Appalachian Poetry for Children and Young Adults
Note: Many picture books have poetic texts (such as George Ella Lyon's picture books) and some picture books or longer books are based on or contain traditional songs and rhymes (such as most children's books by May Justus).
See also Complete List of AppLit Pages on Poetry.
Carson, Jo. Stories I Ain't Told Nobody Yet: Selections from the People Pieces. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1991. Engaging poems that tell stories of the everyday lives and observations of Appalachian people, based on conversations that Carson recorded and turned into "people pieces" for her dramatic performances. Library journals reviewed this book as being suitable for ages 12 and up, or grade 9 and up. In the last poem (no. 54), an old woman wishes her offpspring would visit before she dies so she can tell the "stories I ain't told nobody yet."
Crist-Evans, Craig. Moon Over Tennessee: A Boy's Civil War Journal. Illus. Bonnie Christensen. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. 64 pp. Publisher's description: "In the spring of 1863, a thirteen-year-old boy leaves his home in northeastern Tennessee with his father, who has joined the Confederate army. The boy rides with him to care for the horses and help with camp duties. A moving personal narrative in the form of a journal, this powerful poem tells of one boy's journey into war - and the horrible climax at Gettysburg that would forever change his life. Illustrated with striking black-and-white woodcuts, Moon Over Tennessee is a vivid, lyrical, and intensely human document of the terrible personal cost of the Civil War." The boy's best friend at home is the son of a freed slave. (Excerpts including critically acclaimed illustrations available at Google Books on 9/16/09).
Davis, Judith A. Rhymes & Riddles of a Country Teacher. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 2003. N. Pag. "This title combines rhymes and riddles for children with inspirational poetry to create an impressive collection for all ages" (publisher's description). Paperback with b/w illustrations and clip art.
Giovanni, Nikki. Ego-Tripping and Other Poems for Young People. Illus. George Ford. New York: Lawrence Hill, 1973. Giovanni's poem "knoxville, tennessee," which has been made into a picture book, is also in this collection.
Giovanni, Nikki. Spin a Soft Black Song. Illus. George Martins. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971.
Giovanni, Nikki. The Sun Is So Quiet. Illus. Ashley Bryan. New York: Holt, 1996. Thirteen varied poems.
Giovanni, Nikki. Vacation Time: Poems for Children. Illus. Marisabina Russo. Morrow 1980. "Includes 22 poems on a variety of topics."
Hedrick, Helen G. Flying Moments. Parsons, WV: McClain Printing, 2004. Poems about birds such as "Maude of the Mockingbird" and "Buzzards in the Bone Tree." "The countryside of West Virginia is called home to many splendid singers and game birds. This beautifully-illustrated children’s book captures colorful capers of these flying creatures. Flying Moments, the author’s fourth children’s book, is both entertaining and educational" (publisher's description).
Justus, May. The Complete Peddler's Pack: Games, Songs, Rhymes, and Riddles from Mountain Folklore. Illus. Jean Tamburine. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1967. 87 pp. The introduction by Edwin C. Kirkland praises the authenticity and beauty of this book because, unlike collections by outsiders, this one comes from Justus' memories of family life in the Great Smoky Mountains and her pride in her native culture. Justus writes that she "learned from my family, kinfolk, friends, and schoolmates" (xi). Her mother sang the songs she had learned from her English mother, and her father played the fiddle. She calls the book "a miscellany of fun and fancy belonging to the mountain region marked by the peddler's path" (xii). She gives sources for those she could remember, such as nonsense rhymes from Pig Trot School, near Bridgeport, TN, where she attended 1905-12. Musical notations and line drawings are included. An earlier book, The Peddler's Pack, was published in 1957. See also AppLit page on Appalachian Riddles.
Justus, May. My Lord and I. Tracy City, TN: M. Justus, Bireline, 1980?. 40 pp.
Justus, May. Peddler's Pack. New York: Holt, 1957. 95 pp. Poems and prose. See later edition The Complete Peddler's Pack.
Justus, May. Winds A'Blowing. Illus. Jean Tamburine. New York: Abingdon, 1961. 79 pp. Poems on subjects such as nature, seasons, childhood memories, and fairy lore. The title poem personifies the winds from different directions and different seasons. Some of the poems depict mountain life, such as:
Kidd, Ronald, ed. On Top of Old Smoky: A Collection of Songs and Stories from Appalachia. Illus. Linda Anderson. Nashville, TN: Ideals Children's Books, 1992. Besides the title song, the song lyrics include "The Frog He Went A-Courting," "Billy Boy," "The Cuckoo," "I Gave My Love a Cherry," "The Green Grass Grew All Around," "The Cat Went Fiddle-de-dee," "Hush, Little Baby," "Early in the Morning," "Black is the Color," "Over in the Meadow." The artist is from Clarkesville, Georgia.
Milnes, Gerald. Granny Will Your Dog Bite and Other Mountain Rhymes. Illus. Kimberly Bulken Root. Little Rock: August House Little People, 1990.
