Good books make good readers, and Jesse Stuart’s junior books are especially effective for students in grades 3-7.

By the 1950s, Jesse Stuart had established a national reputation as a poet, novelist and short story writer. In order to promote the solid values of honesty, loyalty, self-reliance and love of family, Stuart began writing children’s books in the 1950s. Before he died in 1984, his 61 published books included eight junior books for children in grades 3-7: “A Penny’s Worth of Character,” “The Beatinest Boy,” “A Ride with Huey the Engineer,” “The Rightful Owner,” “Old Ben,” “Andy Finds a Way,” “Come to My Tomorrowland” and “Red Mule.”

In 2019, the Jesse Stuart Foundation added a ninth book, “Bluetick Pig,” to the junior book series. JSF board member Dr. Cathy Roberts carefully revised and edited a lengthy manuscript that Stuart had submitted to McGraw Hill in 1977. The manuscript was much too long and it remained in the Foundation’s collection of unpublished manuscripts until Dr. Roberts, an exceptional scholar with Greenup County roots, created “Bluetick Pig.”

The format of the Stuart’s junior books is excellent. The size and design of the books, the clear, sharp typography, the space between the lines, the number of words on a page, the margins, and the illustrations combine to make these books attractive and readable.

Teachers who have used these books cite other positive factors:

• The style of Stuart’s children’s books is simple and direct, which makes them easily readable for children in grades 3-7.

• Stuart develops his themes in a smooth and logical manner.

• The books contain sound moral and ethical principles and stress value judgments.

• Sentiment is shown in many different ways.

• Children like the lively conversations and adventures. Adventure dominates these books, although it is not high adventure, rather it is the sort of everyday experiences that might occur in any rural community.

• The children in Stuart’s stories show an intense interest in and respect for nature.

• The value of love is shown through the relationship between children and adults. Although the children of Stuart’s stories live a hard life, they are loved by their parents, grandparents, and friends, and are taught honesty and courage.

• These books show Stuart’s love for Kentucky, his love for animals, and his knowledge of children growing up in the country, far removed from city life.

Books strengthen the relationship between children and adults who want their offspring to live good and responsible lives. Today there is a renewed emphasis on teaching values, which means continually discussing the ethical implications of the choices that face today’s children.

That is why Stuart’s junior books are so important. They make reading fun, and they teach solid values, too. The set of nine Stuart junior books is available at the deep discount price of $36. For more information about these and other books for children, stop by the Jesse Stuart Foundation Bookstore & Appalachian Gift Shop at 4440 13th Street in Ashland, telephone (606) 326-1667, or visit the website at

DR. JAMES GIFFORD, Ph.D., is the CEO and Senior Editor at the Jesse Stuart Foundation.

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