I is for Imagination in Appalachia

Appalachian Toys and Games From A to Z by Linda Hager Pack, illustrated by Pat Banks; University of Kentucky Press, $17.95, 56 pages ages 5 and up.

(c) University Press of Kentucky

Most modern American children have likely never heard of whimmydiddles (toys carved out of ivy and made to spin by reciting magic words) or played with apple dolls. This alphabet book, set in the heart of Appalachia, presents homemade playthings and games that entertained children at the end of the nineteenth century. Appalachia native Linda Pack has spent her career researching and writing about the culture and traditions unique to the people of this storied mountain community.

Each letter of the alphabet depicts an activity or plaything. While some are unique, (such as the aforementioned whimmydiddle) others are bound to be familiar, such as jumping rope, playing marbles, and setting noisemakers.  An explanation of each activity accompanies the entries. Pack also provides instructions for how to play imaginative games such as Drop the Handkerchief and Anty Over.  Still other entries include folktales such as the story "Never Mind Them Watermelons" often told to Appalachian children. 

Pickup sticks.jpg
(c) University Press of Kentucky

This eloquent ode to games of yesteryear would be incomplete without the enchanting watercolors by Pat Banks, a native of Kentucky who collaborated with Pack on a previous book about Appalachia.  Over twenty beautiful illustrations capture an active and rich childhood enjoyed mostly outdoors and among friends.  Perhaps modern readers will be enticed to put down their electric diversions and try some of these imaginative pastimes.  

A glossary, author's and illustrator's notes, plus a thorough bibliography ensure that this book will grow with its readers from an alphabet teaching tool to a reference source. 

(c) University Press of Kentucky

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