The State(s) of Children’s Books

Edit: Click on the Wrapped in Foil Website – Reading through the States – for even more books by state. The state names in this post are now linked to a list of books for that state.

A few days ago, I saw a post in On Living By Learning entitled “So Many Places to See.” Sandra Foyt says she is planning to travel this summer and she adds, “I’d also like to add a bit of Storybook Travel by stopping at sites that are the setting for children’s books.”

This post inspired me to write down a list of books for children and young adults with strong settings in US, 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.


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.


Children’s and Young Adult Fiction Set in Connecticut

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)

New Hampshire

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.

New Jersey

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.

New Mexico

Georgia O’Keeffe (Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists) by Mike Venezia

New York
The city:
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.

North Carolina

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan
Previously reviewed in this blog

North Dakota


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.

Rhode Island

Finding Providence: The Story of Roger Williams
by Avi and James Watling (Illustrator)

South Carolina

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.

South Dakota

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.

Washington D.C.

West Virginia

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.

Lizards (Nature Watch) Review

Lizards (Nature Watch) by Mark O’Shea

Mark O’Shea is an expert from the UK who has written numerous books on reptiles for children. This particular book for middle school ages caught my eye because of the incredible cover photograph of a brilliant green iguana. The book is indeed filled with eye-popping photography of lizards from throughout the world.

Once your eyes are done feasting on the gorgeous visuals, however, you find that the text is clearly written and highly informative, too. Did you know that most lizards in warm climates lay eggs, but those in colder climes give birth? I was surprised to learn that the world’s smallest lizard was discovered in 2001, and is also the world’s smallest land-living vertebrate. It is called the Jaragua gecko from the Dominican Republic and it is just ½ inch long!

The sections at the end on how to watch lizards and about lizard science/conservation are excellent. The author suggests to kids that they can become herpetologists (scientists who study reptiles), too. After reading this highly interesting book, I’m sure he is going to have quite a few children taking him up on that.

Paperback: 61 pages
Publisher: Lorenz Books (2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0754815013
ISBN-13: 978-0754815013


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Book Scoops.

Beatrix Potter Biography

Today we are featuring the picture book Beatrix Potter by Alexandra Wallner.

Children’s book biographies can be difficult to write well. It is hard to pull out the details of a person’s life to tell their story without including too much, making the story long and tedious, or too little. Real life can also be full of “sticky” experiences or calamities that might be inappropriate for young children. Do you leave the details in or take them out? It is a delicate process.

Alexandra Wallner’s biography of well-known children’s author Beatrix Potter is an excellent example of how to do things right. She calmly states the facts of Beatrix’s life, including the low points and struggles. Because the details are matter-of-fact and straightforward, they don’t have an excessive emotional impact. The truth that Potter’s first fiancée died before they were married had a hand in shaping Beatrix’s life and needed to be included. Wallner did not shy away from reality. In fact, this book is a shining example of the way to distill a person’s life into an exquisitely-crafted story.

Wallner is also the illustrator of the book and she has painted some lovely pictures of Potter’s life, obviously carefully researched. The illustrations introduce children to the historical look and feel of Great Britain during the era of Potter’s life.

In addition to history, Beatrix Potter could be used to accompany an author study or could be used as an jumping off point for an art project. The fact that Beatrix Potter had numerous serious disappointments in her life and still went on to be successful is an inspiring story.

Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Holiday House (September 1998)
ISBN-10: 0823414078
ISBN-13: 978-0823414079


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day. This week’s post is at Chicken Spaghetti.

I Heard It From Alice Zucchini: Poems About The Garden

In Celebration of Poetry Month

I Heard It From Alice Zucchini: Poems About The Garden by Juanita Havill
Illustrated by Christine Davenier

I have to admit a bias about this book right up front. The author, Juanita Havill, lives in Arizona and loves to garden. Anyone who can successfully garden in Arizona gets my respect right away.

The poems in this book make me feel like I’m a small person wandering through an actual garden, or perhaps even one of the plants, getting to know those around me in a down to earth way. Peas, beans, carrots and dill all get their turn in the spotlight, as well the garden creatures such as worms, crickets and bees.

The scientist in me does ponder the events of one poem, “Sweet Cicely and the Bee.” The bee is “an elegant gentleman bee.” Although honey bees do produce males, they spend almost their entire short lives in the hive and do not visit flowers. All the honey bees you see at flowers are technically females. To give her the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Havill knows a lot about bees and was thinking of the tiny male “sleeper” bees that do spend the night in flowers. Perhaps she could let us know?

This book is a wonderful companion to a gardening project because it lends another level of interest. I would recommend it as a companion for cooking activities as well, because it connects children to where their food comes from. Havill includes a poem “Vegetable Stew” that just cries out to be paired with a nice warm bowl of ratatouille. Yum!

Reading level: Ages 9-12 (other reviewers suggest k-3 and k-6)
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Chronicle Books (February 23, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0811839621
ISBN-13: 978-0811839624


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. For more information, stop by Picture Book of the Day.