Appalachian Poetry for Children and Young Adults 



Compiled by Judy A. Teaford and Tina L. Hanlon


Note:  Many picture books also 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 of the children's books by May Justus).


See also  Complete List of AppLit Pages on Poetry.


Poetry Collections / Appalachian Poems in Other Collections, Web Sites, and Recordings


Poetry Collections

Baber, Bob Henry, ed. If I Fell in Love with a Watermelon: Poems and Stories by Children from Whitesburg Elementary School. Whitesburg, KY: Letcher County Arts Council, 1989.

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."

Cope, Steven R. Crow!: The Children's Poems. Illus. Julie Baumgardner. Nicholasville, KY: Wind Publications, 2005. 156 pp. From author's web site: "More than 200 poems to delight, entertain, and educate youngsters from 6 to 90 years..... Using the several Kentucky dialects with which he is familiar, Cope has captured the rhythms of our language like no other—the very book we need to begin reading to our children again, especially those of us who are from or have a heart for Appalachia.... Anne Shelby: 'If Wordsworth met up with Dr. Seuss somewhere in eastern Kentucky, and setting out to write poems together, they ran smack dab into James Still and Ogden Nash, you might end up with something as funny, surprising, and generally delightful as Crow !'" The Introduction begins, "To Steven Cope both the prompting and the desire to write came from the land, from the mysterious east Kentucky hills of Menifee County where he was born. But it also came from his beloved kinfolk, particularly his grandmother Eunice Gose Cope." A few are about Kentucky and "lovely West Virginny," farming and fishing, but most are nonsensical poems about crows and animals, words, childhood, and many kinds of impossibilities. Wonderful drawings of crows and animals engaging in a variety of comical and lively activities. "Up" is a parody of square dancing with lines such as "Climb a tree / Scratch a flea / Twist it off / Stop and cough / Go in / Say hello / Grab a partner / Dosey do" (p. 122).

Cope, Steven R. Crow 2: More Adventures from the Cornfield. Illus. Julie Baumgardner. Nicholasville, KY: Wind Publications, 2005. 158 pp.

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 1/23/15). Crist-Evans was awarded the Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for this book.

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, NikkiEgo-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, NikkiSpin a Soft Black Song: Poems for Children. Illus. George Martins. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1971. Rev. ed., 2012.

Giovanni, NikkiThe Sun Is So Quiet. Illus. Ashley Bryan. New York: Holt, 1996. Thirteen varied poems.

Giovanni, NikkiVacation Time: Poems for Children. Illus. Marisabina Russo. Morrow 1980. "Includes 22 poems on a variety of topics."

Greer, Ibby Taylor. Old-Fashioned Stories and Poems for Children and Everyone. Roanoke, VA: My Little Red Hen Press, 2014. 55 pp. The illustrations are photos by the author and free online graphics. Poems about nature, imagination, and childhood experience, with one short story, "The Gingerbread Angel (An After-Christmas Story)," about the fate of a forgotten Christmas tree ornament that finds a new home. The author is from other parts of the country but she "fell in love with the Blue Ridge region of Virginia long ago." She attended Hollins College, and after moving back to Southwest Virginia in 1985, raised her son at The Grove, where she lived for 23 years, and where "they played outside and in, in what was truly a magical place." The Grove is "an antebellum estate in Franklin County, with a house set on ten acres of trees and historical plants. The seasons, the walnut and oak trees, the osage orange trees, the English Boxwoods, the little apple orchard on the property, as well as the many moonlit nights, buzzing of insects, and flower gardens helped inspire the author to capture the 'magic' of Nature in poems for children. Raised, herself, on the many books of Margaret Wise Brown, a fellow alumna of Hollins, Greer had been exposed her entire life to the whimsy and charms of stories and poems for children" (quotations from the author).

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:

  • "Apple Tree Hill," with nostalgic memories of Granny and childhood dreams about the apples indoors and out in "My Grandmother's Cabin/On Apple Tree Hill"

  • "Whistle, Boy, Whistle," about whistling "a blithe, bold tune" during a scary walk home "through the dusky hollow" in the dark

  • "Honey for Sale," about Uncle Billy Blair coming down from the mountain to "peddle honey in Courthouse Square"

  • "Davy Crockett's Pockets," in which Davy has "ordinary things" on one pocket and "a hidden charm" in a secret pocket

  • "Uncle Toby Tolliver" has never been down the mountain and has no schooling or knowledge of the outside world, but he can make a popgun, a hickory stick whistle, and cornpone. He "is a man I very much admire."

  • "Remember September," describing the changing season in the mountains

  • "Storm on the Mountain," in which a father in a cabin chases away the children's fears of a storm "like a wild beast." He plays "The Golden Willow Tree" and "A Pretty Sight to See" on his fiddle until they forget the storm. (notes by Tina L. Hanlon)

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.

