Friday, April 15, 2016

Over Home

Every place has a story.  The photograph above is part of the story of my place.  These are my momma's people.  The man in the center is my great-grandfather McGee.  To the left is my great-grandfather Scalf.  Reclining on the log is my grandfather Scalf.  The woman standing in the door is my great-grandmother Scalf and the girl inside the cabin is my Aunt Nadine who is now nearly 90.  My people are Appalachian Mountain people, born and raised in the mountains of upper East Tennessee.  They were poor, hard-working folks like all those in the hills and hollers.  They were uneducated by our culture's current standards but had a grit and determination (as well as common sense) rarely seen today.

My place is known as "Over Home."  Even though my parents moved to the other side of the mountain after they married, our roots still run deep there.  I still live in the little town on the other side of the mountain and "Over Home" is just a short distance away.

In honor of my place, I thought I'd share some titles that tell its story, or at least the story of area locations whose story is similar.  These are favorites from my own shelves but if you are interested in learning more about these people you can check out this incredible list.  I see many here I will be adding to my collection.

Picture Books

Daniel's Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla is an early reader about a boy growing up in rural Tennessee during pioneer times.  My parents and grandparents grew up much like this and I spent many 'a night in my grandparent's cabin around the pot-bellied stove, sleeping my my granny's feather bed, even until the 1970's.  This is a Five in a Row title.

Journey Cake, Ho by Ruth Sawyer is a fun tale.  Hard times and a great chase brings Johnny home again.

Appalachia:  The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant - This was my childhood.  I love this book.

When I Was Young in the Mountains is another Cynthia Rylant tale of growing up as a mountain child.  This is also a Five in a Row title.

Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs is a rollicking tall tale of Appalachian life.

Down Down the Mountain by Ellis Credle is yet another Five in a Row title relating life for folks living in the Appalachian mountains.

My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston is the delightful true story of this beloved teacher in one-room schoolhouse in the mountains.

Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston - another Five in a Row gem.  Amber wants to learn to read.  Finally she gets a friend and her heart's desire.

Dolly Parton is a world-renowned country music star whose humble childhood in these hills is chronicled in her music.  Her song, Coat of Many Colors, which tells of her mother sewing a coat for her of fabric scraps, was beautifully illustrated in this tender volume.

I have fond memories of Christmases past spent with family Over Home.  In order to provide her children with a Christmas, my granny would gather walnuts, crack them and sell them to get enough money for a stick of candy, maybe an orange and a small gift.   A few precious books relate these hard yet joyful holidays.

A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree:  An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston

Silver Packages:  An Appalachian Christmas Story by Cynthia Rylant

Chapter Books

Tree of Freedom by Rebecca Caudill tells of a Kentucky family during the  American Revolution.

The Guns of Shiloh by Joseph Altsheler relates the story of the War Between the States through the eyes of a Tennessee volunteer.

May Justus was born in the Smoky Mountains and wrote many books telling of growing up in the mountains.  The Other Side of the Mountain is one such title.

Andy Finds a Way by Jesse Stuart tells of a Kentucky boy and his heifer.

William O. Steele was a prolific Tennessee author and many of his titles relate the history of this area.

Christy by Catherine Marshall is a beloved story of a woman who leaves her home to teach in the Smoky Mountains.

The Tall Woman by Wilma Dykeman is a lesser known but equally excellent book telling of the harshness of Appalachian life post War Between the States for older readers.

Daughter of the Legend by Jesse Stuart - My best Over Home friend, Deb, introduced me to Stuart's writings.  This book tells of the mysterious people known as the Melungeons.   This book takes place in my daddy's home county.  Because it is presented as a romance, I recommend it for older readers.

Many of the people of this area, including myself, are descended from the Scottish Covenanters who endured tremendous religious persecution in their native land.  Many of them fled to America and settled in this area.  A few titles that tell their story are:

How Sleep the Brave by James Hunter

Hunted and Harried by R.M. Ballantyne

Against the Tide by Hope Irvin Marston

Crown and Covenant series by Douglas Bond


Did you know that the Great Smoky Mountains is home to more species of salamanders than anywhere else on earth?  You can learn more about them in The Great Smoky Mountain Salamander Ball by Lisa Horstman.

The Tennessee mountains is also home to many black bears.  The Moon of the Bears by Jean Craighead George tells their story.

Counting on the Woods by George Ella Lyon is a unique counting book which reveals the flora and fauna of Appalachia.

A Water Snake's Year by Doris Gove - Water snakes are native to the Smoky Mountains so if snakes are your thing, you might enjoy this.

Folk Tales

Mountain people were known for their stories told on front porch swings and under shade trees.  I remember the stories my granny would tell me on cold winter nights or while breaking beans of haints and goblins, legends, and of times long past.  Here are some literary choices.

The Jack Tales:  Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachians by Richard Chase

Grandfather Tales by Richard Chase

Tall Tales from the High Hills by Ellis Credle


The Foxfire Books series is a marvelous chronicle of life in the Appalachian mountains.  These books are almost always checked out in my library, especially by those who wish to resurrect these long lost skills.

These books and many others tell the story of my place, the people who lived here, the hardships they endured and braved, and the laughter they shared.  I hope you will discover the story of your own place.  The diversity of the cultures of the world, past and present, makes for a plethora of great literature.  In this transient culture when people are moving from location to location, we all need somewhere to put down roots.  Somewhere to call our own.  Our own "Over Home."


  1. What a resource you have shared, Robin. And that photo! I will be tucking this list away for sure! Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you, Kelly. This post was to encourage each of us to appreciated his/her own place. BTW, I rushed through this post yesterday and reread it last night. How many times can one say "my place" in one post?? I will be editing it as soon as this crazy weekend is over! :)

  2. This is such a great list of books. I loved reading Christy. thanks so much for sharing this with us on the #LMMLinkup.

    1. It's always a pleasure, Mary. Thanks for hosting.

  3. This is an amazing resource for learning about this area of the US. I sure learned something about salamanders tonight! :) Thanks for sharing this post at Booknificent Thursday on this week!

    1. And many places around the world have equally amazing stories to tell. Yeah, the salamander thing is pretty cool. :) Thanks again for hosting, Tina.