Robbie Branscum - Her Story and Published Books
Robbie Branscum Author and Poet
Robbie Branscum, born Robbie Nell Tilley (1934–1997) was raised in the Arkansas mountains. She wrote her books for children and young adults, much in the style of Huckleberry Finn, or so I think. She was no doubt influenced by books of the same type.
Only going to seventh grade she finished her education in books from public libraries. Many of her books are about herself and what she went through growing up.
After her father died when she was only four her mother abandoned her and her siblings, leaving them with abusive grandparents. They could not have been much more than a year apart with Robbie being oldest.
This was the 1940's, so possibly the mother had done the best she could. Clearly in Robbie's writing you never pick up any forgiveness for this. Possibly because she bore the brunt of the punishment of being abandoned, that forced the roll of being mother and protector on a very young child.
Her mother did come back for them when Robbie was in her teens and took her back to a family she had started with someone else. A marriage that had resulted in two more children. Robbie herself married at age fifteen to Dwane Branscum and moved to California. She had a daughter at age twenty-two and was divorced at age twenty-five. She had been an accomplished storyteller by this time but did not make a serious attempt to write until the late 1960s.
Sadly her abandonment was a major theme in all her books that is so easy to pick up on as you read her.
Robbie Branscum Books Won Awards
Robbie Branscum wrote Johnny May about a young girl growing up. The Murder of Hound Dog Bates was honored with an Edgar for Best Juvenile Mystery and The Girl, was named a Notable Children’s Trade Book in Social Studies.
“Me and Jim Luke” was the first book I read of hers and was simply thrilled with. I went on to read the “Johnny May” books equally as good. Recently I was made aware of more of her books by my public library that orders them for me because they do not have them in stock. I think this is such a wonderful service and plan to never give up my love for a real book in my hand! What better way to relax and enjoy age all through our lives?
I loved these books too and decided to push them out to those who may have missed these or Robbie Branscum altogether! Also to encourage those who have read one or a couple of Robbie’s books to not miss out on these!
Robbie died in 1997 leaving behind many unpublished manuscripts. Such a loss that no one put these together for publication!
If you think you are too old or mature for her books, please let your children or grandchildren enjoy them!
Have you read any of her books?
I was not sure I would enjoy this book in the first few pages but knowing what a great writer this was I did not quit reading and so glad I did not. Just a few chapters in the story grabs you and becomes a real page turner to see where it is leading. This author does not disappoint.
Old Blue Tilley
Old Blue Tilley is a traveling preacher man. He took in a young boy whose parents are killed and left on his own. After the boy’s uncles take over the farm that should have been rightfully his all he can do is look forward to being old enough to take it back.
He has not even given anyone his real name in fear of being returned to kin. Kin he did not want to be raised by. He was called Hambone by this preacher because of the way he ate when he first found him.
He teaches the boy to care for animals and folks and he takes care of the home place while Old Blue travels off preaching. This boy is sure Old Blue wants to turn him into a preacher too and all his education and learning to read and write is from the bible but still he won’t commit. He can chop wood and cook meals and although resisting the plan from this man who has become his only family, he misses him very much when he is gone.
No sooner does he get back home than Old Blue has them heading out to a local revival meeting and feast most of the local mountain people are aware of and looking forward to. As they head for this location they stop by these homes one by one and we get to know the people and the problems going on.
They are all waiting and expecting war against Hitler, holding their breaths in dread of all who will have to leave but accepting it as something that must be done.
They spend a few hours or a night with some of these neighbors, who are so different and yet the same. They most think they know the scandal going on and who is to blame for that. We get insight into all of Hambone’s opinions which can be very amusing in a fourteen year old.
Cameo Rose is in love and trying her best to be as beautiful as the other girl in her boyfriend's life. He is a friend and very kind to her and is friendship all it really is?
Cameo Rose was a 14 year old being raised by her grandpa, the sheriff in the Arkansas hills. She lost her parents when she was six and her grandma passed on just a year later.
It was a hard living helping her grandpa make it and Cameo worked just like a boy, dressing the same. If she didn’t she knew she would be sent to the city to live with an aunt that she sure did not want. Sometimes her mouth was about the same as a rough boy's too, but not being raised by a mother, she simply did not know any better.
