Friday, April 20, 2018

When I Was Young In the Mountains

When I Was Young in the Mountains. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Diane Goode. 1982. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: When I was young in the mountains, Grandfather came home in the evening covered with the black dust of a coal mine. Only his lips were clean, and he used them to kiss the top of my head. When I was young in the mountains, Grandmother spread the table with hot corn bread, pinto beans, and friend okra. Later, in the middle of the night, she walked through the grass with me to the johnny-house and held my hand in the dark. I promised never to eat more than one serving of okra again.

Premise/plot: When I Was Young in the Mountains was Cynthia Rylant's first book. It would not be her last. It was only the beginning of a LONG career. Perhaps it is fitting--RIGHT--that her career began where she began--in the mountains of West Virginia. The book--beautifully, almost poetically--recounts her childhood memories. She was raised by her grandparents. Each page begins, "When I was young in the mountains..."

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. I love it for the text. I should mention that it earned a Caldecott Honor in 1983. And the illustrations are nice enough. But it is the text itself that practically sings: a tribute to all things beautiful, simple, and true.
When I was young in the mountains, we went to church in the schoolhouse on Sundays, and sometimes walked with the congregation through the cow pasture to the dark swimming hole, for baptisms. My cousin Peter was laid back into the water, and his white shirt stuck to him, and my Grandmother cried.
When I was young in the mountains, I never wanted to go to the ocean, and I never wanted to go to the desert. I never wanted to go anywhere else in the world, for I was in the mountains. And that was always enough. 
 Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2018 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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