Donaldson, Joan. On Viney’s Mountain. New York: Holiday House, 2009.
“In the Cumberland Mountains during the fall of 1879, sixteen-year-old Viney is shocked to hear that Englishmen will arrive on her mountain and build a new community, massacring the beautiful area that inspires her weaving.” – CIP. A quietly romantic novel recommended for readers 13 to 16 years old. [Country life; Dating (Social customs); Family life; Historical fiction; Sisters; Tennessee; Weaving]
Elliot, David. Henry’s Map. New York: Philomel Books, 2013.
Henry is organized. Everything has its own place. And should stay in its place. But then he makes a map and confusion reigns over the farm yard. This cheerful picture book will have readers – and listeners – laughing as Henry discovers maps don’t always match what his eyes see. Recommended for ages 4 to 10. [Farm life; Humorous stories; Pigs; Maps]
Farrell, Alison. The Hike. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2019.
Three sisters and their dog, Bean, set off on hike through the woods. Along the way, they spot snowberries, lupines, ferns, black morel mushrooms, and violets. A Western toad, a Cascades frog, a beaver, a porcupine, and a damselfly. All the way to the top of the mountain, there is more and more to discover. Set in the Pacific Northwest, this is a perfect picture book for sharing with a few people who can sit close enough to examine all the drawings of plants and animals and read all the labels. Highly recommended for nature lovers who might like to start their own illustrated journals.
Hill, Kirkpatrick. Bo at Ballard Creek. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2013.
What a cheerful story! Set in Alaska in the late 1920s, this inspiring novel of a much-loved little girl will appeal to fans of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and ‘Sarah, Plain and Tall’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’. Bo – abandoned by her mother, a good-time girl who is leaving town – is taken in by Jack and Arvid, two unmarried gold miners who can’t bear to see her sent to an orphanage. So now she has two papas. No mama, but as Jack tells her, “sometimes mamas don’t stick around, you know. Just walk off. Lot of animals like that” (2). But he adds, “…lucky for us, someone giving away babies. Just what me and Arvid needed” (2). And just what all the other villagers in Ballard enjoy: a little girl who sees life as an adventure. She learns both Eskimo and English. She encounters a bear. She joins in the festivities when an airplane arrives, and lovingly welcomes a little motherless boy whose father has died. This novel by an accomplished Alaskan author – and former teacher – is highly recommended for readers – and listeners – 7 years old and up.
Hobbs, Valerie. Defiance. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 2005.
Eleven-year-old Toby wants to have fun. His parents want to protect him from any possible danger. Toby has cancer. His mother wants him to stay close to their cabin in the country, out of the sun and away from anything that could cause him to get hurt or even tired. He wants to go exploring. So he does. He wakes up early in the morning, sneaks off on his bicycle, and meets an elderly neighbour, Pearl, and her old cow, Blossom. They become friends and life changes for Toby.This story is about growing up, about learning to think for yourself without thinking only about yourself.
The reading level of this book is not difficult. There are only 117 pages and the lines on each page are spaced far enough apart to be easy on the eyes. But there is a lot to ponder in this story. So don’t read it when you are in the mood for a quickly-paced humorous story. Read it when you have the time to slow down and consider this question: What is the meaning of life? [Cancer; Country life; Cows; Death; Friendship; Hope; Poets; Vacations]
Holt, Kimberly Willis. The Water Seeker. New York: Henry Holt, 2009.
This is the story of Amos, born in Missouri in 1833, son of a trapper and dowser. After his mother dies giving birth to him, he lives with relatives until his father and reclaims him and they set out overland to Oregon. When the story ends, it is 1859 and Amos is a husband and father. A great adventure story full of vivid details for readers eleven-years-old and up. [Aboriginal people; Adventure and adventurers; Coming of age; Dowsing; Fathers and sons; Friendship; Frontier and pioneer life; Prejudice; Voyages and travels]
Kelly, Jacqueline. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Henry Holt and Company, 2009.
Eleven-year-old Callie Vee isn’t interested in learning how to be a proper lady. She’d rather be outside studying the natural world with her grandfather. Set in Texas in 1899, this Newbery Honor Book will be enjoyed by competent readers in grades five to seven. (Texas; Historical fiction; Grandfathers; Sex role; Family life; Naturalists)
Kelly, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2015.
Twelve-year-old Callie continues her investigations into the natural world in this sequel to the Newbery Honor Book The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. When a veterinarian comes to town, Callie expands her knowledge of animal care but secretly, as only her grandfather encourages her dreams and hopes for the future. Observant readers will notice that each chapter begins with a quotation from The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin, the English naturalist whose own father disapproved of his unconventional life but whose maternal grandfather encouraged him. This 312-page novel is highly recommended for readers 10 years old and up. [Family life; Historical fiction; Naturalists; Sex role; Texas; Veterinarians]
Kelly, Jacqueline. Skunked! New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2016.
Eleven-year-old Travis adopts two baby skunks in this historical novel for young readers. Set in a small Texan town in 1901, this easy-to-read story focuses on the younger brother of Callie, the main character in two previous novels for older readers: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. While this new novel still features Callie as narrator, the action centres on Travis and his escapades with two wild creatures. A great story for readers 7 to 11 years old. [Country life; historical fiction; naturalists; pets; skunks; Texas]
Knight, Mary. Saving Wonder. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016.
Twelve-year-old Curley Hines lives in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Most of his relatives have died, his father in a coal mining accident and his mother and younger brother in a mud slide caused by the mine. So now he lives with his grandfather who – every week – gives him a new word to learn: 26 letters x 2 = 52 weeks and 52 new words every year.
