Now that travel and gatherings are becoming safer for folks, it’s likely that many families will be planning holiday reunions for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. If you’d like to tap into the excitement (or trepidation) that students might be feeling about that, you can’t go wrong with these four picture books:
Going Down Home with Daddy – written by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter
In this Caldecott honor book, Lil Alan looks forward to the annual family reunion at the farm where Daddy grew up, but everyone is supposed to share something special and Alan worries about arriving with empty hands. As he goes on a tractor ride, enjoys family meals, attends church services, and listens to his relatives share memories, he realizes he can use the gifts of their land to pay tribute to his family’s roots and strength. Lyons use of imagery and metaphor keep the language lively, and Minter’s illustrations are awash with pattern and symbolism that reinforce the idea of family values and traditions. There is so much to notice and ponder in this beautiful book, you’ll want to allow plenty of time for discussion after you share it.
Teacher’s Guide from Peachtree Publishers – we all know that some teacher’s guides are kind of lame (summary, superficial discussion questions, coloring sheet) but this one is PACKED with thinking questions, cross-curricular activities, and links to additional resources. And don’t miss the information about the Adinkra symbols used by Minter in the illustrations!
Enjoy a video read-aloud performed by the author
Author Website for Kelly Starling Lyons (includes a page of activities for kids)
Visit The Brown Bookshelf which was cofounded by Lyons and celebrates black authors and illustrators
Illustrator Website for Daniel Minter – enjoy his beautiful fine art, and see page spreads from his other books
The Relatives Came – written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Stephen Gammell
“Early one morning the relatives pile into their rainbow station wagon and drive down the twisty mountain roads to spend the summer with their relatives. The weeks that follow are filled with hugging and laughing and eating and sleeping and enjoying one another, until it’s time for the trip back home.” This is one of my all-time favorite books ever, in large part because of the happy marriage between the poignant text and the exuberant illustrations that make me grin every time I look at them. (The station wagon hitting the mailbox
Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner – written by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Jestenia Southerland
“Everyone coming to the reunion is bringing a signature dish, and Ruby wants to contribute something too. How discouraging that everyone tells her she’s too small to work in the kitchen! What can she prepare that is special enough to share and simple enough for her to make?” For the listeners who really look forward to the family feast (and really, who among us doesn’t?) this book is a love letter to down-home cooking, and the emphasizes the importance of food in family traditions. Dalton’s descriptive language will have your mouth watering as you read: “The crack and sizzle of chicken and catfish frying up…the slow babbling of collard greens simmering…the zing of Aunt Lena’s pickled okra that crunch when you bite them…” Delicious!
Enjoy a read aloud video performed by the author and illustrator, courtesy of TeachingBooks
Author Website for Angela Dalton
Illustrator website for Jestenia Southerland
Family Reunion – written by Chad and Dad Richardson, illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin
Not all kids get excited about attending family reunions, and this book (written by a father and son) acknowledges that reluctance. Aaron is sure it will be boring, and he’d rather stay home and play video games, but from the first welcoming hug from PopPop he’s drawn into the spirit of the gathering. As Aaron participates in the the dance party, the church service, and the family stories, he realizes how enjoyable – and meaningful – family get-togethers are. Bonus: The whole book is written in haiku format!
Enjoy the book trailer!
View some page spreads from the book
Hear from the authors about their inspiration for the story, and see photos of them and their family
Illustrator page for Ashleigh Corrin
Do you have other family reunion books you like to share with students? Can you recommend other resources or activities for these books? Please leave a comment and tell us about them!