Robbie Branscum - Her Story and Published Books

Updated on March 24, 2020
Jackie Lynnley profile image

There are special people in this world we are so lucky to get to know. Jackie finds them to share and enjoy with you.

She Wrote 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 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 the 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 role 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 the 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!

Robbie Branscum

Have you read any of her books?

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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 a 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 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

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

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 simply 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 the 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 for 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

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 good riddance for everyone concerned?

Robbie Branscum Books

Did you find any of these stories of interest?

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Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Jackie Lynnley


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    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      5 months ago from the beautiful south

      Thank you for reading, Umesh!

    • bhattuc profile image

      Umesh Chandra Bhatt 

      5 months ago from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India

      Good narration. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      20 months ago from the beautiful south

      Thanks so much Nithya, I know you will love them all. I should have pointed out there is also humor, as a matter of life I'd guess you'd say.

      So good to see you!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 

      20 months ago from Dubai

      After reading your article I want to read Robbie Branscum books. Her books seem to be interlaced with sad happenings. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      23 months ago from the beautiful south

      Thanks so much PS, you will most definitely love her! I love children books too like hers especially.

      Angels back to you friend, and God less you.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      23 months ago from North Central Florida

      O I love love love to read so I will have to read some of these (who knows ...maybe I will read many of them). I was a teacher for 42 years so I read many so called children's books and often found them full of much that was worthy of a read. Thank you for introducing her to us. Angels are on the way to you this evening ps

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thank you Peg, such a kind thing to say. It would be an honor if that were true. I know not many of us could not help but wonder if this abuse and her probable obsession with it led to her early death. Sometimes things like this make us realize just how lucky we are.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      2 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      This writer sounds intriguing and I can see the theme of her works as you've described. Clearly her abandonment early in life affected her deeply and she chose to pen those feelings. When I look at the dates of her life, I'm astounded at the young age at which she passed. That age seems to get younger and younger the longer I live. Thanks for sharing this author's work here. You've done a great job of enticing the reader to discover this author's stories. She would have been proud.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thanks Bill, she really is one of those unforgettable writers.

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      Thanks for taking us into the world of Robbie Branscum, Jackie. Very interesting, and a good summary of the books. I can see how her life entered into the stories from your summaries.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      So true Peggy, I believe that too. I hope she made peace with it all but surely it provided her with a comfortable living.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      2 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for introducing me to an author of which I was unfamiliar. It is sad that she had such a hard life as a child. She probably found solace by working through her feelings as she wrote her books since many of them seem to be patterned after her life.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thanks Nell, hope you will check them out. How are your libraries over there? I love libraries!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      2 years ago from England

      How interesting Jackie, I had never heard of this author or the books, so its great to see and learn about someone new.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      So OK, Eric, you really should!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      So now I know. So now we will read them. Thanks

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thank you Dora, she is a special writer that stands out from others!

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Jackie, thanks you for promoting this author and her books. Despite an unfortunate beginning, she excels in her literary pursuits. You did a great job of summarizing the books and convincing us that they make good reading. I'm sold.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      MizB, thank you. I will certainly write those authors down and have a look. I think I have read Elgin, sounds very familiar but will still check her books to see.

      This time that Robbie wrote about particularly interests me too. The great thing is there are several I still just have to read as soon as I can get my hands on them. I only own one "Me and Jim Luke" and you will love that I just know!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thank you Kari, she is an author that touches the heart, I think.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James MizBejabbers 

      2 years ago from Beautiful South

      Jackie, thank you, thank you, thank you, for reminding me to read Robbie Branscum's books. I try to read the local authors in my home state whenever I discover them. I hadn't heard of Robbie Branscum until a few weeks ago when a newspaper columnist wrote a short blurb on her. I decided then to seek out her books, but then sometimes I do have a short memory.

      Have you read anything by Suzette Haden Elgin or Donald Harrington? If not and you like folk humor, seek them out. Both are now deceased, but Ms. Elgin's Ozark Trilogy from the 70s has been rereleased. I have a first edition copy of which I'm quite proud.

      I eagerly await your bringing us some more great authors that we may have never heard of.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      Her books sound interesting. What a prolific writer!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Claire, thank you. I am right on finding all I have not found to read! She is a great writer.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thank you Linda, she has been much overlooked even with all her awards.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I had never heard of her before but I will definitely keep a look out now!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I have never heard of this writer before. Thank you very much for sharing the information about Robbie Branscum and her work, Jackie.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      It is sure true with her Lori. I know you will love her! Great to see you.

    • lambservant profile image

      Lori Colbo 

      2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

      Never heard of her. I'll check her out. It's often people who have suffered, especially in childhood, that seem to write such deep emotional stories. Most writers of fiction often give some elements of themselves in the characters and/or story line.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile imageAUTHOR

      Jackie Lynnley 

      2 years ago from the beautiful south

      Thank you Linda. I have a few yet to read I knew nothing about and I am so looking forward to them!

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 

      2 years ago from Washington State, USA

      Jackie, I don't know how I missed these. I used to read to my two daughters (long after they were able to read on their own). It was a special bedtime ritual. We did all of the Anne of Green Gables books, stories by E.B. White, A Wrinkle in Time, etc. I'm sure they would have enjoyed these as well.

      I will try to find a few of these at the library. Thanks so much for a good article.


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