A few years ago I saw a post at the now defunct On Living By Learning blog entitled “So Many Places to See.” Sandra Foyt wrote that she was planning to travel this summer. “I’d also like to add a bit of Storybook Travel by stopping at sites that are the setting for children’s books.” That post inspired me to write down a list of books for children and young adults with strong settings in US, with at least one for each of the 50 states. It took me longer than I expected, but it was fun. I think this list might be useful for reading groups who want to read their way through the states, as well as for writers who want to explore how others have handled the issue of setting. Of course, it would be terrific to have the opportunity to see all the places the authors wrote about, as well.
The list below led to the Wrapped in Foil Website – Reading through the States – with more complete lists books by state. The state names below are now linked to a list of children’s books for that state.
Alabama Moon by Watt Key
About a boy named Moon who is raised in the forest by his dad. When the land is sold and his dad dies, Moon faces many challenges (including time in jail).
Williwaw! by Tom Bodett
This story is a family-friendly action adventure about a brother and sister living in rural Alaska who fry the family’s radio, their only means of communication.
Brighty: Of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (Illustrator)
This book is a classic. It is the tale of actual incidents in the life of a burro that lives in the Grand Canyon.
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
This is a sad, complicated tale of a Jewish girl living in a small Arkansas town who meets an escaped German prisoner of war during WWII.
The California Library Association has two lists of books set in California available in .pdf format (fiction and nonfiction) at EUREKA! California in Children’s Literature
Orphan Runaways by Kristiana Gregory
Danny and Judd run away from an orphanage in 1879 California. They head for the mining town of Bodie, where they hope to find their uncle.
Colorado (Colorado Rockies)
Bearstone by Will Hobbs
Story of Cloyd, an American Indian boy who is sent to live with an old farmer in the Colorado Rockies when nothing else seems to work out.
Down the Rabbit Hole (An Echo Falls Mystery) by Peter Abrahams
In this mystery for children, eight grader Ingrid Levin-Hill works to solve a murder case.
Red Knot: A Shorebird’s Incredible Journey by Nancy Carol Willis
Although the bird in this nonfiction book migrates long distances, one important stop on the way is Delaware Bay.
Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
A boy discovers new friends and burrowing owls after moving to Coconut Grove, Florida. Hiaasen has written numerous quirky books for adults and this book is also filled with unusual characters.
Simon and the Game of Chance by Robert Burch
Robert Burch tells the story of the Bradley family that live in the small town of Redwood, which was gradually becoming a suburb of Atlanta.
Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury
This book is the account of a Japanese American who enlists in the US Army during World War II. (For older kids)
The Garden of Eden Motel by Morse Hamilton
Dal moves with his step-father to rural Eden, Idaho during the 1950’s.
A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories by Richard Peck
Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel go to visit their lively grandmother who lives in a sleepy Illinois town during the 1930’s.
The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts
Squashed by Joan Bauer
This is a story about growing up while trying to grow a prize-winning pumpkin.
Grasslands by Debra Seely
A story that explores life in Kansas during the 1880’s.
Tarantula Shoes by Tom Birdseye
When he and his family move from Arizona to Kentucky, Ryan’s life changes in more ways than one.
My Louisiana Sky by Kimberly Willis Holt
In this book set in the 1950s in Saitter, Louisiana, twelve-year-old Tiger Ann Parker, the normal child of “slow parents” (their words), tells the story of the summer she learns to accept the challenges her parents present.
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
Sal, of Blueberries For Sal fame, is losing a tooth. Although for the younger set, worth a revisit.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis (Illustrator)
Okay, so it is off the coast of Maryland. The story of the wild ponies that live on Chincoteague Island.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Although Little Women is set in New England, the Alcott family home is in Concord, Massachusetts.
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich
Describes the life of an American Indian girl during a smallpox outbreak. Sad, but excellent.
Minn of the Mississippi by Holling Clancy Holling
Minn is a snapping turtle who begins a journey along the Mississippi river.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Unlike many other Black families in Mississippi during the Great Depression, Cassie Logan’s family owns a farm. They struggle against racism in many forms.
Front Porch Stories at the One-Room School by Eleanora E. Tate
Twelve-year-old Margie’s father entertains her with stories about people and events in their small Missouri town’s past.
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Hattie Brooks leaves Iowa in 1918 and travels to a Montana homestead inherited from her uncle.
Worth by A. LaFaye
When Nate’s leg is crushed at his 19th-century Nebraska homestead, John Worth, a boy taken off the orphan train helps take up the slack.
Rhyolite: The True Story of a Ghost Town by Diane Siebert and David Frampton (Illustrator)
Lucy’s Summer by Donald Hall and Michael McCurdy (Illustrator)
Lucy is seven when she spends the summer at her family’s New Hampshire farm.
Everybody Moos At Cows by Lisa Funari-Willever, Elaine Poller (Illustrator), and Glenn Byrne (Illustrator)
The author says this tale was inspired by New Jersey, based on her experiences growing up there.
Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden and Garth Williams (Illustrator)
In this classic, Chester Cricket comes to New York City’s Times Square by mistake.
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
A young adult novel that is about a girl torn between her family and her future, set in 1906 in the Adirondacks.
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
Previously reviewed in this blog
Lentil by Robert McCloskey
For younger children (ages 4-8)
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Henry and Beezus (Henry Huggins) by Beverly Cleary
Many of Beverly Cleary books were set in Portland.
The Cubby Files; Tales of a Pennsylvania Black Bear Growing Up by John P. Irwin
Bet you didn’t know there were black bears in Pennsylvania.
Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams by Avi and James Watling (Illustrator)
The Girl Who Ate Chicken Feet by Sandy Richardson
This is a book that about ten-year-old Amy Claire who lives in Midville, South Carolina in 1960, to the backdrop of the civil rights movement.
Grasshopper Summer by Ann Turner and Erika Meltzer (Illustrator)
It’s actually set in the Dakota Territory after the civil war.
Daniel’s Duck by Clyde Robert Bulla and Joan Sandin (Illustrator)
Set in Tennessee during the pioneer days, this tale of a youngster who is bothered when other laugh at his woodcarving, is for ages 4-8.
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and David Small (Illustrator) an Ala Notable Children’s Book
Magical tale about a mother cat that befriends an old hound dog.
The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald and Mercer Mayer (Illustrator)
Set in 1890’s Utah, this is one of those rare books that almost everyone enjoys.
The Night the Bells Rang by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock and Leslie W. Bowman (Illustrator)
This book is about a boy in rural Vermont coming to terms with the fact a boy who bullied him has been killed in WWI.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and Donna Diamond (Illustrator)
Jesse really wants to be the fastest fifth grader in his rural Virginia town, but Leslie the new girl beats him. What will he do?
Larry Gets Lost in Seattle by John Skewes and Robert Schwartz
Cute book that seems to appeal to a range of ages.
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor and Barry Moser (Illustrator)
A classic tale of a boy and his dog, who he rescues from an abusive owner.
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
Hope moves from New York to a small town in Wisconsin, where she works in a restaurant and learns some lessons about life.
Shane by Jack Schaefer and Wendell Minor (Illustrator)
Although considered young adult, this classic western is showing up on a lot of middle grade reading lists.
That’s it. Hope you enjoy some of these books and find this list useful. Let me know if you have any suggestions.
If you have suggestions for books with strong settings, please feel free to contact us at wrappedinfoilblog (at) gmail(dot) com.