From the 1930s on into the 1970s, Jesse Stuart was Kentucky’s most popular author, although Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989) was the favorite in national literary circles. Stuart published over 60 books, including poetry, stories, novels, children’s and YA books, many autobiographies and a biography of a dog and also of his father, an illiterate sharecropper in Greenup County, Kentucky. Stuart was a classmate at Lincoln Memorial University with James Still and Don West, and, like them, did graduate work at Vanderbilt. After Army service, mostly in England, Stuart returned to Greenup County and became first a one-room school teacher and then Kentucky’s youngest school superintendent before his royalties from his books and his commencement speeches allowed him to write full-time and to purchase all the land his father ever cropped for shares in Greenup County. In February of 1937, Stuart published a short story, “The Blue Tick Pig” in Esquire. It was reprinted in three of his short story collections. In 1977, he re-wrote the story as a children’s book and submitted it to his editor at McGraw-Hill who deemed it too long to publish in that form. Stuart made the Jesse Stuart Foundation the executor of his unpublished manuscripts, so the Foundation allowed Cathy Roberts of Prospect, Tennessee, to edit it and Thomas Mash to illustrate it, so that now there is a 9th children’s book by Jesse Stuart. In this story, the protagonist, Sarah Powell, is given the runt of the litter of pigs in compensation for working for a neighbor and takes it home to raise and eventually become “the biggest attraction at the county fair.”
Ashland, Kentucky: The Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2019. 97 pages, illustrated by Thomas Marsh with Discussion Questions and Activities. Trade paperback.