Roberts, Elizabeth Madox. Under the Tree. 1922. Rpt. illus. F. D. Bedford. Lexington: Univ. Press of KY, 1985. Afterword by William H. Slavick. Collection of 59 poems from a child's point of view, by an author from Perryville, Covington, and Springfield, KY. Roberts said they were for "children, eighteen to eighty." Online reproduction of 1922 edition at Library of Southern Literature, in Documenting the American South. University of North Carolina Libraries. Also available in Project Gutenberg.
Rylant, Cynthia. Soda Jerk. Illus. Peter Catalanotto. New York: Scholastic, 1990. As described by Kay Vandergrift in School Library Journal, "In poems that stir the senses and (for older readers) the memory, an adolescent 'everyman' observes his small Virginia town and reflects upon his own life from across the counter at Maywell's Drugstore in a manner reminiscent of Wilder's Our Town . The visual imagery in these poems is so vivid that older readers will be able to see this small town and will recognize the cross-section of those who live there."
Rylant, Cynthia. Waiting to Waltz: A Childhood. Illus. Stephen Gammell. New York: Macmillan, 1984. The book contains a series of nostalgic poems that bring to life real Appalachian people and places in the small town of Beaver, West Virginia, where Rylant grew up.
Still, James. Rusties and Riddles & Gee-Haw Whimmy-Diddles. Illus. Janet McCaffery. Lexington, KY: UP of Kentucky, 1989. N. pag. See details on this book and poems by Still about childhood in AppLit's bibliography at this link.
Stuart, Jesse. Kentucky Is My Land. Poems. New York: Dutton, 1952. 95 pp. Rpt. Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 1992.
Van Laan, Nancy. With a Whoop and a Holler: A Bushel of Lore From Way Down South. Illus. Scott Cook. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1998. This collection contains both prose and folk rhymes and superstitions, with a map of three southern regions. Sources are given in the back.
Appalachian Poems in Other Collections, Web Sites, and Recordings
See also poems in AppLit's Poetry and Fiction section.
Berry, Wendell. "The Wheel." In Celebrate America in Poetry and Art. New York: Smithsonian Institution/Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 1999, p. 74. Berry's poem about dancing to fiddle music is paired with Jenne Magafan's painting Cowboy Dance.
Berry, Wendell. "Poetry Online." List of links in web site Mr. Wendell Berry of Kentucky by Brother Tom Murphy (no focus on poetry for children)..
Dunn, Bernice. "One Room School." In Scarbro, Maxine Sewell. One Room School Games: Children's Games of Yesteryear. Charleston, WV: Mountain Memories Books, 1992. pp. 44-45. This book also contains rhymes from WV oral tradition in the section on jump rope rhymes.
Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In Celebrate America in Poetry and Art. New York: Smithsonian Institution/Hyperion Paperbacks for Children, 1999, p. 78. Giovanni's poem is paired with a detail from Thomas Hart Benton's painting of a rural harvest, Aechelous and Hercules. This poem was also published as a picture book with paintings by Larry Johnson (New York: Scholastic, 1994).
Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women's Poetry. Ed. Felicia Mitchell. Knoxville: Univ. of TN Press, 2002, p. 107. "Train Rides" is a long prose poem also in this anthology, followed by "'And This Poem Recognizes That: Embracing the Contrarieties in the Poetry of Nikki Giovanni" by Virginia C. Fowler.
Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems. Ed. Donald Hall. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In Whisper and Shout: Poems to Memorize. Ed. Patrice Vecchione. Chicago: Cricket Books, 2002.
Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In Worldscapes: A Collection of Verse. Ed. R. Malan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Giovanni, Nikki. "The Reason I Like Chocolate," "Trips," "Mommies," "knoxville, tennessee." Poetry Speaks to Children. Naperville, IL: SourceBooks Media Fusion, 2005. Giovanni reads the poems on the CD sold with the book.
James Taylor Adams Collection. The Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA. Many folk rhymes, songs, riddles, and games, collected mainly in Wise County, VA for the WPA, can be found in this archive. Some are reprinted in AppLit's Fiction and Poems section. See also Digital Library of Appalachia for items from archives of small Appalachian colleges.
Justus, May. “Weather Rhymes.” In Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia. Eds. Sandra L. Ballard and Patricia L. Hudson. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003. Some of the other poems in this anthology would be of interest to children and young adults.
Lyon, George Ella. "Archaeology" and "Papaw." In Her Words: Diverse Voices in Contemporary Appalachian Women's Poetry. Ed. Felicia Mitchell. Knoxville: Univ. of TN Press, 2002, pp. 165-76. Also includes essay "From Poetry to Picture Books: The Words of George Ella Lyon" by Roberta Herrin.
Rash, Ron. "The Exchange." Poem 88 in Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools. Ed. Billy Collins. The Library of Congress. A story-poem about love at first sight in western VA. From The Virginia Quarterly Review, vol. 76, no. 3 (Summer 2000).
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