Words that escape her lips are clearly from a girl in need of a woman’s teaching and influence. She has not been told what young ladies should not speak aloud. Even being the tomboy she has been forced into being, she has chosen the boy she wants to marry. She has a neighbor woman making her a couple of dresses from material retrieved from her dead grandma’s trunk since her grandpa will not listen to her request to look like a girl.
Someone has killed a neighbor man and shot her grandpa, besides taking a shot barely missing her. So with an uneducated and rude mouth Cameo begins her own not so secret private investigation. Barefoot and walking by rattlesnakes she finally gets her truth at the end at her own kitchen table.
Does she follow people, including strangers home, in hopes someone will care for her and give her an out of the torture she endures daily?
The Girl is a Robbie Branscum story of the physical and sexual abuse of a young eleven year old girl. She and her two brothers and little sister are left at the grandparent’s house a few years now, after the death of their father. Their mother is simple gone, deserting them after this, yet they are still waiting for her to come for them. Their only hope with grandparents who keep them simply for the welfare check they bring in, that grandma controls. The grandfather wishes them no ill will but they work the farm of this sharecropper and bring in the living that was once his responsibility.
The girl, the only name she is called in this book, even by her siblings, is oldest of the four. She is beaten and mistreated by the grandmother and molested by an uncle. She follows people home from school and church for adventure and is sometimes gone for days. She is closed mouth and most think of her as daft.
The girl is an avid reader, unbeknownst by all, except a brother. They barely have clothes on their backs and love only comes one for another among the brothers and sisters. Except old granny, who loves the girl and is cared for by her lovingly when it is her time with them, being passed around by family. Older and uglier than grandma she is nothing like her and treats the girl with love, kindness and encouragement that one day her life will be better.
It is a very sad part of the story when the girl loses old granny, who she has bathed, fed and cared for each visit she has made there. She is to the girl an ugly baby and it makes it much easier the things a child must do to accept her lot.
Johnny May wraps her feet in rags to keep them from freezing in the snow and ice.
Johnny May was being raised by her grandparents in the 1940s who had two daughters living at home also. They upped and married though, leaving pre-teen Johnny May to take care of this aging couple. She was a little upset with both of these aunts, not seeming to care the burden put on her. She had to do nearly all the chores and food was scarce too if she couldn’t shoot a rabbit or any meat at all that her grandma was still able to turn into a delicious meal. Beans were the main staple but biscuits and gravy were preferred!
The story starts with Johnny May seeing the most beloved man around murder the most hated. She has to tell her best friend Aron but his two visiting city cousins find out too. So the four are on an adventure to discover the truth.
She had previously told a tale that turned out to not be true so it was agreed this had to be secret until the facts were uncovered.
Christmas is just weeks away and Johnny May is doing her best to at least furnish a good meal for her grandparents. A deer has been spotted that if brought down by her would be meat enough for the whole winter. She misses her first try looking into the big soft brown eyes of this animal. But she knows there will be another chance. Will she be able to feed them all for Christmas and past? Will she be able to prove a murder has been committed or just let it go since it is a good riddance for everyone concerned?
Twenty Books in Twenty Years
- 1971 – Me and Jim Luke
- 1975 – Three Wars of Billy Joe Treat
- 1976 – Johnny May was included in the “Best of the Best 1966–1978” by the School Library Journal
- 1977 – Toby, Granny and George - *Friends of American Writers Award
- 1978 – Three Buckets of Daylight (with Allen Davis)
- 1978 – To the Tune of a Hickory Stick
- 1978 – The Ugliest Boy
- 1979 – For Love of Jody (with Allen Davis)
- 1979 – The Saving of P.S.
- 1979 – Toby Alone
- 1981 – Toby and Johnny Joe
- 1982 – The Murder of Hound Dog Bates - *Edgar Award, Category: Best Juvenile - received in 1983
- 1983 – Cheater and Flitter Dick
- 1983 – Spud Tackett
- 1984 – The Adventures of Johnnie May
- 1986 – The Girl won a PEN award for literary excellence in children’s fiction.
- 1987 – Johnny May Grows Up
- 1989 – Cameo Rose
- 1991 – Old Blue Tiley
- 1991 – Never Pa's Girl
Robbie Branscum Books
Did you find any of these stories of interest?
© 2018 Jackie Lynnley