c.2019, Peachtree Books
$16.95 ($22.95 Canada)
32 pages

Getting together with your family this summer is going to be fun!

You’ll see your cousins and grandparents, friends and kin, and your aunts and uncles will be there, too. You’ll eat foods you love, play games to win, and you’ll hear stories that your family likes to tell. But what will you bring to the family picnic? In “Going Down Home with Daddy” by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Daniel Minter, that’s a question one boy struggles with.

As Sis slept in the back of the car next to him, Lil Alan worried and worried.

They were on their way to Granny’s house on the family farm, going to Daddy’s side of the annual family get-together, and everybody’d have something to share for this year’s celebration. Sis would sing a song for Granny. One of Lil Alan’s cousins had made a scrapbook. Another boy was reading a story aloud.

Everyone had something, but Lil Alan’s hands were empty.

Still, he had time to think.

When they got there, all the adults were laughing and slapping backs and giving out hugs; the women had been cooking for days and everything smelled delicious for the feast. Daddy fired up the tractor and took Lil Alan and his cousins out for a ride on the farm that had been in the family for a long, long time. Daddy’s Pa had been proud of the land and its crops, and so was Daddy, and Lil Alan, too.

When Sunday morning rolled around, Lil Alan’s hands were still empty and so was his heart. At church, he heard more family stories as everyone worshipped together, but he was sad that he still hadn’t come up with something to share. Back at Granny’s house, he thought about what he was going to offer at the celebration as he looked at a wall full of old pictures of grandparents and great-grandparents. He thought of his family’s land and the people who cared for it. He remembered stories of folks before them.

And then he knew. Lil Alan did have something to share.

It was right in front of him all along …

Much like a lazy summer afternoon, “Going Down Home with Daddy” unwinds at a leisurely pace, covering a mere weekend but starting with a restless car ride.

Since your child may be looking forward to this summers’ family reunion, that may seem like an odd place to begin but this book isn’t just about a reunion: author Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrator Daniel Minter wrap the event around a warm family tale that feels like being snuggled in a soft blanket. Even the youngest kids will understand Lil Alan’s struggle for meaning, the comfort of knowing that you’re loved, the goodness of being surrounded by family, and the strength of knowing where you came from.

Whether your family is next door or half a world away, this book is great for the 4- to 7-year-old who loves them. Isn’t it time, then, to put that kid and “Going Down Home with Daddy” together?

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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