All opening with the line, “Must be some kind of love,” lyrical yet plainspoken poems describe a large African-American family’s reunion in Missouri, while Velasquez’s expressive oils make the family members feel alive. Though there’s not much sleeping room (“We sleep four boys to a bed. Head to foot and head to foot”), each activity affirms the spirit of love and mutual understanding. Cousins fish with cane poles, Aunt Lois’s two-bedroom house becomes a “space large enough to hold 100 people for a fish fry,” stories are shared and connections strengthened. Even good-byes are cause for celebratory hugs and kisses, driving home the message about unbreakable ties. Ages 5-9. (Apr.)
"Must be some kind of love." That is the refrain that starts off each moving poem in this picture book about an annual African American family reunion, told in free verse from the viewpoint of a nine-year-old boy. Handsome oil paintings show the "giant sleepover," with group pictures of multiple generations, as well as close-ups of cousins sharing bikes, eating fried chicken, and sleeping four boys to a bed, "head to foot and head to foot." There is never a hint of tension among family members, but the celebration is rooted in painful history. The families reunite now "because our families / were once sold and broken . . . because we are now free to come together." Family stories help with today's tough times, and an expressive picture shows how the sharing makes the boy's "work-hard Daddy laugh like / he'll never have to janitor all night and farm all day again." More powerful moments include a scene in church and a group photo shoot, which collects everyone together.
- Mary Hynes-Berry
Traci Dant celebrates her family tradition of Mother's Day family reunion in Hannibal, Missouri, with this lovely series of prose poems. Each spread is dedicated to one or two family members; the figures in the illustrations are clearly portraits of Dant's own African-American extended family. They are shown set against impressionistic rural settings. The four to twenty-five line poems offer a snapshot of a person or activity associated with the reunion. The collection is further held together by the theme of family bonding that gets repeated in every opening line: Must be some kind of love that... The text is a little sophisticated for most kindergarteners included in the target age, although the illustrations could inspire a good discussion about family celebrations. The book has great potential for leading into a rich family history unit for middle schoolers. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
Gr 1–6—In this moving tribute, 15 poems describe the joy of one African-American family's annual reunion weekend. It begins with the words of Grandma: "Always come home/Come home so I can see your faces./Your brown, your cream, your peach,/your purple, your midnight faces. Come." The poems take readers through the anticipation of everyone's arrival, crowded sleeping arrangements, fishing, telling stories, and more until the time to say goodbye. Velasquez depicts this warm, inviting party in oils, and the illustrations are rich with color and emotion. Each selection begins by calling attention to the love that binds this family. A rich celebration of togetherness.—Julie Roach, Cambridge Public Library, MA