Written by: Kelly Starling Lyons
Illustrated by: Daniel Minter
For ages: 4-8 years
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, AAVE, Black Culture & Identity, Family, Recitation, Reunion, Love, Humor, Enslavement.
Summary: This book is genuinely amazing, it was one of our favorite from the entire year! This book is beautiful because of both the storyline and the artistry that Daniel Minter created. It is a future classic without a doubt, and a stunning example of a culturally African-American book. There are some common themes that both author are illustrator touch upon that make this a fantastic example of an Own Voices text. The emphasis on the formality of recitation at a family event, the intertwining of the past and present (especially in the illustrations) and the lilting dialogue are some symbols of the rich literary tradition that is Black culture.
The story opens with a family getting ready to go down south for a family reunion, and all the kids are preparing recitations for the event. Lil Alan doesn’t know what he’ll perform though, and is anxious about it. He’s really excited to see his family and cousins, but worries that he won’t be able to come up with a performance in time. Being on the farm, Lil Alan experiences everything that his family has for generations, and listens closely to the memories that others share. Lyons does a lovely job of getting across how close the family is, adding in jokes and light teasing between characters. When Lil Alan does figure out what he will perform for his family at the reunion, it is heartfelt and emotional. This book is a fantastic read, and sounds particularly beautiful read out loud.
This book was sent to us by Peachtree as an entry for the Best of 2019 Book List, but all opinions are our own!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Kelly Starling Lyons began her journey to become a children’s book author in her hometown of Pittsburgh. She learned the art of storytelling from her mom who took her to productions at a children’s theater, wrote plays and made up bedtime tales. Her grandparents, who showed their imagination through cooking and gardening, taught her to honor the magic of history and home. Surrounded by creativity, Lyons began to write. Now a children’s book author, her mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery.
Her books include chapter book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal; CCBC Choices-honored picture book One Million Men and Me; Ellen’s Broom, a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award Book and Junior Library Guild and Bank Street Best selection; Tea Cakes for Tosh and Hope’s Gift, Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People and One More Dino on the Floor, a Scholastic Reading Club pick. Her chapter book series debuted in September 2017 with two titles – Jada Jones: Rock Star and Jada Jones: Class Act. Forthcoming 2019 titles include: Jada Jones: Sleepover Scientist, Jada Jones: Dancing Queen, Going Down Home with Daddy and Sing a Song.
Daniel Minter is a painter and illustrator. His paintings, carvings, block prints and sculptures have been exhibited both nationally and internationally at galleries and museums, including the Seattle Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, Bates College, Hammonds House Museum, Northwest African American Art Museum, Museu Jorge Amado and the Meridian International Center.
Minter lived in Chicago and Brooklyn before moving to Portland, Maine where he now resides with his wife, Marcia, and their son, Azari. From his base in Maine, Minter uses his art as a tool for dialogue with his community. He is the co-founder and creative visionary of the Portland Freedom Trail. Minter serves on the board of The Ashley Bryan Center, The Illustration Institute and teaches at the Maine College of Art. He serves as board chair of The Quaglia Institute for Student Aspirations.
Minter has illustrated 11 children’s books, including Step Right Up; How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness, and Ellen’s Broom which won a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor; Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, winner of a Best Book Award from the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio; and The Riches of Oseola McCarty, named an Honor Book by the Carter G. Woodson Awards.
He was commissioned in both 2004 and 2011 to create Kwanzaa stamps for the U.S. Postal Service.