Mountain Humor in Folktales and Other Media
Intro  Lesson 1  Lesson 2  Lesson 4  Activities

Lesson 3

What’s in a Picture Book?


Notes to the Teacher:

This lesson will probably take a couple of days to complete.

Pages in AppLit that are relevant to this lesson (see also Complete List of AppLit pages on Picture Books):

The following book and URL are excellent general resources for examining picture books:

Nodelman, Perry. Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books. Athens: Georgia UP, 1988.

Kay E. Vandergrift Web Pages 

Teachers may use any Appalachian folktale picture book for this lesson. A short bibliography is provided for your convenience. (Note: I, personally, do not believe that all of the books contained in this list present positive representations of Appalachia or Appalachians. However, I believe that it is often beneficial to have both good and bad examples of Appalachian literature so that students may form their own opinions while developing objective critical and analytical skills. Others are listed in AppLit's bibliography of Appalachian Folktales in Picture Books.)

Birdseye, Tom. Soap! Soap! Don’t Forget the Soap! Illus. Andrew Glass. New York: Holiday House, 1993.

Compton, Joanne. Ashpet: An Appalachian Tale. Illus. Ken Compton. New York: Holiday House, 1995.

Davis, Donald. Jack and the Animals: An Appalachian Folktale. Illus. Kitty Harvill. Little Rock. Arkansas: August House Little Folk, 1995.

Haley, Gail E. Jack and the Bean Tree. Illus. Gail E. Haley. New York: Crown, 1986.

Haley, Gail E. Jack and the Fire Dragon. Illus. Gail E. Haley. New York, Crown, 1988.

Harshman, Marc, and Bonnie Collins. Rocks in My Pockets. Illus. Wendy Popp. New York: Cobblehill, 1991.

Hooks, William H. The Three Little Pigs and the Fox. Illus. S. D. Schindler. New York: Macmillan, 1989.

Hooks, William H. Snowbear Whittington: An Appalachian Beauty and the Beast. Illus. Victoria Lisi. New York: Macmillan, 1994.

Johnson, Paul Brett. Fearless Jack. New York: Margaret K. McElderry, 2001. N. pag.

Schroeder, Alan. Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella. Illus. Brad Sneed. New York: Dial Books, 1997.

Sloat, Teri. Sody Sallyratus. Illus. Teri Sloat. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1997.

Wooldridge, Connie Nordhielm. Wicked Jack. Illus. Will Hillenbrand. New York: Holiday House, 1995.

Wright, Jill. The Old Woman and the Willy Nilly Man. Illus. Glen Rounds. New York: Putnam, 1987.


1. Prepare and Distribute Handout 1 "Exploring the Connection Between Text and Illustrations" using the following information. Have students read the handout as homework in preparation for the following activity. (You may want to select from the following study questions that are most relevant to the books your class is examining.)


(From: Nodelman, Perry. Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books. Athens: Georgia UP, 1988, and Tina Hanlon’s Handouts for Children’s Literature classes.)

Assumptions we carry with us as we look at books:  

General questions:

Questions for folktale analysis: 

In-depth questions for analysis:  

(From Kay E. Vandergrift Web Page):

"Illustrations perform various functions with reference to the text in which they are embedded. At the simplest level they decorate the text and dramatize the action. . . . Illustrations can also interpret the text by portraying characters as dismayed or joyful, weeping or brave. . . . Illustrations may even reformulate the text by supplying information different or absent from the text. For the reader who glances at the illustration and even more for the listener whose eyes linger on pictures while someone else reads, the power of pictures to recast the text into memorable images is formidable."

Questions to consider when examining a picture book:

2. Choose an Appalachian folktale book to use as a model for discussing Handout 1. Read aloud and show the pictures to the class. Allow for open discussion that relates to Handout 1. Be sure that students understand that the text and illustrations should work together, adding to each other. Encourage students to comment on Folktale Characteristics, Appalachian Values, and Appalachian Humor. Because many students may be unfamiliar with picture books in general, and because Appalachian students may be particularly sensitive to comical texts or illustrations, teachers need to help students see that not all comic illustrations are stereotypes (a log house is not; a shack with trash around it, pigs and chickens running in and out of the house, moonshine jugs, etc. is) and that use of regional dialect is not necessarily stereotyping (students need to learn to be proud of their dialect; however, if eye-dialect is used, it may indicate little more than an attempt to show ignorance). (Refer to Lesson 2, Handout 3: Modified).

3. Bring in as many Appalachian folktale picture books as you can locate. (Check your school and public libraries.) This will allow in-class time for students to work.

4. Pair students and provide one book for each pair. (If you do not have enough books to pair students, have them work in small groups.) Pairing students will allow them to discuss and learn from each other. Advise students to use notes and handouts from Lesson 2, along with Lesson 3, Handout 1 to analyze their book.

5. Prepare and Distribute Handout 2 "Appalachian Picture Book" using the following information. Students will be writing individual essays. Advise students to follow the writing process. Allow for in-class time for revision and editing workshops.


Directions: Use notes and handouts from Lesson 2, Handout 3: Modified, along with Handout 1 from Lesson 3.

1. Working in pairs, or small groups, analyze an Appalachian folktale picture book, writing down notes as you read and discuss. Be sure that you analyze both the text and the illustrations of the book.

2. Write an essay exploring one of the suggested questions, or choose another topic of interest to you.

3. Final paper should be typed or word-processed. Include internal citations and Works Cited page.

Write an essay that includes the following:

Suggestions for structuring your paper:


Body Paragraphs (at least three):


Mountain Humor in Folktales and Other Media: Intro
Complete list of AppLit pages on Folklore

This Page Created:  11/08/2001
Last Update: 7/13/05