilt from Rebecca's recently deceased mother and Fenton's Snap-on tools replace the long, flowing hair and pocket watch of O'Henry's story. Moser's use of dialect is light, offering a warm and realistic example of Appalachian speech.  About the illustrations, Moser says, "The pictures in this book were rendered as if drawn and painted on brown wrapping paper, which has old Christmas associations for me. . . . its [the brown wrapping paper's] tone permeates the illustrations, and Rebecca and Fenton use it to wrap each other's gifts.  Brown paper is a symbol of the ordinary lives these kids lead and their modest means. It also suggests that ordinary materials can yield good and perfect gifts" (Back cover).  

Ransom, Candice. One Christmas Dawn. Illus. Peter Fiore. BridgeWater Books, 1995. Rhythmical language and beautiful paintings tell the story of a ten-year-old girl awaiting the return of her father for Christmas. "Back then we lived on Morning Star Ridge, where Big Lick Creek turkey-tailed into three forks."  Work was scarce, and Daddy had just been sent home from the quarry because it was too cold to work.  He has to go to Bristol to find work, but promises to be back by Christmas. The protagonist of the story explains that it is too cold to sit on her "Gone but" stone and watch for the train.  (The "Gone but" stone is a gravestone with no name, just Gone but.)  It is so cold the train even stops running. How is Daddy going to get home for Christmas?  And then a glorious thing happened.  The little girl awakes to a strange glow from the window.  Outside the sun is shining and everything is in bloom.  Suddenly it all disappears.  Daddy makes it home. It is years later the protagonist remembers "Days gone, but not forgotten."  "The winter of 1917, the inspiration for this story, was one of the coldest on record in the mountains of southwest Virginia. . . .The story of the early Christmas dawn, handed down among mountain folk, may be traced back to the British legend of the Glastonbury rose, which is said to bloom an hour before the true dawn on old Christmas Day, January 6" (Author's Note).  

Ryan, Cheryl. Christmas Morning. Illus. Jenny Mattheson. New York: Scholastic, 2004. A Rat King, a Nutcracker, a Doll, these are just a few of the characters that make up Ryan's story about Christmas morning. But don't think this a simple retelling, in cumulative form, of The Nutcracker.  Ryan's story contains many other items associated with Christmas, like snow, reindeer, Santa, etc.  The repetition of lines is fun to read, especially aloud, and more so when the reader makes use of the "Motions to Accompany the Story" that Ryan provides at the end of the book.  The illustrations by Jenny Mattheson are a perfect compliment to the text--simple line drawings filled in with delightful pastels and hints of primary colors convert into more three-dimensional, three-quarter page spreads that will delight all.  The illustrators returns, at the end of the book, to the simple line drawings filled with warm colors.  Text box designs are unique to each page, and most include an element of importance to the text itself.       

Rylant, Cynthia. Christmas in the Country. Illus. Diane Goode. New York: Blue Sky Press, 2002. Rylant and Goode are reunited in this heartwarming story of a young girl who lives with her grandparents in the Appalachian mountains. The story is warm and nostalgic, much like Rylant's and Goode's first book, When I Was Young in the Mountains. However, the illustrations are markedly different in this book. Goode's illustrations in this book are rendered in pen-and-ink and watercolor. Cross-hatching and wonderful country details, like the ever-present family dog and the always windblown hair, make this a cozy story for children of all ages. 


**Rylant, Cynthia. Little Whistle's Christmas. Illus. Tim Bowers. New York: Harcourt, 2003. This is one book of a series, and quite delightful. Imagine a guinea pig living in a store with toys. Little Whistle does. Rylant creates dozens of wonderful toy characters to inhabit the toy store and share life with Little Whistle.  The question on everyone's mind this Christmas is who made the toys. Was it Santa? A letter is promptly sent off to Santa, and each night Little Whistle and the toys wait for the answer. Bowers's realistic oil paintings are a perfect compliment to Rylant's story about a live animal and toys--stuffed and wooden and soft and cute and well, you know.  

