A! Magazine for the Arts

Children's Literature of Appalachia Bibliography Published

February 15, 2010

JOHNSON CITY, TN - Teachers, parents, librarians and others who regularly encourage children and youth to read and who would like to share more books about the Appalachian region have an extensive new resource available to them.

Appalachian Children's Literature: An Annotated Bibliography, compiled and edited by Dr. Roberta Herrin of East Tennessee State University and Dr. Sheila Quinn Oliver of Spartanburg, S.C., has been published by McFarland.

In her foreword, noted Appalachian author, poet, songwriter and playwright George Ella Lyon indicates that Appalachian Children's Literature will help readers to find "books which depict and reflect Appalachian experience ... (and) discern which ones are of interest and quality."

The new bibliography, she writes, "honors, illuminates, and strengthens our culture. It invites general readers to explore the wealth of this material. Most important, it opens the library door for today's mountain children to meet themselves in a story, to know that they come from a rich, diverse region, and to feel at home in the book world and in themselves."

This comprehensive bibliography - volume 26 in McFarland's Contributions to Southern Appalachian Studies series - is a guide to books written about or set in Appalachia from the 18th century to the present. Annotations for the titles include brief reviews, critical analyses of the works, and indication of appropriate grade levels. Entries are indexed by author/title/illustrator and by subject, and appendices include a listing of authors and titles by grade levels and a listing of counties in the Appalachian region as defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission.

All classic genres of children's literature are represented, including fiction, both historical and realistic; informational books, including picture books; poetry; fantasy; and biography.

Herrin, who is chair of the Department of Appalachian Studies and director of the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services (CASS) at ETSU, has focused on Appalachian literature, women authors and children's literature throughout her career. She spent more than 20 years researching and compiling entries for the bibliography, beginning in the 1980s when she taught a children's literature course in the ETSU Department of English and found it difficult to locate Appalachian children's titles.

"Historically, regional literature and children's literature have not been given the attention or respect that mainstream, adult literature enjoys, so it stands to reason that a body of regional children's literature would suffer an even worse fate," Herrin writes in her preface. She points out that with few exceptions, the category has been ignored in textbooks, anthologies, publishers' catalogs and book review sources.

Once she embarked on the project, which she originally intended to result in an "exhaustive, annotated reference work," she quickly found more than she bargained for, and the need to narrow the various categorical and geographical criteria became apparent. In addition to poring over previously existing resources and unearthing new authors and subjects, Herrin and Oliver spent a great deal of time personally speaking and corresponding with writers and reading many titles to determine whether works were appropriate for inclusion.

While the bibliography's 2,000-plus entries identify many strengths in the body of Appalachian literature for children and youth, particularly fiction and biography, Herrin believes they also reveal areas of study and literary genres that need further development, such as poetry and fantasy.

"My hope is that this bibliography will "grow' a variety of good, innovative products," Herrin says. "Most important, my hope is that this work inspires quality scholarship and motivates deep reading so that Appalachian children and adults can appreciate their own literary heritage."

A former associate dean of the ETSU School of Graduate Studies, Herrin earned both her B.S. and M.A. in English at ETSU and her Ph.D. in English at the University of Tennessee. Her writings have been published in many regional journals, and she is active in numerous professional and regional organizations. She is currently serving a three-year term on the board of directors of Humanities Tennessee.

Oliver, who joined Herrin in the bibliography project in 2006 as a researcher, is director of library media services at Gettys D. Broome High School in Spartanburg. She is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where she earned a B.A. in library education, a master's degree in librarianship, and a doctor of education degree in curriculum and instruction.

"Roberta Herrin kindled my interest in Appalachian literature in the late 1980s when she told me about A Southern Appalachian Reader edited by Nellie McNeil and Joyce Squibb," Oliver said. "It was exhilarating to learn about a body of literature connected to my part of the country - filled with people, language and customs I knew, but rarely saw in print. It is common to find titles set in the South Carolina midlands and low country, but rare to locate books set in the upstate. Directing readers to literature set in the Appalachian region helps fill this void.

"Assisting Roberta with this project has been a rewarding challenge, and I am confident Appalachian Children's Literature will provide parents, teachers and librarians a bounty of books to read and share with children."

Appalachian Children's Literature: An Annotated Bibliography is available through mcfarlandpub.com and amazon.com.