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When I Was Young in the Mountains
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When I Was Young in the Mountains

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  4,703 ratings  ·  192 reviews
For twenty years, Cynthia Rylant's story of childhood in the Appalachian Mountains has been an enduring favorite. Growing up in the mountains is depicted with a spare, lyrical text and beautiful, tender illustrations by Diane Goode. The book was awarded a Caldecott Honor Medal.
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published January 1st 1993 by Puffin Books (first published January 1st 1982)
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Cold Mountain by Charles FrazierChristy by Catherine MarshallProdigal Summer by Barbara KingsolverShe Walks These Hills by Sharyn McCrumbFair and Tender Ladies by Lee Smith
Best Books Set in Appalachia
42nd out of 384 books — 592 voters
Madeline by Ludwig BemelmansThe Stinky Cheese Man by Jon ScieszkaBlueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskeyDon't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo WillemsStone Soup by Marcia Brown
Caldecott Honor Books
51st out of 246 books — 156 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jan 13, 2009 Mary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: only those with mountain ancestors
This book is like remembering where I've never been; it is a warm, gentle and dreamy book that calls my name in ways I can't explain. Maybe because just a few generations ago, my ancestors were young in the mountains? The coal-oil lamp, the enamel coffee pot, the fried okra and hot corn bread, the johnny-house, bathing in the wash tub in front of the old black stove, were all part of my own real childhood. Thank goodness the snake-y swimming hole was not. But my grandma killed snakes with her ho ...more
Cindy Benabderrahman
Apr 19, 2009 Cindy Benabderrahman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: girls who had grandpas who were coal miners, people who love west virginia
This book is for everybody, but especially for women who remember being little girls waiting on their grandpas to come home from the coal mines, dirty as all get out, “covered with the black dust.” Rylant takes us back with her to her grandparents’ house in Appalachia, where we can smell her grandmother’s corn bread, taste the fried okra, feel the muddy water of the swimming hole. We meet the old couple who looked alike and ran the general store. Diane Goode’s illustration of the store adds so m ...more
I've always labored under the impression that little kids will only appreciate a book if has bold colors, a catchy rhyme, and perhaps a furry animal or two. Which is why I'm surprised each time my daughter pulls this one off the bookshelf and hands it to me to read to her. The story, illustrations, everything about this book is lullaby-gentle, and yet it mesmerizes her in a way unlike many of the other "busy" picture books I've read to her. Proof, I guess, that Cynthia Rylant is a true storytell ...more
N_maryellen Rosenblum
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Larry Thompson
This is a very sweet children's book that caught my eye today while shelving books, so I sat down and read it instead.
We've read so many of Cynthia Rylant's books; we've finished her various series and now we are on the hunt for individual books that we haven't yet read.

This is a sweet tale about her youth in the Appalachian Mountains. The narrative is poetic, simple and speaks to an idyllic time. It reminds me of the wonderful memories of my own childhood and I am sure that time has likely softened the harsh edges of reality and that she has chosen to highlight the warmest of her memories. Some of the anecdot
Rylant truly captures the warmth and love of this family living in the mountains. I loved reading the ways in which life in the mountains is different from my own. The kids bathed in a swimming hole and would fetch water from a well, grandma made cocoa over an old black stove, grandpa sharpened pencils with his knife and their family did most everything together. I could relate to the joy that being in the mountains brought this family. It reminds me of spending time at my granny's cottage. Just ...more
Eileen Goedert
Cynthia Rylant helps young urban readers feel a kinship to an America they might not otherwise know. The young female narrator is being raised with her brother by her grandparents; perhaps her parents are working in the city for a time. What is important to the story is that the girl feels her grandparents’ love and loves them in return. The reader enjoys lyrical descriptions and illustrations of gentle smiles, bare feet, nightly kisses, steaming corn bread and even a painful trip to the outhous ...more
Scott Volz
Less a story than a series of recollections on growing up in rural Appalachia, When I Was Young in the Mountains is a gentle celebration of grandparents, simple pleasures, and childhood. The illustrations are rich in earth-tones and have a folksy, rustic quality to them. Also, the book's title acts as a refrain of sorts, and the repetition and rhythm of the work should appeal to youngsters.

Overall, it's an enjoyable book that might be especially appropriate around nap time.
Wow. Cynthia Rylant's first book. She has written quite a few of them, too. I knew from the first page that this book was based on not just a life in the mountains, but a life in the beautiful Applachians (aka WV). The book is based on the author's memories of her time spent with her grandparents in the mountains. It's a reminder of the old, nice, slow, easy-going ways of some of the mountain folks. If only all of it could be that idealistic still.
I really enjoyed this book by Cynthia Rylant! This is an autobiography that could be used as a read aloud in third grade. This autobiography is a Caldecott Honor book. This is a book about when the author was a child growing up in the mountains with her grandparents. It includes memories the author has about family dinners and playing outdoors with her brother. At the end of the story, the author notes how content she was growing up right where she was, and this theme of "no place like home" can ...more
Cynthia Rylant is a wonderful author. She tells about living in the mountains without modern conveniences - about going to the outhouse & other scary things like snakes in the swimming hole. My mom lived her childhood in the mountains too, not Appalachia, but the western Rockies. She has few pleasant memories of her younger life. I like this book because of it's realism.
Cara Byrne
This brief picture book captures a young girl's memories of growing up in the mountains likely during the early twentieth century with her grandparents and brother. Descriptions of okra, her grandfather' coal-stained face and the Crawford's country store breathe life into the story, depicting Appalachia as a place of challenges from the natural world (like snakes) and devoutly religious families that care for each other. The harmony of the prose and the pastel-hued illustrations make this book a ...more
Jun 15, 2012 Rebecca rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rebecca by: Robin
Sweet, gentle, and wholesome. Could work as an introduction to the Little House books.

