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Southern Selections
~~Deep South Book Reviews~~

by Augusta Russel Scattergood

For Holiday Giving


I‘m proud of my reputation as the Aunt Who Gives Books. My grandmother taught fourth grade for thirty years and enjoyed the same claim to fame. She knew what books I liked, or better yet, what books I would like if only I knew about them. While her gifts weren’t always the latest Nancy Drew or Honey Bunch series I requested, the classics and award-winners my grandmother chose are still in my collection. And I’m not sure where all those Cherry Ames books went.

So each year about this time, I find myself sitting in the children’s room of my local mega-bookstore, surrounded by parents reading to toddlers and pre-teens perusing the paperback rack. I’m there to eavesdrop on their reading tastes. I also spend a fair amount of time in those special children’s bookstores where the proprietors seem to have a finger on the pulse of kids’ reading tastes. All in the name of holiday shopping.

Consider these books with a southern connection, for your own holiday gift list--

My book buying this season begins with several copies of THE TRAIN THEY CALL THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS by Steve Goodman, illustrated by Michael McCurdy (G.P. Putnam, 2003).

How could you grow up in a town divided by railroad tracks and not love this book. Of course, everybody knows the words to the classic tune immortalized by Arlo Guthrie, but this new picture book version cries out for a grandparent’s lap and for singing out loud. Look out the window at the landscapes rolling by. Peek inside the train for a kid’s eye view of the ride. Then turn to the map and share the spot where you last spotted the City of New Orleans.

The 9- to 14-year-olds on my list are receiving the latest gem of a novel by Barbara O’Connor, FAME AND GLORY IN FREEDOM, GEORGIA (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2003).

This book about friendship and love, winning and losing, and how to tell the difference is full of quirky, oddball characters. And they just don’t make spunky heroines like Burdette Weaver (Bird for short) any better. FAME AND GLORY IN FREEDOM, GEORGIA received a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. If you don’t know Barbara O’Connor’s books, set in the South and unmistakenly southern, you are in for a treat.

My last holiday book purchase will be a stretch for inclusion on a list of southern writers or southern topics. Kate DiCamillo grew up in Florida but now lives in Minnesota, although she considers her Newbery Honor book, Because of Winn-Dixie, a “dyed in the wool Southern novel.” Her new book, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (Candlewick Press, 2003) is a fantasy set in a world of little mice and princesses. This suspenseful tale can be read aloud to younger children or given as a gift for reading by the older kids on your list who love Stuart Little or Harry Potter.

And when you think about it, Kate DiCamillo’s book contains all the elements of a good southern yarn -- a great family read-aloud about princesses, rats, food, and bravery.

So get busy, make that list and check it twice. Be sure you’ve chosen the perfect books for the kids in your life. One day soon they’ll thank you for it.


Mississippi native Augusta Scattergood writes monthly reviews for USADS. Readers may write her at gsgood@yahoo.com

Enjoy more of Gusty’s USADS book reviews:
Sela Ward’s Homesick: A Memoir
Rick Bragg’s All Over But The Shoutin’
Carl Hiassen’s Hoot
Louise Shaffer’s The Three Miss Margarets
Lewis and Peacock'sThe Gift of Southern Cooking
New Stories from the South
Bobbie Ann Mason's Clear Springs
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

Want to leave a comment on this book review?
Please write Ye Editor at bethjacks@hotmail.com.

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