Rylant, Cynthia. Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story. Illus. Chris K. Soentpiet. New York: Orchard, 1987. "Cynthia Rylant, while growing up in the mountains of West Virginia, often heard stories about a Santa Train that brought presents to coal camp children in remote hollows" (Back cover).  These memories sparked this story of a young boy named Frankie who would wait each year for the Christmas train in hopes of a very special gift--a doctor kit.  Frankie never gets a doctor kit, but he does get other things:  socks when it seems his feet will freeze, gloves when his fingers seem like ice, a scarf when it feels as though a blade is cutting through his throat, and a hat when his ears are numb with cold. Frankie grows up and leaves the mountains.  He becomes a doctor and remembers a debt owed--one to the mountains and people of his youth. Moving home is Frankie's way of repaying this debt.  Frankie doesn't get to thank the wealthy man who brings the presents, but he does get to help a young girl who has fallen in the snow while chasing the Christmas train.  Soentpiet's illustrations are realistic "watercolor paintings of glistening trains and snow-covered hills" (Front cover). 

Spain, Susan R. The Twelve Days of Christmas in Georgia. Illus. Elizabeth O Dulemba. New York: Sterling, 2010.
Jacob writes a letter home each of the twelve days he spends exploring Georgia at Christmastime, as his cousin Ava shows him everything from a brown thrasher in a live oak tree to twelve bouncing kangaroos. Includes facts about Georgia." They "have a Southern-style holiday hiking the Appalachian Trail, wandering through the Gold Museum, and touring the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta."

Swain, Gwenyth. I Wonder as I Wander. Illus. Ronald Himler. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2003. Borderless double-page illustrations are pencil and watercolor. In Swain's imaginary account of a famous song's origin, a child tells about traveling with her preacher father. As he preaches Annie wonders about the death of her mother during a time of beauty and new life; the story begins in spring and continues through winter. They left their rural cabin and wander the countryside but her father's finds a captive audience in the bigger towns' bread lines. Swain weaves words, images and ideas from the song through Annie's thoughts in the story, including the word "ornery," which is Annie's nickname and was one of Swain's nicknames in her childhood. Annie and her father miss her mother's singing, including songs she would make up. While her father preaches on the courthouse square in Murphy, North Carolina, Annie sings a song about Jesus to help keep the sheriff from chasing them away. A man asks Annie to repeat her song; offering her twenty-five cents each time she sings it for him, he scribbles away on a piece of paper until he can repeat Annie's song. In the Author's Note, Swain remarks, "Of all the folksongs collected and recorded by John Jacob Niles, none is as haunting and beautiful as the Appalachian tune 'I Wonder as I Wander.'" Niles collected this song in 1933 at a revival in Murphy, North Carolina, when he heard Annie Morgan sing it, but he never knew anything about her or where she got it. The book also contains the music and verses for the song as Niles adapted it.

Turner, Thomas N. Country Music Night Before Christmas. Illus. James Rice. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2003. The story is told in the traditional rhyme scheme of "The Night Before Christmas." The author pokes good-natured fun at the bright lights and tinsel of Nashville, Tennessee and its country stars, making Santa the biggest star of all. Instead of reindeer, Santa brings along the best of country music's past: Conway, Roy, Patsy, Tex, Hank, Tammy, Ernest, Grandpa, etc. The use of dialect is much less heavy-handed in this book written twenty years later than Hillbilly Night Afore Christmas (see below). The illustrations are comical and fun with bright reds, oranges, and yellows highlighting each page. The story claims Santa "looked like old Porter had picked out his clothes"; however, I think it more likely that Elvis did. Just to give you a taste, following is the last stanza of the poem: "I rushed out the door–just to give him a yell, / Hollered, 'Don't be a stranger! Come on back! Set a spell!' / And I heard his last shout, just before he got gone. / 'We'll all have a big time! You just leave the light on!'"  

Turner, Thomas N. Hillbilly Night Afore Christmas. Illus. James Rice. Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican, 1983. Like Turner's other variation on "The Night Before Christmas" (see above), the rhyme scheme is the same as the original Clement Moore poem.  In this version the reindeer have been changed to bears. While Turner probably intended the book to be a humorous look at Appalachians, the stereotypical and excessive use of dialect is simply too much. Following are a couple of verses:  "And d'recly I heered / Sich a turrible trompin', / Like'n hail big es bisquit bread, / Ur store teeth a chompin'. / Though I near met myself, / Tarn'ed quick es a toad, / Sainty skinned down that chimbley / 'For I ever knowed."        

Christmas Stories and Collections

Buck, Pearl S. Pearl S. Buck's Book of Christmas. G. K. Hall,1986. 507 pp. (Large Print Edition)  Includes "Once Upon a Christmas" and "The Christmas Ghost."

