book review, Booklists

Kidlit picks from my own home turf: A Great Smoky Mountain #booklist

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 A Great Smokey Mountain Booklist

Many of the long-time readers of JIAB already know that my home is nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains; just a few miles from the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Throughout the year my family and friends and I spend many hours in the park enjoying all of the natural beauty. One of my many favorite places to visit is Elkmont.

Elkmont is a region situated in the upper Little River Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains of Sevier County, in the U.S. state of Tennessee. Throughout its history, the valley has been home to a pioneer Appalachian community, a logging town, and a resort community. Today, Elkmont is home to a large campground, ranger station, and historic district maintained by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Now in disrepair, the deep history or this beautiful place is the perfect place to let your story-telling imagination run wild, or just spend some time soaking up the gorgeous scenery, relaxing and indulging in some “porch sittin’.”

My beloved state and area has also inspired many, many wonderful books about The Great Smokey Mountains. Here are a few of my favorites:

Black mountain Black Mountain Express. A Smoky Mountain Bedtime Tale by R.W. Wells

Two young boys discover more about themselves while discovering the world around them in an effort to solve mysteries, myths and legends. Black Mountain Express is filled with intrigue and adventure, with magic, mischief and mayhem as well.



Coat of many colors Coat of Many Colors  by Dolly Parton

Miss Dolly Parton lives amongst us in these hills we call home. Our mountains set the stage for the story about Dolly Parton’s mom and how she took a box of scraps to make a coat for her sweet girl aka Dolly. The young girl is so proud of her coat but the kids at school make fun of her for having a coat made of rags. From the love her mother had sewn into the coat had given the girl the strength and confidence to deal with this unkind situation.

Here’s the back story to Miss Dolly. She is one of the kindest and most generous women I’ve ever met. She has single handedly greeted each child who is born in the state of Tennessee with 5 books a year for the first five years of their lives. She understands that many homes cannot afford books or have a reading tradition. Children can be enrolled in the hospitals they are born in or on-line.

She also supports her hometown of Sevierville Tennessee by paying 5 college scholarships every year to seniors at Sevierville High.

 She has provided hundreds of jobs for her once depressed local economy by converting an old amusement park into Dollywood. She has many businesses in the area and looks to hire local first. She has greatly cared for her community.

Christy Christy by Catherine Marshall

Christy Huddleston leaves her privileged life to teach in the impoverished Smoky Mountains. Her deep faith carries her through many trials and tests. It’s here that she falls in love, learns the way of the mountain people, and leads a simple but fulfilling life. This story is based on the of author Catherine Marshall’s mother. The T.V. series was filmed in Townsend, which is right next door to my little town.



OnTopOfSmoky On Top of Old Smoky (A Collection of Songs and Stories) by Ronald Kidd

This book has a really fun design. This book gives an experience of living in the Appalachian Mountains through songs and stories. There isn’t really specific information about the smoky mountains but a lot of fun is to be had by reading the stories and singing the songs. This book is one of our favorites.


Smoky mountain rose Smoky Mountain Rose: An Appalachian Cinderella Story by Alan Schroeder & Brad Sneed

This version takes Perrault’s original and lands it smack in the middle of the Smoky Mountains. This is what we call a “pass around”. It’s so fun to read, everyone wants a turn. It is completely written in dialect and has it’s own unique touches to the story. The artwork by Brad Sneed is priceless and really adds so much character to the book. This was one of the first books we read when we knew we were moving here. It’s really fun to read with a very thick southern accent.


Watersnakesyearsigned2H%20(2) A Water Snake’s Year by Doris Gove

We had the pleasure of having Doris Gove as our visiting author a few years back. This is a beautiful look at the year in the life of a Northern Water Snake. We follow her from her winter hibernation in the ground through her life cycle to the next hibernation the following year. This book has so much information about how a snake survives and has to change living places due to bad weather. The illustrations are beautiful and greatly add to the story.


Troublesome cubs Troublesome Cubs  by Lisa Horstman

This is a true story about a bear cub who fell asleep in a dumpster and got picked up by a garbage truck. Lisa Horstman not only wrote the story but she brought it to life with her wonderful illustrations.Written in delightful rhyme, the story has a happy ending and some important lessons to protect wildlife.


Salamanders Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball Lisa Horstman

One day a young girl visiting the Smoky Mountains spies a salamander heading off to the ball. This is a great story with wonderful illustrations.



Orient Orient – Hero Dog of the Appalachian Trail –by Tom McMahon

Orient was the guide dog of the first blind man to hike the 2,000 Appalachian Trail: his journey from puppy to guide dog. After reading this book we had such a great appreciation for guide dogs and the people they serve. a wonderfully written story.


