Little-known Facts and Fascinating Details about Appalachian Books and Authors




Want to contribute?  Send your interesting facts about Appalachian books to Tina L. Hanlon. (Tell us your source of information.) 


Contributors:  M. Katherine Grimes, Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA (MKG) -- Tina L. Hanlon, Ferrum College, Ferrum, VA (TLH) -- George Ella Lyon, Lexington, KY (GEL) -- R. Rex Stephenson, Ferrum College (RRS) -- Judy A. Teaford, Mountain State University, Beckley, WV (JAT)



Birdseye, Tom.  A Regular Flood Of Mishap.  Illus. Megan Lloyd.  New York:  Holiday House, 1994. Birdseye got his idea for the story about a little girl causing a sequence of messy mishaps when his three-year-old daughter made a mess trying to bake bread for the family by herself.  More background and two illustrations at


Birdseye, Tom. Soap! Soap! Don't Forget the Soap!:  An Appalachian Folktale.  Illus. Andrew Glass. New York:  Holiday House, 1993.  
The author heard his father tell "The Forgetful Boy" many times around the campfire in the mountains of NC. One day he began telling the tale himself when he forgot to take a book to read to his fifth grade class, and it gradually evolved into the version in this book.  More background and illustrations at


Birdseye, Tom and Debbie.  She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain.  Illus. Andrew Glass.  New York: Holiday House, 1994.  
This popular song was originally a Black spiritual and was sung by railroad workers in the 19th century.  But who is SHE comin' around that mountain? When Birdseye's family sang this song during a visit from his daughter's playmate, they got the idea that it is about old friends getting together. Tootie visits the Sweet family in this comical picture book. More background and two illustrations at


Compton, Joann.  Ashpet:  An Appalachian Tale.  Illus. Kenn Compton. New York:  Holiday House, 1995.
At the Symposium on Contes De Fees (Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault) in Richmond, VA, on October 18, 1997, Ken Compton discussed the influence of cartoons on his illustrations.  He admitted that Doc Ellison's son is a Dudley Do-Right look-alike.  (TLH 10/97)  In the illustration of Ashpet washing clothes in a tub on bent knees, a lantern sits atop the fireplace mantel.  This is significant because Widow Hooper, furious that the fire has let go out in the fireplace, sends her daughter Myrtle and then Ashpet to Granny's to "borry" some fire.  (JAT 8/00) 


Compton, Joann.  Sody Sallyratus.  Illus. Kenn Compton.  New York:  Holiday House, 1995.
In this tale the Dudley Do-Right look-alike is the character Jack of the Jack Tales.  (TLH 10/97)


Giovanni, Nikki.  Knoxville, Tennessee.  Illus. Larry Johnson. New York:  Scholastic, 1968 (text copyright), 1994 (illustrations copyright).

The illustrations for the two spreads reading "and lots of barbecue and buttermilk" and "and homemade icecream" are inverted.  (MKG 2/04)


Lyon, George Ella. ABCedar: An Alphabet of Trees. Illus. Tom Parker. New York: Orchard, 1989.  
Tom Parker, who did the illustrations, flies the traffic helicopter in Ithaca, NY, or did at the time of that book. (GEL 8/01)


Lyon, George Ella. Come a Tide. Illus. Stephen Gammell. New York: Orchard Books, 1990.
Stephen Gammell enjoys including representations of himself and other real people in his illustrations. The left-hand side of the title page includes a picture of George Ella Lyon (far left) and Stephen Gammell (next to George Ella Lyon).  (JAT 11/97)


Lyon, George Ella. Counting on the Woods. Illus. Ann Olson. New York:  DK Publishing, 1998.  
The author's hand is depicted on the front page. (from GEL to TLH 8/01)


Lyon, George Ella. Mama is a Miner.  Illus. Peter Catalanotto. New York:  Orchard, 1994. 
Peter Catalanotto found out, after coming to Harlan County to go into a coal mine [to prepare] for Mama is a Miner, that his grandmother was born in Harlan County, where his great-grandfather was a coal miner. His second cousin was my best friend in the neighborhood growing up. (GEL 8/01)


Lyon, George Ella. Who Came Down that Road?  Illus. Peter Catalanotto.  New York:  Orchard Books, 1992.  
The mother and child in that book are the author and her son Joey. (GEL to TLH 8/01).