Burchill, James, Linda J. Crider, and Peggy Kendrick. Ghosts and Haunts from the Appalachian Foothills: Stories and Legends. Nashville, TN: Rutledge Hill Press, 1993. 147-149.  "First Draft Writers Group was formed in January 1987 out of the determination, frustration, and need for support of two people in rural North Georgia. . . .[They are a group of people] interested in keeping the old legends of southern Appalachia alive and preserved for tomorrow's writers and storytellers" (Introduction 9-10) "The Man Who Met Santa Claus" is the story of Harvey, a man who just six months earlier was a prisoner of war in Japan.  He was released to go home.  When the snowstorm stopped the Greyhound bus in Columbia, Harvey started hitchhiking.  He soon became fevered with a malaria attack. He took a quinine pill and waited. Then he saw an "oddly dressed white-bearded man" (148).  What he took to be the old man's truck, actually a sleigh, was stuck in the ditch.  Back on the road, the old man gave Harvey a ride home and a gift. You must read the ending to find out if the story is true or not. 

Chase, Richard. Grandfather Tales. Illus. Berkeley Williams, Jr. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948. 
Chase's popular book of Appalachian folktales contains a frame story that explains the tradition of celebrating Old Christmas (Jan. 6).  Tom Hunt invites Richard Chase, a visiting folklore collector (as he was in real life), and James Turner to stay overnight on Old-Christmas Eve. A group of family and friends tell stories and sing songs all night. They begin with a Mummers' Play that Uncle Kel says was performed on Old Christmas when he was young. Granny London points out that the first song the young people sing wasn't in the old mummin' play ("Joseph and the Angel," with music given in chapter 1). In the last chapter, they sing "The Babe of Bethlehem" after Granny chooses it out of the old hymn book. On Old-Christmas Day, they sing "The Garden Hymn" at breakfast and express hope that people will treasure the memorable old songs and tales.  (Notes by Tina L. Hanlon)

Davis, Donald. “Don’t Kill Santa!” Christmas Stories. Atlanta, GA: August House, 2006. 112 pp.
"Based on the American Library Association Notable Recording for Children by the same title, these stories of Christmas at home and at Grandma's house are drawn from the familiar body of original stories the author centers in the imagined village of Sulpher Springs, North Carolina. One of the most vividly drawn locales in modern American literature, Davis's Sulpher Springs is complete in geography and characterization. Who doesn't remember the Christmas sights and sounds and smells of Grandma's? The living room aglow with a tree that touches the ceiling, the clatter of silverware and kitchen pans, the banter of relatives, and especially Grandma's bright face--these memories and more are captured by Davis and told through the eyes of a child" (Worldcat).

Davis, Donald. Father Was a Wise Old Man. Little Rock, AR: August House Audio, 2001. Audio cassette. Includes "The Christmas It Snowed" and "The Year Santa Claus Learned His Lesson."

Davis, Donald. Listening for the Crack of Dawn. Little Rock: August House, 1990. "A master storyteller recalls the Appalachia of the 50's and 60's" (front cover). A former Methodist minister and professional storyteller records his original stories based on his childhood in a small mountain town in North Carolina. Includes "Christmas in Sulpher Springs" 70-89.

Gifford, James, M., Owen B. Nance, and Patricia A. Hall, eds. Appalachian Christmas Stories.  Illus. Jim Marsh. Ashland, KY:  The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1997. This collection contains short stories, essays and nonfiction memoirs, and poetry. Notable contributors include Jesse Stuart, Loyal Jones, Harry M. Caudill, Jim Wayne Miller, and Marlin W. Blaine. The editors have provided information on each author in "About the Authors."  Simple line drawings top several of the entries in this collection.

Hodges, Mary Bozeman. Plastic Santa, and Other Stories. Tellico Books, 2003. This collection of Christmas stories is set in the Appalachian mountains of Tennessee.

Justus, May. Children of the Great Smoky Mountains. Illus. Robert Henneberger. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1952. 158 pp.
 Sixteen stories about children, many of them characters who appear in other Justus books. Mountain folkways are included in each story, especially folk songs and ballads but also riddles, quilting, holiday traditions, food, and folk beliefs. Click on title for details on "Christmas on Wheels" and "A Christmas Eve Guest." (Notes by Tina L. Hanlon)

Justus, MayHolidays in No-End Hollow. Illus. Vivian Burger. Champaign, IL: Garrard, 1970. 63 pp. 
"Four short stories tell how Thanksgiving, Christmas ["Little Lihu's Christmas Gift"] a housewarming, and a school's birthday are celebrated in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains" (Front Cover).  