Perfect christmas tree The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston & Barbara Cooney

The Armistice has been declared, but still there is no sign of Ruthie’s father in their little Appalachian town. So, in accordance with the traditions of Pine Grove, it falls to Ruthie and her mother to bring home the perfect Christmas tree to donate to the town. Ruthie had accompanied her father to the rocky cliff where he marked a tree in the spring, so she and her mother set out to find it again, and haul it home. Their trip becomes the basis overnight of a new town legend; Ruthie, chosen for the role of the heavenly angel in the the church Christmas play, finds herself outfitted in a made-over wedding dress of the finest silk another “miracle” wrought by her hardworking mother.



Thunder Thunder on the Tennessee by G. Clifton Wisler

Willie dreams of honor and glory as he goes to fight the North with his dad. He is outfitted in a dashing uniform to help defend the banks of the Tennessee River. The young boy is completely unprepared for the horrors of war and the terrible sacrifices his family will have to make. The book is very detailed in the battle scenes. Men and boys would enter the war laughing only to have a change of heart after the first battle.



Sequoyah Sequoyah: The Cherokee Man who Gave His People Writing by James Rumford

This is a great read aloud non-fiction book. During their California vacation many questions arise about why the Giant Sequoias are named that and who was Seqouyah anyway? He was the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet and ran a newspaper for his tribe. They were the first native american tribe to become literate in their own language first.

Along with very nice illustrations are the accompanying Cherokee text right next to the english text. By the end of this book you have a wonderful experience of the man and his language.

Origin of the milky way The Origin of the Milky Way and Other Living Stories of the Cherokees by Barbara R. Duncan

Cherokee people have lived in the Great Smoky Mountains for thousands of years. During all this time, they have told stories to each other to explain how things came to be, to pass on lessons about life, and to describe the mountains, animals, plants, and spirits around them. The Origin of the Milky Way and Other Living Stories of the Cherokee collects 26 stories that are great for kids and are still being told by storytellers today.

Presented by members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in their own words, the stories appear in free-verse form, like poems on the page, so that if you read them aloud, you can hear the rhythm of the stories as they were originally told. Barbara R. Duncan provides a helpful introduction that describes Cherokee people’s past and present ways of life and their storytelling.

My First Book about Tennessee (The Tennessee Experience)

This reproducible book is an introduction to your great state. Kids will learn about their state history, geography, presidents, people, places, nature, animals, and much more by completing these enriching activities.



What’s Great About Tennessee? (Our Great States)

What’s so great about Tennessee? Find out the top ten sites to see or things to do in the Volunteer State! Explore Tennessee’s wilderness, mountains, country music, and rich history. The Tennessee by Map feature shows where you’ll find all the places covered in the book. A special section provides quick state facts such as the state motto, capital, population, animals, foods, and more. Take a fun-filled tour of all there is to discover in Tennessee.


Did I miss any? I know the last time I visited the Sugarland Visitors Center, the shelves of the gift shop was bursting with amazing books that I am dying to read.

****Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission. This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!


The day has come! The much-anticipated release of Ascension by Hannah Rials is finally HERE!
Enter this world of vampires, set in the south, and realize you are being pulled in more—and deeper—with each page.
Steeped in the mystery, intrigue and rich history of New Orleans and the secretive world of the Deuxsang, teen vampire, Cheyenne, and her forbidden love, Eli, embark on a very different, and vastly more dangerous, journey as the net of betrayal tightens around them. This intense and fresh novel is enchanting, engrossing and impossible to put down right up to the cliffhanger ending. Remember, the end is not the end.
What an extraordinary debut novel with new and intriguing twists on vampires—a strong female protagonist as one. I already can’t wait for book two.-Jill Murphy Long, author of The Conduit

This book is by the far the BEST YA/Adult fiction that I’ve read in a very long while. So exciting!-Rebecca F

The wait is over-Ascension is here! Thrilling and entertaining, like the experience on a crazy roller coaster. Hannah has grown into the most amazing writer. Watching her journey has been as much fun as holding the book in my hands. A “must read” for YA and thriller fans!-Valarie B


Grab your copy of Ascension HERE and visit Hannah on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

1 thought on “Kidlit picks from my own home turf: A Great Smoky Mountain #booklist

  1. Thank you Valarie Budayr. I didn’t know that you were located in the Great Smokeys. My mother was born in Tennessee and grew up in West Asheville, North Carolina. We visited there once when I was young, and I loved it! There are many great stories that still can be written about that part of the world. Wishing I knew a lot more – such as the interesting fact that my mother’s people spoke Elizabethan English for 200 years because they were so isolated. My grandmother didn’t realize it was beautiful, as were the old ballads, so she never passed them on to my mother. They were also anti-slavery. Thanks again!

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