Right from the first sentence, this debut novel is full of the joy of life: love, hope, and determination. And the power of words! Which is exactly what Curley needs to use when the mine announces their plans to blow the top of Red Hawk Mountain. Coal is needed and a new mine manager is resolute in his decision to expand operations. Curley and his best friend Jules – with the help with her new boyfriend, the mine manager’s son – get together to oppose the destruction of their beloved home.
Each chapter in the story emphasizes one of Curley’s words and ends with a definition. The humour in the format is delightful and never feels overbearing or didactic, probably because of Curley’s spunk and his grandfather’s loving wisdom. This novel is highly recommended for readers 10 to 14 years old. [Coal mines and mining; Environmentalism; Friendship; Grandfathers; Kentucky; Orphans]
Lappano, Jon-Erik. Martin and the River. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2022.
Lying in the tall grass, watching herons and ospreys. Building forts in the fields by the river. Country life is the only life for Martin. Until his mother gets a new job in the city. How will he survive among so many people? While there are many enjoyable activities – riding on the subway, watching street performers, visiting museums – the city doesn’t feel like home. At least, not until his parents take him to a park and show him a stream where frogs jump and dragonflies hover. Maybe, Martin’s heart will feel at home after all? A wonderful picture book – delicately illustrated by Josée Bisaillon – recommended for anyone who loves nature and longs for a rural life.
Lewis, Gill. Wild Wings. New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011.
“Callum becomes friends with Iona, a practically feral classmate who has discovered an osprey, thought to be gone from Scotland, on Callum’s family farm, and they eventually share the secret with others, including Jeneba who encounters the same bird at her home in Gambia.” – FVRL. A happy story with a serious message. Recommended for readers, 9 to 12 years old, who enjoy straight-forward novels. [Birds; Farm life; Friendship; Gambia; Osprey; Scotland]
MacLachlan, Patricia. Just Dance. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017.
Ten-year-old Sylvie and eight-year-old Nate live on a farm in Wyoming with their father – a cowboy with a love of poetry- and their mother – a former opera singer who now sings in the shower. Sylvie worries. Does her mother miss her glamorous life travelling the world? Might she leave them all and return to life on the stage? Sylvie worries and thinks about love and writes poems about local events. And finally realizes that what seems ordinary is precious. An easy-to-read reflective novel that will encourage conversation. Highly recommended for readers 7 years old and up.
MacLachlan, Patricia. Prairie Days. New York, Toronto: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2020.
Any story by Patricia MacLachlan is worth reading. Any book by Margaret K. McElderry is worth looking at. And this picture book illustrated with collages by Micha Archer is no exception. Written from the first-person point of view, it is a wonderfully exuberant celebration of long-ago summers on the American prairies. An excellent read-aloud for family gatherings. Highly recommended for everyone who loves country life.
Madden, Kerry. Gentle’s Holler. New York: Viking, 2005.
Twelve-year-old Livy and her eight siblings live in the hills of North Carolina. Their father plays the banjo and dreams of getting a singing contract. Their mother, struggling to keep them all alive, wants him to get a paying job. Livy writes her own songs and reads books from the travelling library in between helping her mother and trying to keep the peace in her family, especially after her grandmother comes to visit. Set in the 1960s, this heartwarming story based on the childhood of the author’s husband is recommended for quiet daydreamers ten-years-old and up. It might also be appreciated by readers who have enjoyed stories by Patricia MacLahlan, Cynthia Rylant and Ruth White. [Blindness; Family life; Historical fiction; Music; North Carolina; Poverty]
Moulton, Erin E. Flutter: The Story of Four Sisters and One Incredible Journey. New York: Puffin Books, 2011.
“Nine-and-a-half-year-old Maple and her older sister, Dawn, must work together to face treacherous terrain, wild animals, and poachers as they trek through Vermont’s Green Mountains seeking a miracle for their prematurely-born sister.” – CIP. Highly recommended for readers – nine to fourteen years old – who appreciate adventures and country life. [Adventure and adventurers; Family life; Nature; Poaching; Sisters; Vermont]
Pennypacker, Sara. Sparrow Girl. New York: Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009.
“When China’s leader declares war on sparrows in 1958, everyone makes loud noise in hopes of chasing the hungry birds from their land except for Ming-Li, a young girl whose compassion and foresight prevent a disaster.” – CIP. A picture book recommended for readers 8-years-old and up. [Birds; China; Country life; Farms and farming; Historical fiction; Individuality]
Schmidt, Gary D. and Elizabeth Stickney. A Long Road on a Short Day. Boston, New York: Clarion Books, 2020.
Samuel and his papa set out on an adventure on a cold snowy day. All they have to trade for the cow needed to provide milk for the baby waiting in Mama’s arms is a knife. Will they succeed in their quest before nightfall drives them back to the safety and warmth of the indoors? A short 59-page novella illustrated by Eugene Yelchin highly recommended for readers 6 to 10 years old. Wonderful as a read-aloud or to share as a reader’s theatre story.
Wolk, Lauren. Echo Mountain. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2020.
Twelve-year-old Ellie meets Larkin when she and her family have to abandon their home during the Great Depression in 1934. She and her younger brother move, with their parents, to the mountains of Maine, building a cabin and making do with what the land will provide. Tragedy follows. But Ellie gains courage and learns how to be healer, bringing hope back to life in the midst of poverty and despair. Highly recommended for readers 11 years old and up.