The Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee #kidlit

Whether you are traveling, armchair traveling, or studying U.S. geography, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee* by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles is a rousing glimpse of the Volunteer State.

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Written by Tennessee native Alice Faye Duncan, this fact-filled picture book uses a new take on layered text. The primary layer is a modified version of the popular Twelve Days of Christmas song appropriate for younger readers, starting with:

“On the first day of Christmas,
my cousin gave to me,
a mockingbird in a tulip poplar tree. “

What makes it unique is that the secondary text is epistolary — in the form of letters written from areas around the state. What a great idea! It attracts older readers and encourages the lost art of letter writing all in one.

To make it perfect to accompany a geography lesson, there’s a map of Tennessee on the title page labeled with the specific places the letters are written.

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee would be a fun book to read this month and revisit throughout the year.

Related Activity Suggestions:

1. Check out the free 9-page activity kit from Sterling (PDF download)

2. Read more children’s books about Tennessee from our list at Reading Through the States

Reading ages : 5 and up
Publisher : Sterling Children’s Books; Illustrated edition (September 4, 2018)
ISBN-10 : 145492859X
ISBN-13 : 978-1454928591

Exploring Minnesota’s Wildlife through Children’s Books

Minnesota is the land of prairies, lakes and coniferous forests known as the North Woods. Children can learn more about the diverse animals and plants that live in Minnesota through picture books like these:

Coming out April 15, 2014 is Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Betsy Bowen, which explores Minnesota’s prairies. Root starts by disclosing how the prairies are almost all gone. She then highlights examples of relationships between specific plants and animals in the prairie ecosystem, such as between foxglove beardtongue (a type of Penstemon) and hummingbirds; monarch butterflies and milkweeds; and goldfinches and sunflowers. She explains that by growing these plants, even in small pockets, the animals that use them will come to visit. In the back matter are lists of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and plants found in prairies, perfect for a jumping off point for designing a garden or writing a report about prairies.

Betsy Bowen’s woodblock print illustrations are a perfect accompaniment. They capture the feeling of movement and the look of the prairies beautifully.

Even though it explores the prairies of Minnesota, the book has a much more general appeal and a serious message about preserving habitats that can apply anywhere.

More about Plant a Pocket of Prairie and related activities at Growing with Science.

Phyllis Root and Betsy Bowen have paired up previously with Big Belching Bog, also from the University of Minnesota Press.

Sure to engross young readers, this book explains how the conditions of the bog produce methane gas. Root also reveals the plants and animals found in this unique habitat, including plants that eat insects!

Age Range: 6 and up
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; First Edition edition (September 3, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0816633592
ISBN-13: 978-0816633593

Antler, Bear, Canoe: A Northwoods Alphabet by Betsy Bowen

A special alphabet book to share with nature lovers, Betsey Bowen’s woodcut illustrations again shine. She writes about what she knows best because she lives on the north shore of Lake Superior. What is the word for Z? Zero degrees, of course!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (August 26, 2002)
ISBN-10: 0618226389
ISBN-13: 978-0618226382


Tracks in the Wild by Betsy Bowen

Ever seen tracks in the snow and wondered what animal made them? Tracks in the Wild shows the reader who made them and what they were doing.

Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 1St Edition edition (September 28, 1998)
ISBN-10: 0395884004
ISBN-13: 978-0395884003

Playful Slider: The North American River Otter (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage) by Barbara Juster Esbensen and illustrated by Mary Barrett Brown

A  reprint of an older book, learn all about the playful North American river otter.

Age Range: 9 and up
Publisher: Univ Of Minnesota Press; Reprint edition (August 22, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0816677654
ISBN-13: 978-0816677658


Interested in lists of books by states? Visit the Wrapped in Foil website Reading Across the States.

Are you from Minnesota? I could use your help to make this resource as useful as possible. Do you have any books or other resources to suggest for this list?  If you chose, please leave a comment. If you have reviewed books about or set in Minnesota, feel free to leave a link as well. Thank you.


Disclosures:  Plant a Pocket of Prairie was provided electronically for review purposes by NetGalley. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.

Spring Cleaning and Children’s Books by States

This weekend I was doing a spring-cleaning project (more about that below) and found some books that would also be appropriate for Women’s History Month. The books highlight the lives of Helen Keller, Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin.  Do you know what these women have in common?