"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."
Feb 14, 2009 TC rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: children
Any children's story by Rylant is a must-read. This may be my favorite because of it's authenticity to the spirit of the Appalachian people. I love the humorous and gentle art and the sentimental but not sappy writing. Very, very good book.
This book evokes memories of times gone by in a very poetic manner. It is almost soothing in its repetition of the phrase, "When I was young in the mountains." It invites the reader to appreciate the past and the illustrations help us experience it.
Judy Lindow
I think this book is important so kids can imagine how another child lives in the mountains - a rarity today. Hopefully there are children that will be driven to live in rural and wildness America. I almost returned the book because Grandma kills a snake in her garden with a hoe and then to make matters worse the little ones pose themselves with the snake over their shoulders. I know sounds horrendous. However, this could happen. Better to just appreciate the good parts and take the time to have ...more
Simple remembrances of a childhood in the mountains. I loved the concluding statement: "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."

It made me think of what I need to feel "enough". What do I have? I am blessed with so much. What am I looking for? Why? There is a goodness in exploring newness but there is much satisfaction in r
Very sweet children's book about life growing up in Appalachia.
Julian Franklin
When I Was Young in the Mountains provides memories from a young girl in the mountains. It shows some of the activities that she enjoyed doing and some of the experiences that she had. Children are making memories as they grow older. This book could be an easy way to help children thinking about how they can write a story. They would be able to write a line like "When I was young in Atlanta..." or anyway to get them thinking about the connections they have to the story and the memories they are ...more
When I Was Young in the Mountains is the story of a young girl’s remembrance of living in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia with her grandparents. Her grandfather worked in a coal mine while her grandmother took care of the young girl, her brother, and the house. Their simple lifestyle was punctuated with no indoor plumbing; they had to carry water in from the well for baths; and they went to school and church in the same small schoolhouse. The young girl resolves that she would not want to ...more
This is a warm, picturesque snapshot of a childhood in Appalachia. Rylant's simple but vivid descriptions capture many aspects of daily life that children can relate to, while offering how life "in the mountains" is different from life in other places. The family gathered for a meal of pinto beans, okra, and cornbread and the children gleefully playing in a swimming hole with snakes were two of my favorite moments. I didn't find the illustrations sensational, but they captured the time and place ...more
Patty O.
Everyone has those memories from childhood that they will never forget, in the book When I Was Young in the Mountains, by Cynthia Rylant a young girl takes us through all her memories as a child in the mountains. Set in West Virginia it what seems to be 1960’s or earlier, it’s never quite specified, it’s the young girl, whose name is never revealed, just telling us little details about her childhood memories. It is established quickly that this girl lived in the mountains in a small community w ...more
Melanie Bates
When I was young in the Mountains

Summary: This is a story about a young girl who lived with her grandparents. Growing up the young girl and her grandparents lived in the mountains. The pictures throughout the book are beautiful and correlate with the content very well.

Response: I really liked this story because it showed how close a young child may be with other individuals other than their parents. The young girl’s favorite place was in the mountains with her grandparents. I’m sure many childre
Brian Kissel
Book Title: When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

Short Description of the Book: In this story, Rylant recalls different stories from her youth where she grew up in the Appalachian mountains.

FOCUS: Narrative Features I would Use in a Mini-Lesson:

1) Narrative Structure: Rylant uses a different kind of structure than the usual beginning-middle-end. Instead, she writes about a series of childhood experiences (swimming, going to church, sitting on the front porch, etc.) by writing brief
This is a story about a brother and sister who live with their grandparents in the mountains. Their grandfather worked in the coal mines and they looked forward to him coming home everyday giving them kisses on their forheads. They love, appreciate and are proud about their home in the mountains. They discuss reasons why they like it so much and some of the simple ways they lived life. They liked swimming wholes,they pumped pails of wanter from a well to take baths with, they went to church int ...more
Sara Baker
This book is about a young girl growing up in the mountains with her grandparents. This is her favorite place to be and you can tell it makes her really happy. The illustrations are beautiful. They illustrate whatever the author is writing about on the current page.

I gave this book five stars. I thought it was really cute. I felt that it showed the closeness between the granddaughter and the grandparents.
This reminds me of my own childhood. I grew up on a farm with my father a
At first glance, the cover of this book looked very uninteresting to me. The illustrations throughout the book had settle coloring but were rich in detail and use of various colors. I enjoyed how every other page started out as “when I was young in the mountains” because this highlights not only the title of the story but how the author wants readers to remember the depth of the story. This book highlights what life is like living in the mountains in West Virginia and brings back memories of how ...more
The Calsecott winner, When I Was Young in the Mountains, by Cynthia Rylant is a beautiful book that takes place in the Appalachian Mountains. Each page starts with "When I Was Young in the Mountains". The Illustrations are beautiful and antique looking almost. This books would be great to use when talking to teaching students flashback as a mentor text. I think I would also use this book to demonstrate motifs in writing. I love this author for her use of language and writing.
I've known about and enjoyed this fictionalized memoir of Cynthia Rylant's for a long time, but it's been awhile since I've read it with my kids. I recommended it to my husband's grandmother, however, because she grew up in the coal mining mountains of western Maryland, and she loved it--and inspired me to check it out again. This is particularly good because it shows some of the realities of growing up without a lot materially, but also shows all the fun memories Rylant has.
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An author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for children and young adults as well as an author and author/illustrator of picture books for children, Cynthia Rylant is recognized as a gifted writer who has contributed memorably to several genres of juvenile literature. A prolific author who often bases her works on her own background, especially on her childhood in the West Virginia mountains, she ...more
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