11 Books about the Smoky Mountains

Why not make the most of your Smoky Mountain vacation by reading about the area before arriving?

Since our kids are getting older, we’ve taken a different approach to travel. It used to be “go where we want to go and hope the kids can handle it and have fun and not make the trip miserable.” But now that they are in kindergarten and third grade, we have a new approach. It’s “let the kids speak into where we go and use it as an educational experience.” At least, that’s the idea.

This summer, we took the kids on a cruise (their choice) that left out of New Orleans (our choice). Before we left, we checked out books about the Mayan people (we were planning to visit Mayan ruins at a cruise stop in Mexico) and about southern plantations (we had a tour at one scheduled near New Orleans). Our oldest, especially, got into the book about the plantations. When we visited the plantation, it came alive for her, since she already knew the background.

It made me think — we should always educate ourselves before we travel somewhere. Don’t get me wrong — history was the class I most dreaded in school, but I really enjoyed learning about plantations with our 8-year-old, then taking her to visit an actual plantation afterward.

Anyway, all that to say that I thought it would be worth it to look into books about the Smoky Mountains.

First, five books that I’ll try to find before taking my kids back to the Smokies.

5 kids’ books about the Smoky Mountains:

(Links will take you to Amazon.com to purchase. Prices are from Amazon.com unless otherwise noted.)

  1. The Troublesome Cub in the Great Smoky Mountains by Lisa Horstman
  • Genre: Children’s fiction
  • Price: $7.98 (How weird are Amazon.com prices sometimes?)
  • More info: Published by the Great Smoky Mountains Association. From its site: “Kids will love this true story of a bear cub who fell asleep in a dumpster and was inadvertently picked up by a garbage truck. Written in delightful rhyme, the story has a happy ending and some important lessons to protect wildlife.”

2. Mysteries in Our National Parks: Night of the Black Bear by Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson

  • Genre: Children’s mystery fiction
  • Price: $4.99
  • More info: This book is intended for ages 9-12 and is published by the National Geographic Children’s Books. From Amazon.com: “This thrilling series roars back to life with the release of Mystery #13, Night of the Black Bear. Something very strange is going on in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A teenage girl is the latest victim in a growing number of bear attacks. Officials must figure out what’s causing the bizarre bear behavior or close the park. Can the Landons help?”

3. Mystery in the Smoky Mountains by Carole Marsh

  • Genre: Children’s mystery fiction
  • Price: $7.99
  • More info: This book looks like tons of fun. Marsh uses real kids (she started with ones she knew, then expanded to kids who joined her fan club and asked to be made into characters) for main characters and writes about real places. Check out the first few pages on Amazon.com. Marsh runs a comic about how she chooses the kids/location for books.

4. Going to the Great Smoky Mountains by Charles W. Maynard

  • Genre: Children’s nonfiction
  • Price: $14.21
  • More info: Intended for ages 9-12. From the Farcountry Press website: “Welcome to Great Smoky Mountains National Park! This book will introduce you to a wonderful place full of life and history. You will see wildflowers bordering the trails, playful waterfalls tumbling from mountainsides, elk and deer grazing in the meadows, and mottled salamanders hiding in the creeks. Visit grassy balds where the Cherokee people hunted. Sit in the small houses where mountain farmers raised their families. Explore vast forests thick with trees. Your adventure in the Smokies begins right here!”

5. Smoky Mountain Rose by Alan Schroeder

  • Genre: Children’s fiction
  • Price: $6.99
  • More info: For ages kindergarten through grade 4. This is a retelling of the classic fairy tale Cinderella. From Amazon.com: “Schroeder has taken the classic Perrault fairy tale and recast it ‘smack in the heart o’ the Smoky Mountains.’ He begins his retelling with the directive, ‘Now lis’en,’ and continues to relate the familiar events in lilting mountain dialect with plenty of homespun humor. Seb, the love interest here, is a ‘real rich feller–made his fortune in sowbellies and grits.’ Rose’s transformation takes place through intervention of a kindhearted, articulate hog.”

And here are five books that will find their way onto my own reading list.