Maybe this will give you a hint:

Alabama_quarter,_reverse_side,_2003They are all from Alabama!

Helen’s Big World: The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport and Matt Tavares is a picture book biography that uses quotations from Helen Keller to tell her own story. It is enhanced by big, beautiful illustrations.

Age Range: 6 – 8 years
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (October 16, 2012)
ISBN-10: 078680890X
ISBN-13: 978-0786808908

Time For Kids: Rosa Parks: Civil Rights Pioneer (Time for Kids Biographies) by Editors of TIME For Kids with Karen Kellaher covers the life of Rosa Parks. The central theme is how she came to be an icon for civil rights.

Age Range: 6 – 10 years
Publisher: HarperCollins (December 26, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0060576243
ISBN-13: 978-0060576240

Edit to add:

Rosa’s Bus: The Ride to Civil Rights by Jo S. Kittinger and illustrated by Steven Walker

With a focus on the events that swirled around bus #2857 during the 1950s in Montgomery, Alabama, Kittinger reveals a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement.

Age Range: 7 – 9 years
Publisher: Calkins Creek (October 1, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1590787226
ISBN-13: 978-1590787229



Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose was a Sibert honor winner in 2010. Before Rosa Parks, there was a teenager named Claudette Colvin who also refused to go to the back of the bus. With her role in history largely forgotten, Philip Hoose brings her back to her proper place.


S0, what is the spring-cleaning project? I am working on the Wrapped in Foil website Reading Across the States. I started with the first state in the alphabetical list, Alabama.

Background:  A few years ago a friend of mine was planning a trip across the United States with her children and she wanted suggestions for books to read on the trip. Taking up the challenge, I created a list of children’s books for each of the states. Thinking others might benefit from my research, I have since developed a website that I update from time to time. Right now the nonfiction sections of each page in particular could use some revising.


Some other nonfiction books I found set in or about the state of Alabama:

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Jane Addams Award Book by Cynthia Levinson tells the unpublicized story of the 4,000 black students who went to jail voluntarily in Birmingham, Alabama, between in May 1963 to fight segregation.

Ages 10 +
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (February 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1561456276
ISBN-13: 978-1561456277


Alabama (From Sea to Shining Sea, Second) by Kathy Feeney is an informational book with maps, history, landmarks, natural resources, recipes and everything else you would expect to describe a state. It also contains a nice timeline of events that shaped Alabama.

Age Range: 8 and up
Publisher: Children’s Press(CT) (September 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 0531208001
ISBN-13: 978-0531208007


Alabama (Hello USA) by Dottie Brown also has maps, songs, and recipes, as well as colorful photographs.

Age Range: 9 and up
Publisher: First Avenue Editions; 2 edition (October 2001)
ISBN-10: 0822541432
ISBN-13: 978-0822541431

Alabama (This Land Is Your Land) by Ann Heinrichs is organized into sections for ease of finding information.  It describes the history of Alabama, starting with the Native Americans. It also contains information about jobs, cultural life and significant landmarks.

Age Range: 7 and up
Publisher: Compass Point Books (September 1, 2003)
ISBN-10: 0756503329
ISBN-13: 978-0756503321

Alabama Facts and Symbols (The States and Their Symbols) by Emily McAuliffe is for the slightly younger reader. This title really focuses on the symbols for the state such as its name, flag and nickname. Other symbols covered include state tree, insect and reptile.

Ages 4-8
Publisher: Social Studies Collections; Rev Upd edition (September 1, 2003)
ISBN-10: 0736822313
ISBN-13: 978-0736822312


Y is for Yellowhammer: An Alabama Alphabet (Sleeping Bear Press) by Carol Crane and illustrated by Ted Burn features people and landmarks from throughout Alabama, Y is for Yellowhammer uses a two level approach to appeal to a wider range of ages.




Are you reading doing a unit on Alabama or want to take a trip there? The Alabama Department of Archives and History has youth activity sheets, plus a wealth of other information under the “Education” tab.

Are you from Alabama? I could use your help to make this resource as useful as possible. Do you have any books or other resources to suggest for this list?  If you chose, please leave a comment. If you have reviewed books about or set in Alabama, feel free to leave a link as well. Thank you.


Disclosures:  I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.


Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. Join us at the new Nonfiction Monday blog.

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.