Justus, MaySmoky Mountain Sampler. Illus. Jean Tamburine. New York: Abingdon, 1962. 127 pp. There are two stories about Glory and Matt from The Other Side of the Mountain and other novels. "Company for Christmas" is about sharing the little they have with unexpected Christmas Eve visitors when a young family gets stranded on the mountain in the year that Matt and Glory have to stay home to help nurse their ailing grandfather. (Notes by Tina L. Hanlon)

Lyon, George Ella, ed. A Kentucky Christmas. Univ. Press of Kentucky, 2003. 416 pp. "A celebration of holiday poetry, fiction, essays, recipes, and songs by more than sixty of the Bluegrass state’s finest writers. Gathered here are writings from some of the legendary voices of Kentucky—and the nation—as well as original Christmas stories and poetry from some of the state’s emerging talents" (from description at Univ. Press of KY page on this book, where contributors are listed, review excerpts are given, and cover is shown). See also Shelby, below.

Moose, Ruth, ed. Twelve Christmas Stories by North Carolina Writers: And Twelve Poems, Too. Down Home Press, 1997. 120 pp.  Collection of short stories, poems, essays, and novel excerpts by North Carolina writers and poets, including Lee Smith, Robert Inman, Marianne Gingher, Sue Ellen Bridges, Michael McFee, and Kate Pickens Day.

Mushko, Becky
. The Girl Who Raced Mules & Other Stories. Haverford, PA: Infinity, 2003. Thirteen hilarious stories about life in Appalachia. The last two are about Christmas. "The Best' Un Yet" tells the story of the Mitchum family (outsiders) who move to Weaver's Run, where their teenage son will attend Weaver's Run Combined Elementary-High School. When neighbors visit to welcome Mrs. Mitchum to the neighborhood, they are put on alert when, after being invited to church, Mrs. Mitchum replies, "We don't attend organized religious services." The Christmas program is coming up, expected to be the same as usual; however, the Mitchums have different ideas. The side-splitting ending shows the resolve of Appalachian people when it comes to tradition. "You Ain't Buck-Nekkid and You Got Enough to Eat" reveals the importance of being proud of your own heritage and sharing it with others. Sophie is embarrassed by her Mama's untidy appearance and old ways. She wants to be more like the new kids in town, and she wants her mother to fix herself up. She's devastated when Mama agrees to be a room mother for December. What will Sophie do, and what will the other children think of her! (NOTE: Click on the title to link to Becky Mushko's web site; click on the author's name for additional stories and activities in AppLit.)   

Rylant, Cynthia. Children of Christmas: Stories for the Season. Illus. S. D. Schindler. New York: Orchard, 1993. Five unforgettable stories ("The Christmas Tree Man," "Halfway Home," "For Being Good," "Ballerinas and Bears," "Silver Packages," and "All the Stars in the Night") that appeal to both children and adults. Several realistic black and white illustrations add depth to the stories. "Silver Packages" is set in Appalachia.


Shelby, Anne. "Jack and the Christmas Beans." In A Kentucky Christmas (see Lyon, above). And in Shelby's The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales. Illus. Paula McArdle. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 2007, pp. 55-61. See more under Shelby's name at Appalachian Folktales in General Collections, Journals, Web Sites.

Children's and Young Adult Fiction, Drama, and Nonfiction

Burch, Robert. Christmas With Ida Early. New York: Viking, 1983. 157 pp. Sequel to Ida Early Comes Over the Mountain. "Ida Early, who keeps house for the Sutton family in rural Georgia during the Depression, becomes the unwitting target of the children's matchmaking schemes during the holiday season."

Davis, C. L. The Christmas Barn. Middleton, WI: Pleasant Company, 2001.189 pp.  "In 1930, when a snowstorm destroys their home in the Appalachian mountains twelve-year-old Roxie and her family move into the barn and prepare for a very unusual Christmas celebration" (Book summary). 