6 adult books about the Smoky Mountains

(Links will take you to Amazon.com to purchase. Prices are from Amazon.com unless otherwise noted.)

1. The Reluctant Outlaw by Karen Kirst

  • Genre: Romantic historical fiction
  • Price: $5.75
  • More info: Karen lives in Maryville, TN. She has been wanting to write a novel for a long time, but homeschools three boys, so she couldn’t find the time. Two years ago, she submitted the manuscript to Harlequin and was accepted. This book is the first in a series called Smoky Mountain Matches. This novel is set in Gatlinburg and Cades Cove in the 1880s and tells the story of the O’Malley family. For more information about Karen Kirst, visit The Daily Times.

2. Photographing the Great Smoky Mountains: Where to find perfect shots and how to take them by Jim Hargan

  • Genre: Nonfiction 
  • Price: $11.96 
  • More info: From Amazon.com: “On the border between North Carolina and Tennessee lie the forests and mountains of America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Renowned for the diversity of its plant and animal life—the most biological diversity of any area in the world’s temperate zone—this beautiful place also boasts some of the last remaining pockets of Southern Appalachian mountain culture. The park offers countless opportunities to capture its beauty and diversity on film, and in this book professional photographer and writer Jim Hargan leads you to some of the best photo sites throughout this 800-square-mile wonderland.”

3. The Ordeal A Mountain Romance of Tennessee by Mary Noailles Murfree

  • Genre: Fiction
  • Price: FREE! Get it digitally for your Kindle or iPad for free! Or read it online. Can also be bought in paperback for $7.99.
  • More info: The author was born in 1850 in Appalachia. She is considered by many to be Appalachia’s first significant female writer. Murfree was lame from childhood, so she spent a lot of time reading. She wrote for Appleton’s Journal under a male penname and also for the Atlantic Monthly. In 1885, she revealed her true identity. She wrote more than 20 full-length novels, most of which are set in the Smoky Mountains.

4. Strangers in High Places: The story of the Great Smoky Mountains by Michael Frome

  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Price: $21.24
  • More info: From an Amazon.com review: “This book is a must have for any library on Appalachia or the Great Smoky Mountains. Michael Frome does an admirable job balancing sensitivity for the mountain people, their customs, attitudes, and anomalies with historical research and insightful commentary about the creation of the Park and its future. Being a native of the region, from a long line of Appalachian families, I felt that I understood my home more after reading this book than I ever would have otherwise.”

5. Unsolved Disappearances in the Great Smoky Mountains by Juanitta Baldwin and Ester Grubb

  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Price: $13.95
  • More info: This one sounds like a great chill-inducing read for October! Product description on Amazon.com: “The stories in this book are skillfully written, well-structured, and genuine true short stories. They focus on original oral accounts from the unique people who live in the Great Smoky Mountains. They embody their distinct ideals, beliefs, values and life patterns. There is wit, surprise, and, in some cases, wisdom. You will meet real moonshiners, people who have encountered unexplained events in their everyday lives, and tales of true love. The wild isolation of the Smokies nurtured independence, and a caring spirit.” A reviewer says, “Every time I go to the Smoky Mountains I make sure that this book goes with me. As I am riding through the mountains I am always wondering what really did happen to the people in the book. It will keep you guessing even after you have read the last page.”

6. Smoky Mountain Tracks (Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries, Book 1) by Donna Ball

  • Genre: Fiction animal mystery
  • Price: I’m not sure why, but this book costs around $90 new on Amazon. Instead, go to Barnes & Noble, where you can get it for $6.99.
  • More info: From Amazon.com: “North Carolina native Raine Stockton, a dog trainer and the ex-wife of a deputy sheriff, knows the woods of Hanover County as well as anyone. She stopped volunteering for Search and Rescue work after a tragic loss, but now she reluctantly returns to active duty-along with a young and inexperienced Golden Retriever named Cisco-to help find a mother and six-year-old girl who have been kidnapped and taken deep into the wilderness. Suspecting there’s more to the case than meets the eye, Raine must struggle to overcome her personal demons, turn her search in new directions-and learn to trust Cisco to lead the way.”


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