Rylant, Cynthia.  The Relatives Came.  Illus. Stephen Gammell.  New York:  Bradbury Press, 1985.  
In Rylant's book, Gammell is the man in the green and white striped shirt, blue jeans, and red tennis shoes playing the guitar in the picture of a group of people playing instruments and singing.  Look for Gammell's likeness in other picture books. (JAT 11/97)


Rylant, Cynthia.  When I Was Young in the Mountains.  Illus. Diane Goode.  New York:  Dutton, 1982.

Even though this book won a Caldecott Honor, Rylant was unhappy with the illustrations; she felt they were too neat.  Curiously, Rylant and Goode worked together again in 2002 on Christmas in the Country (New York:  Blue Sky Press).  Notice the marked difference in the style of illustrations Goode used in the later book.  (JAT 3/04)


Seabrooke, Brenda.  The Haunting of Holroyd Hill.  New York:  Puffin Books, 1995.
Brenda Seabrooke's dog Kipling's Raj is the model for Raj in this story of mystery and suspense. (JAT 9/00)


Stephenson, R. Rex.  Jack's Adventures with the King's Girl.  Orem, UT:  Encore, 1999.  
In 1978, shortly after a trip to Richmond, VA, to perform the Jack Tales, I received a call from Mrs. Berkeley Williams. She asked rather shyly if I knew who she was.  I said, "You're the wife of the illustrator of Richard Chase's Jack Tales book." She said I was correct and she wondered if I would like to have an original drawing that her husband made for the book, and the sculpture of the head of Jack he used to make his illustrations. Naturally, I said yes. Both artworks are now part of the archives of the Jack Tale Players at Ferrum College. This is why we have always been able to use the picture of Jack walking in front of the mountains as our logo and backdrop, in our performances and publications. (See the cover of Jack's Adventures with the King's Girl. or the Jack Tale Players web site.)  (RRS 9/01).


Walh, Jan.  Tailypo!  Illus. Will Clay.  New York:  Henry Holt, 1991.

The photograph hanging on the wall above the old woodsman's bed is based on Wil Clay's first wife.  Clay thought of her character as a possible girlfriend who was poorly treated.  Clay chose to use the owl in place of a cuckoo bird in the clock because he wanted a larger, more interesting bird.  (JAT, telephone interview with Mr. Walh, Toledo, Ohio, 02/10/2003)


Ware, Cheryl.  Flea Circus Summer.  New York:  Orchard Books, 1996.
Cheryl Ware had to change the original title Sea Monkey Summer, because there actually is a company that sells kits that are supposed to grow what they call "Sea Monkeys."  (JAT 11/97)


Whitaker, Kent.  Why are the Mountains Smoky?  Neat Facts About the Southern Appalachian Mountains. "The inspiration for [the] book came from my son. During travels in search of the perfect barbecue he asked a million questions from the back seat of the jeep. How tall is a mountain? Why are black bears black? What kinds of trees grow in the mountains and even, Why are the mountains smoky? (JAT, email from author 09/10/05)


Wooldridge, Connie Nordheilm.  Wicked Jack. Illus. Will Hillenbrand.  New York:  Holiday House, 1995.
On the cover illustration, the iron tongs on the front of the forge spell "MOM." The illustrator Will Hillenbrand said that he thought Jack was so wicked only a mother could love him.  He also gave Jack a pig for a sidekick in the story because Hillenbrand's mother had had a pet pig. (TLH, from talk at Van Wert, Ohio county library, 7/30/01)





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