Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Diane Goode
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Paperback: 32 pages
When I Was Young in the Mountains depicts Cynthia Rylant’s memories of her childhood spent with her grandparents in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Rylant begins the book describing her grandfather, a coal miner, coming home covered in coal dust except for his lips which he used to kiss her head. The book continues as Rylant describes moments such as eating too much fried okra for dinner, resulting in a tummy ache that sent her to the outhouse in the middle of the night, swimming in the swimming hole which sometimes had snakes, and pumping water from the well and carrying it back to the house for a bath.
With her concise and poetic descriptions, Rylant takes us back to a time where life was simple and hard, yet full of love and laughter. I grew up in a small Appalachian town in Southwest Virginia, Tazewell, and as I was reading this story, it brought back memories of stories my Grandma Daisy told me of her childhood growing up in Rock, West Virginia. And Rylant’s description of eating cornbread, pinto beans, and fried okra made my tummy growl as I remember my own mother making beans and cornbread, something which I don’t think I’ve eaten since I moved to the city almost eight years ago. Diane Goode’s soft yet detailed illustrations add character and warmth to the book, resulting in the book winning the distinguished Caldecott Honor Medal.
If you grew up in the mountains and want to teach your child about days long gone in a humorous yet thought-provoking way or if you’re a city dweller and want to teach about a more simple way of living, When I Was Young in the Mountains would be an excellent choice.
This book is chock full of learning opportunities from Appalachia to Geography to Astronomy. Check in tomorrow for more information!