Musick, Ruth Ann, and Walter Barnes. Mountain Mother Goose: Child Lore of West Virginia. Ed. Judy D. Byers. Illus. Patricia Musick, Noel W. Tenney, and John Randolph. Fairmont, WV: Gabor WV Folklife Center, 2013. "Dedicated to the spirit of childhood, the new book ... is a collection of jingles, jangles, rhymes, riddles, games and lesson stories chanted and sung by children of Central Appalachia on the playground; recited in one room school settings; and echoed in backyards and churchyards throughout the small villages and farms that dotted the hills and valleys of West Virginia. Stretching from the early 20th century practically to its end, this collection of melodies traces the regional attitudes and traditions of American children at play.... Dr. Walter Barnes (1880-1969) was a nationally recognized leader of progressive education and an early president of The National Council of Teachers of English. As an administrator, professor and linguist at the then Fairmont State Normal School, he was a keen preserver of the state’s oral literary heritage, helping to found the West Virginia Folklore Society (1915)... Musick became the archivist for the West Virginia Folklore Society, longtime editor of West Virginia Folklore Journal and a primary folktale scholar of Appalachia" (from web site of Fairmont State University). Pdf flyer on this book. See also photos from 2012 operetta based on this folklore collection and YouTube video on the collection and operetta, with comments by Byers and the operetta director.Mommy Goose cover

Norris, Mike. Mommy Goose: Rhymes from the Mountains. Illus. Minnie ø Lexington: University Press of KY, 2016. 48 pp. 102 color photos. "Playing hopscotch in the schoolyard or hide-and-seek in the woods, Appalachian children once recited traditional nursery rhymes from memory. As kids do, they frequently altered the original rhymes, making them even more colorful in the process.... Norris honors this special piece of American heritage with a one-of-a-kind collection of fifty original nursery rhymes celebrating Appalachian tradition and speech. Illustrated with art-quality photographs of more than one hundred new hand-carved and-painted works by renowned folk artist Minnie Adkins, this enchanting book introduces readers of all ages to the whimsical world of Mommy Goose and shares her love of the rare music of Appalachian speech and of words in general. Mommy Goose is designed to engage young children with a series of simple and often humorous verses that gradually become more challenging as the book progresses. Readers can advance to longer, more complex rhymes as their skills develop—at home or with the guidance of teachers. Featuring sheet music for the original song 'Tell me, Mommy Goose,' this multidimensional book is certain to entertain while introducing a new generation to hallowed folk traditions." You can hear the song at this link to the publisher's page. The rhymes spoof typical and stereotypical topics such as sibling rivalry, quack doctors, and mountain cows having two legs longer than the others. "Lester Frye" is like the boy who cried wolf, a liar who gets no attention when he says he has a heart attack. "The Kudzu Man" wonders why he's treated so badly, sprayed with poisons as he grows. Other rhymes deal with nature, family, work, regional foods, everyday routines and human foibles. Bits of animal fantasy include raccoons who "played the radio and danced, / And tried on Granpaw's underpants" (p. 5).

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. Rylant wrote, "All of the poems... are true, and about me from age eight to fourteen" ((Sixth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, 1989, p. 256).

Still, James. An Appalachian Mother Goose. Illus. Paul Brett Johnson. KY:  Kentucky UP, 1998. See AppLit's Introduction to An Appalachian Mother Goose.

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.

These books by James Still are discussed in detail in Hanlon, Tina L. “‘Read my tales, spin my rhymes’: The Books for Children.” James Still, Appalachian Writer: Critical Essays on the Dean of Appalachian Literature. Ed. Ted Olson and Kathy H. Olson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007, pp. 174-89. See also the web pages at the links above.

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

Giovanni, Nikki. "The Drum," "Grandma's Child," and "Two Friends." In She's All That!: Poems About Girls. Ed. Belinda Hollyer. Illus. Susan Hellard. Boston: Kingfisher, 2006.

Giovanni, Nikki. "The Girls in the Circle." In Poems to Learn by Heart. Ed. Caroline Kennedy. Illus. Jon J. Muth. New York: Disney Hyperion Books, 2013. In the section labeled "We Dance Round in a Ring and Suppose, and Other Poems about Sports and Games."

Giovanni, Nikki. "The Girls in the Circle," "Ego-Tripping," and "Doubtless by Steve Ericson." In Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. Ed. Nikki Giovanni. Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2008. Book and CD with more than 50 poems.

Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In Appalachian Gateway: An Anthology of Contemporary Stories and Poetry. Ed. George Brosi and Katherine E. Egerton. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 2013.

Giovanni, Nikki. "Knoxville, Tennessee." In The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry. Ed. Bill Martin, Jr. and Michael R. Sampson. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2008. Foreword by Eric Carle. Afterword by Steven Kellogg. Anthology of children's poetry illustrated by a number of prominent artists.

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. "Knoxville, Tennessee," "Nikki-Rosa," "And Yeah...This Is a Love Poem," "Train Rides," "Bicycles," and "Ego Tripping (There May Be a Reason Why)." In The 100 Best African American Poems: (*but I Cheated). Ed. Nikki Giovanni. Naperville, Ill: Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2010.

Giovanni, Nikki. "Legacies." In Poetry Speaks Who I Am. Ed. Elise Paschen. Naperville, Ill: Jabberwocky, 2010. Book and CD with more than 100 poems for young readers in middle and high school.

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.

Giovanni, Nikki. "Winter Poem." In African American Poetry. Ed. Arnold and Rampersad and Marcellus Blount. Illus. Karen Barbour. New York: Sterling Children's Books, 2012.

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.


Lyon, George Ella. "Where I'm From." From Lyon's poetry collection Where I'm From, reprinted with commentary and audio of the poet reading on her web site.


Pack, Linda Hager. "O is for Outside." Appalachian Toys and Games from A to Z. Illus. Pat Banks. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. p. 23. The book is in alphabet format with details on traditional toys and games from the mid to late 1800s. O is a poem about being outside. Under "eerie stories" is a reprint of a ghost story, "Never Mind Them Watermelons," by S. E. Schlosser. Includes a glossary, Author's Note, Illustrator's Note, list of Places to Visit (mostly museums), a list of Recommended Appalachian Books for Children, and bibliography.

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).

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.




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