Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville, Tennessee

When I found this simple book in a big box of bargain books for my daughter, I was curious because of its title. Would it be a travel book? A fact book about the city of Knoxville? It is actually neither; instead, it is a celebration of summertime. I don’t think it’s very well named, but I do think that Knoxville Tennessee, written by Nikki Giovanni, is a very sweet and enjoyable book that most kids will love—particularly if they are from the Midwest or South where the different joys of summer listed in the book can readily be found. (The entire poem can be found at the link above, though the full joy of the book should be experienced with its beautiful artwork.)

The Scholastic book is very simple, featuring a book-long poem about a little girl who simply enjoys summertime. It begins with a little girl prancing in a field full of violets, with her beloved dog—who is featured throughout the book with her—beside her. She joyously declares that summer is her favorite season, and the rest of the book helps to portray just why.

Much of her summertime love involves food—doesn’t everyone’s? She lists things like corn on the cob from her own father’s garden, barbecue, and homemade ice cream as some of her summer favorites. Others include okra, cabbage, and other greens. The images do not show her buying these items at the store, but in her own garden as well as at a stand with other people, perhaps either buying or selling the items as a family. My own little girl will be harvesting her own greens this summer as well. Children are joyously displayed jumping rope, running, and sitting on a picnic blanket while the adults cook and gather around coolers—which could have been any, and maybe even every, summer day during my early childhood.

Sure, church going and gospel singing are included, whereas my own childhood was filled more with oldies radio and classic rock, depending on whose house we were at—but otherwise this could be anyone’s childhood experience of past or present, making it such a relatable, beautiful book.

Larry Johnson’s illustrations also make the book very enjoyable. The watercolors are a bit muddied, giving it that hazy glow that you always associate with summertime. It has a certain charm to it, and the brushstrokes themselves even somehow remind me of the Midwest where I hail from. I can definitely sit in that little girl’s shoes in some of her summer rituals; indeed, I have in many, as does my own daughter these days.