When I “applied” to be a part of July’s 2012 Reading Road Trip across North America, I wanted to host Arkansas because I feel, much like the state itself, that Arkansas’s literary history is often overlooked. Now that the folks at I Like These Books and Icey Books have given me this opportunity, I am so excited to share some of the interesting books and talented authors from my home state of Arkansas. So keep reading to learn about Arkansas’ literary legacy and to learn how to enter the AWESOME ARKANSAS BOOK GIVEAWAY. Being an education-based blog, you didn’t think you could get away without learning something, did you?
There are a number of well-known authors and poets who are Native Arkansans and who have in the past or still do call Arkansas home. **
- Shirley Abbott – writer of memoirs and autobiographies detailing her childhood in Hot Springs.
- Maya Angelou-born in and raised in Stamps, AR, Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is largely autobiographical about her childhood in Arkansas.
- Bette Greene-born and raised in Parkin, AR and eventually living in Memphis, Greene’s Summer of My German Soldier tells the fictional tale of a young girl’s life near the real-life WWII POW camp outside of Wynne, AR.
- John Grisham – born in Northeast AR, his book A Painted House* draws on his childhood memories of the area to tell the story. This book was made into a TV-movie in 2003 starring Logan Lerman who later played Percy Jackson.
- Donald Harington – born & raised in the Arkansas Ozarks, many of Harington’s books take place in the fictional town of Stay More situated in the Ozarks.*
- Charles Portis – was born in El Dorado and returned there recently, Portis’s Westerns center on the Fort Smith area in Northwest AR and some of Oklahoma during the height of the Western era. His most famous, True Grit was made into a film starring John Wayne in 1968 and remade with Jeff Bridges is 2011.
- Charlie May Simon – who writes biographies for young readers, has written two memoirs recounting her return to backwoods AR to focus on her writing.
- Miller Williams – Arkansan poet made more widely known when he read at President Clinton’s second inauguration.
*These authors’ books will be the GIVEAWAY items.
** This information and more can be found at the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas.
So, in honor of these fabulous Arkansas children’s authors, all week long I will be featuring reviews of Arkansas-related texts with tips on how to use them in the classroom AND giving away THREE different Arkansas-related books. To enter the GIVEAWAY, please comment on one of the Arkansas related posts WITH AN ACTUAL COMMENT and make sure to leave your email address so we can contact you if you win one of the books. The GIVEAWAY is open to US residents only and the deadline to enter is Monday 23 July. Enter to win ONE of the following titles:
LIGHTNING BUG by Donald Harington – Although he was born and raised in Little Rock, Donald Harington spent nearly all of his early summers in the Ozark mountain hamlet of Drakes Creek, his mother’s hometown, where his grandparents operated the general store and post office. There, before he lost his hearing to meningitis at the age of twelve, he listened carefully to the vanishing Ozark folk language and the old tales told by storytellers. Set in the Ozark hamlet of his creation, Stay More, based loosely upon Drakes Creek, Lightning Bug tells the story of Latha Bourne, the attractive postmistress of Stay More. She didn’t expect to see Every Dill again. Now everyone in the village is surprised that Every had the nerve to reappear in this tale of loss and of finding. (via amazon.com)
A Painted House by John Grisham – A Painted House is a story inspired by Grisham’s own childhood in rural Arkansas. The narrator is a farm boy named Luke Chandler, age seven, who lives in the cotton fields with his parents and grandparents in a little house that’s never been painted. The Chandlers farm eighty acres that they rent, not own, and when the cotton is ready they hire a truckload of Mexicans and a family from the Ozarks to help harvest it.
For six weeks they pick cotton, battling the heat, the rain, the fatigue, and, sometimes, each other. As the weeks pass Luke sees and hears things no seven-year-old could possibly be prepared for, and finds himself keeping secrets that not only threaten the crop but will change the lives of the Chandlers forever. A Painted House is a moving story of one boy’s journey from innocence to experience. (via amazon.com)
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a story inspired by Whaley’s summers in Arkansas. Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .
In the summer before Cullen’s senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone’s eating “Lazarus burgers.” But as absurd as the town’s carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.