Green, Michelle Y. Willie Pearl. Illus. Steve McCracken. Temple Hills, MD: William Ruth, 1990. 45 pp. Full-page watercolor illustrations. First of a "historical fiction series for families based in a Depression-era Kentucky coal-mining town." Based on Green's mother's background, this story contains many details about the life of coal miners' families, their low pay and dependence on coal companies that pay them in scrip after deducting many charges from their paychecks. Willie Pearl's family has plenty of food but they all work hard and have no money for frills, especially since her father's illness. She shares a bedroom (divided with a curtain) with sisters and brothers. She wants a doll but only has paper dolls she makes from catalogs and other handmade toys. Her friend Mae Ella is being raised by an aunt who can provide many more luxuries to her one child. Ma Rainey cooks hearty meals for men who work long hours in the mine while living away from their families. The plot revolves around Willie Pearl's attempt to save money for a doll in the company store's window display of Christmas toys.

Hamilton, Dorothy. Neva's Patchwork Pillow. Herald Press, 1975.  A young girl compares her life in the Tennessee mountains to her current life in Cincinnati. 

Hickam, Homer, Jr. The Coalwood Way. New York: Island Books, 2001.  The book is set during the fall and winter months of 1959. Miners face the real possibility of a layoff just before Christmas (by the author of Rocket Boys, adapted in the film October Sky).

Inman, Robert. The Christmas Bus. Illus. Lyle Baskin. Charlotte, NC: Novello Festival Press, 2006. 77 pp. "Worried that the Trustees will oust her as director of Peaceful Valley Orphanage, Mrs. Frump tries to make Christmas unforgettable for the eight orphans known as The Hooligans, while a [folk]singer from a nearby town must decide between staying home and seeking his fortune." Also published by Dramatic Publishing, 2008, as a musical play. 

Justus, May. Like the Wise Men—A Christmas Cantata. The only play written by Justus.

Kehde, Daniel S. Coal Camp Madonna. Tallahassee, FL: Eldridge, 2000. Script. 64 pp. "It's winter in a poor coal mining town in the early 1900s. When a foundling baby girl appears on the doorsteps of the company store, Annie, the possessive wife of the proprietor, takes a shine to her. But Arly, who works at the store and makes Christmas presents for all the kids in town, learns that Francine is the real mother. Francine loves the baby, but is too poor to raise her with her other daughter. A cave-in at the mine sows tragedy among the miners and their families and complicates matters further. Francine, who has lost her husband in the disaster, has to leave town, but she desperately wants to hold her baby once more. On Christmas Eve Arly engineers a pageant at the store with Francine as Mary, fulfilling her Christmas wish. Annie recognizes Francine as the birth mother and tells her to come and visit the child any time. This profound, beautiful story goes to the heart of what Christmas is all about, generosity of spirit and redemption through love." Free excerpt available online. Kehde is a Charleston, WV dramatist who has produced many new plays for young audiences.

Kendle, Hazel C., and Jennifer L. Bryan. Cole Family Christmas. Illus. Jennifer Julich. Boca Grande, FL: Next Chapter Press, 2008. 74 pp. "One snowy Christmas in the coal-mining town of Benham, Kentucky, nine children and their parents discover that the most precious gifts come from the heart, in this tale based on family members' recollections. Includes a historical family photograph of the Cole family in 1919 and an epilogue about the family's years following the story." Set in 1920. "Based on a real family, the youngest of nine children in the story, Hazel, is the 88-year-old co-author of the book."

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. The Girls' Revenge. New York: Yearling, 1998. "As Christmas approaches, Caroline Malloy continues the feud between her sisters and the Hatford brothers by making Wally Hatford be her partner for a special project at school." This book is part of an extensive series about the Malloy sisters vs. the Hatford brothers in West Virigina

Patterson, Nancy Ruth. The Christmas Cup. Illus. Leslie Bowman. New York: Orchard, 1989. 71 pp. Ann Megan McCallie uses the money she makes from a lemonade stand to buy a rusty milkshake cup.  She is teased for buying "junk."  Her grandmother helps her transform the cup into a beautiful item, which is now called the Christmas Cup.  She will use the money to buy something for someone who has been nice to her. (Note:  Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies by National Council on Social Studies-Children’s Book Council-1990. The book has also been adapted as a play produced at Mill Mountain Theater in 1997 and 2003.) See also Patterson's novel Ellie After in Appalachian Fiction for Children and Young Adults.

