The Ultimate List of Books about Utah for Children
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Utah’s best books for children are a set of novels by John D. Fitzgerald. These books are set in a small town of Utah, with a family full of inventors, big thinkers, and little brothers. The narrator, J.D. (based off of the author), looks up to his brother Tom who plays a Tom Sawyer shuckster (or as the book calls him, “the biggest con man of the Midwest.”) The brothers have a bit of a Sherlock Holmes and Watson dynamic as well.
The books were written in the 1960s, so they have a Beverly Cleary vibe – they are lovable, dated at times, but not outwardly offensive. There are situations in the book that provide historical context: the family gets their first toilet from the Sears Catalog (and Tom charges all the neighborhood some pennies to see it flush).
A man dies of starvation, a child dies in a childhood accident (mortality rates in the 1910s were wild). In a later book, the boys get sent to boarding school – a Catholic school for boys, where the most memorable scene is them peeling bowls and bowls of potatoes. The books discuss how the town in Utah was a mostly an LDS Mormon town, but religion is mostly absent. The author’s backstory is that his father was Catholic, and as his first adult novel says, “Papa Married A Morman.” The children grew up in an mixed-faith household, and you can see how it subtly influences the dynamic between the family and the town, mostly in how they were aware of differences and not entirely held to town rules/norms.
This book series is best as a read-aloud, because who doesn’t want to travel back to 1910s Utah to see a flushing toilet?
Children’s Books about Utah and all 50 states. Which state will you read about next!