It's hard to imagine anyone writing more fondly about home than Cynthia Rylant writes of her native Appalachia. Nestled in between mountains, the land is host to coal miners and hound dogs, small churches and country stores. In a series of evocative descriptions, Rylant writes of women sitting on back porches during the summer and snapping beans for canning. She writes of winter, when family quilts cover beds and men hunt through the snow with their good dogs running ahead of them, in search of rabbit and deer. The children of Appalachia love all seasons. They play in the woods, swim in the creeks, and breathe in the smell of fresh honeysuckle in the spring and the smell of the leaves changing color in the fall. Like Cynthia Rylant, illustrator Barry Moser is no stranger to Appalachia. He grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his watercolor pictures are adapted from actual photographs of the region. In loving detail he paints leftovers of biscuits sitting atop an iron stove, a dog stretching its lazy self in the sun. There is even a picture of Moser's own brother, standing in a work apron on the porch of his Grandpa Haggard's Store. It was James Agee, who when describing his kinfolk in Knoxville, Tennessee in the summer of 1915, wrote that they had voices of sleeping birds. It is a fond memory and just right for Appalachia.
From the beauty of the mountains to the coal mines below, Cynthia Rylant takes us on a guided tour of Appalachia. Use the activities in this lesson plan to learn more about life in West Virginia and Tennessee.