Paxton, Colon Wilcox, and Gary Carden. Papa's Angels:  A Christmas Story. New World Library, 1996. 121 pp. Appalachian setting. Becca Jenkins' mother has died.  Papa is inconsolable. This will be the first Christmas for the family since the death of Becca's mother. 

Wigginton, Eliot. A Foxfire Christmas. Intro. Bobby Ann Starnes. NC: Univ. Press of North Carolina, 1996. Nonfiction based on student interviews with recollections of people living in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia. Includes instructions for making food, ornaments, and toys of times past. 

Yep, Laurence. Dream Soul. New York:  HarperCollins Juvenile, 2000. The sequel to The Star Fisher, the story of the Chinese American Lee family in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Dream Soul focuses on events surrounding the Christmas season of 1927.  Joan, Emily, and Bobby want nothing more than to celebrate Christmas with their landlord neighbor, Miss Lucy.  Their parents concede, only if they behave perfectly until the time of Christmas, which is not a traditional celebration for the Chinese.  Though the children try hard not to disappoint their parents, they do embarrass their father, so the holiday is cancelled.  When the children's father becomes seriously ill, Joan remembers a story her father has told her and tries to bring her father's "dream soul" back to him. (See AppLit's Authors Page for additional information on books by Laurence Yep.)

Christmas Stories on the Internet

Allen, Bobby. An Appalachian Christmas Carol. Adapted from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Childers, Russ. Experiencing an Appalachian Christmas: A Selected Booklist. "Here are some useful sources for further reading about Appalachian celebrations."

Larkin, Chuck. The Old Christmas Stories. (Traditional Stories Collected and Adapted for Telling by Bluegrass Storyteller Chuck Larkin) "This anthology of traditional stories was collected between 1962 and 1975 from people in the Southeastern region....The stories in this collection, while staying true to my perception of the traditional foundation, include embellishments from my own imagination. The collection will provide the stories and I will provide my understanding of the stories and their historic mission. The time I recorded this collection was right after the Christmas holidays and the telling was fresh in my memory. I have tried to record these legends as close to the oral language style I use to assist those who will read or tell the legends to others. Storytellers have my permission to tell these stories as they are traditional public domain legends." 

Russ Childers' Appalachian Christmas
. "Russ cooks up a recipe for an old-time Appalachian Christmas such as his ancestors might have celebrated. Seasonal tales, regional music, and songs make it a uniquely eastern Kentucky product." Includes an Introduction, Bibliography, Children's Books, Recorded Music, and Activities.

Take Me Home West Virginia
"is a privately owned web site designed to encourage West Virginians to maintain ties with their friends and family in West Virginia. . . ."  Christmas stories include

Floyd, Buzz. Red Rider Rides Through Clarksburg. November 2001.

Floyd, Buzzy. Christmas 1941/2001. December 2001.

Perdue, Erin. Erin Meets Santa Claus: A Christmas Memory. December 1999.  

Peyton, Dave. Christmas and a Cow Named Pet. December 1999. 

Stewart, Suzanne Mazer. Small Town Christmas. December 2001. 

Thigpen, Susan. The Mountain Laurel is an online journey into "the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains." (Christmas Stories under Seasonal Stories.)  Stories include
Christmas in John Hayes Hollow by Hazel P. Hedrick
A Gift Of Love Never Ends, by Wm. Axley Allen
Christmas Treat Trees and a New Family Tradition (also Christmas Diary)
A Christmas Country Kitchen
The Absolutely Worst Christmas Tree!
Joey's Christmas by Linda J. Crider (A First Draft Writers Group member)
The Man Who Met Santa Claus by James Burchill (A First Draft Writers Group member)


Giovanni, Nikki. "Christmas Laughter." In A Family Christmas. Ed. Caroline Kennedy. Illus. Jon J. Muth and Laura Hartman Maestro. New York: Hyperion, 2007.

Roberts, Elizabeth Madox. "Christmas Morning." In A Family Christmas. Ed. Caroline Kennedy. Illus. Jon J. Muth and Laura Hartman Maestro. New York: Hyperion, 2007. You can read the same poem from Roberts' 1922 collection Under the Tree at Project Gutenberg.


snowman head Graphics Courtesy of Pat's Web Graphics   snowman head

This page created 10/19/2001
Last Update: 8/30/13     Links Checked: 12/19/03


Send additions, corrections, or questions to Tina L. Hanlon.