Thursday, July 04, 2019

Family Reunion: Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons

On reunion morning, we rise before the sun. Daddy says there's nothing like going down home.

But Little Alan naps fitfully in the backseat as the car moves down the road into the early dawn. He is happy to see all the relatives, but at their anniversary celebration, all the children have to have something to share with the whole family.

And Alan's got nothing.

He's happy about being with his Great-Grandma and his grandparents and all the aunts and uncles and cousins. Granny is outside feeding her colorful hens when they arrive and gives him a great big hug. The big old house smells wonderful with everyone's home cooking and feels right with everyone's happy greetings. Still, all the cousins seem to have something special to share with the family. His dad points out things he remembers fondly to Alan--the old church, the place where he and his brother together played their trumpet and trombone, the family portraits where his eyes look back at him from their faces.

And when it's time for the wagon ride behind the big tractor, Alan is still worried. What will he say in front of everyone when it's his turn?

But as Dad drives them past the smokehouse and pond, he says something that makes Alan sit up tall.
"Cotton has been on this land a long time, just like us, my Pa used to say.

Look to your left. Look to your right.

Everything you see, Pa told us, is ours!"

And Alan knows what to do.
"I think and I collect treasures from our land, walking in Pa's and Granny's footsteps, in those of our people and Native people long before.

There's cotton for Granny's quilts that kept her children and grandchildren warm, a pecan from the trees Pa planted and his dad climbed, and some soil from their own land that goes on as far as they can see.

Kelly Starling Lyons' latest, Going Down Home with Daddy (Peachtree Books, 2019), lighted with the award-winning Daniel Minter's glowing paintings, done in deep earth tones of green and brown, celebrates the depth of family feeling and loyalty for the land that sustains them all. Minter's illustrations, decorated with elaborately-stylized guinea hens, climbing iconic okra pods, twining watermelon vines, and bolls bursting with ripe cotton, evoke the fullness of family connections and pride in a family reunion filled with love. Says Kirkus Reviews, "Imagery is presented in marvelous metaphors... Minter's acrylic-wash prints soar... A warm, loving, necessary reminder of the power in families coming together."

Share this one with the similarly-themed Cynthia Rylant's and Stephen Gammell's joyful Caldecott Honor book, The Relatives Came.

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