Road to Tater Hill (Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books)
ISBN: 978-0-385-73677-0 (0-385-73677-0) $16.99
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The U.S. Air Force is always moving Annie Winters’ family around, but the one thing she knows she can count on is spending the summer at her grandparents’ mountain home, playing with her best friend, Bobby Miller, and picking blackberries on Tater Hill. This year, Annie is extra excited—Mama is expecting a baby soon, and Annie’s wishing for a little sister. Just before Daddy leaves for his latest air force assignment in Germany, he gives Annie a journal for her happy summer memories. When he returns, they’ll read the journal together.

But now Annie is grieving over the death of her newborn sister. How can she tell Daddy that ever since baby Mary Kate died, Mama has been slipping farther and farther away? Just putting those words down in her journal makes Annie scared that Mama will never be her old self again.

Unable to confide even in Bobby, Annie finds comfort in holding an oblong stone she calls her rock baby—the only thing that fills the hole inside her. Then she secretly befriends Miss Eliza McGee, a mysterious mountain woman living in an abandoned house that folks say belonged to a murderer. Miss Eliza helps Annie come to terms with her loss, while Annie tries to bring Miss Eliza back into the mountain community. When a crisis reveals their unlikely alliance, these new friends are suddenly at the center of an unexpected turn of events.

Set in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in 1963, Edith M. Hemingway’s graceful debut novel tells the story of a wise and resourceful girl who struggles through grief and finds solace in surprising places.


“Like the best of children’s literature, Edith Hemingway’s Road To Tater Hill is timeless. The deep and universal emotions of pain and loss that her memorable, fully-realized characters share are as true today as they were in the story’s 1963 setting. Hemingway skillfully evokes the healing bonds of family and friendship in this sensitive, gracefully written tale—one that is sure to engage readers of any age.” - Joyce McDonald, award-winning author of Devil on My Heels, Shades of Simon Gray, and Swallowing Stones.

“Drawing on the author’s childhood roots, the heart of this first novel is the sense of place, described in simple lyrical words: the soaring mountains and the valley rippling outward 'in waves and waves of fading blue' like one of Grandma’s patchwork quilts. True to Annie’s viewpoint, the particulars tell a universal drama of childhood grief, complete in all its sadness, anger, loneliness, and healing.” - Booklist

“The characters and setting are finely drawn and the author has an acute sense of how time seems to pass more slowly for children than adults. The love of family members for one another is heartwarming. A well-written and enjoyable novel." - School Library Journal

“Heartbreaking, powerful, moving - these are all words that describe ROAD TO TATER HILL. I found it to be one of the most gripping and moving books I have ever read." - Kayley (6th grade student) on

“Ms. Hemingway paints a beautiful portrait of the stages of grief and healing and combines it with a love of her own mountain home that shines clearly through... I envy the elementary level teachers who should all read this with their students." - Cindy, Library-Teacher

“This one had me at hello. From the very first paragraph, I was drawn into Annie's story." - Becky's Book Reviews

“The characterization was strong, the sense of time (1963) was strong, and the author kept a tight enough rein on the strong emotions so that it never veered into melodrama or sentimentality." - ACPL Mock Newbery Review

Recipe from Road to Tater Hill:

Grandma’s Blackberry Jam

            “The house smelled like sweet blackberries. A simmering, bubbly sound drew me to the kitchen.  Grandma stood in front of the stove, stirring slowly while she stared into the huge, inky pot. Rows of sparkling clear jars lined the counter top.”
            (From Road to Tater Hill by Edith M. Hemingway)

  • Pick your blackberries when they’re fat and juicy—sweet enough, but still with a bit of tartness.  Grandma says those make the best jam and pies.
  • Wash and drain the berries carefully by placing them in a sieve or colander and immersing it in cold water several times.

You’ll need:

  • A large, heavy bottomed-pan  (Grandma’s has a copper bottom.) 
  • A cold saucer
  • Hot, sterilized jam jars
  • 16 cups of blackberries
  • ½ cup water
  • Rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • About 14 cups of sugar, warmed in the oven (Grandma always tastes for sweetness before adding all the sugar.)

Put the cleaned berries, the water, and lemon rind and juice in the big pan. Simmer until the berries are soft, pulpy, and reduced by one-third. Remove the pan from the heat and add the warmed sugar a little at a time, testing for the right sweetness. Stir thoroughly until the sugar is dissolved. 

Return the pan to heat and boil rapidly until the setting point is reached. Grandma uses the saucer test for setting point. Put a teaspoon of jam on a cold saucer. As the jam cools, a skin forms. If the skin crinkles when pushed with a finger, the jam has set.

As soon as the setting point is reached, remove the pan from the heat. (Grandma says if you cook it too long, the jam gets too sticky and loses its flavor.) Let the jam stand for 15 minutes before removing any scum from the top with a slotted spoon. Then ladle the jam into hot, sterilized jars or jelly glasses. 

Pour a layer of melted hot paraffin (about an 1/8 inch) over the surface of the jam so that wax touches the glass on all sides. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth and leave until the paraffin cools and hardens. Then cover with metal lids. Leave the filled jars to cool completely and store in a cool, dark place.
Yield:  5 quarts or 20 half-pint jam jars

Blackberry jam tastes best on toasted homemade bread or hot popovers fresh from the oven!

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