Ray can't wait to go to the Moret family reunion in Louisiana. His sister, Marguerite, is eager to see their cousins, and she's told Ray about the exciting games at the picnic, the delicious Creole food, and the rousing story that Great-gran-papa tells about the family.
But this year there might be trouble. Gran-papa Philippe is planning to attend the reunion. All Ray knows about his grandfather is that they look alike-both are dark in a light-skinned family. And he knows that his father doesn't talk to Granpapa Philippe.
At the reunion, Ray is drawn to his gran-papa, but his father's anger grows. Can Ray manage to bring his family together, or will they have to leave before he is given a chance?
With a sure light touch and deep understanding, award-winning author Mildred Pitts Walter tells a wonderfully candid story about family roots, Creole traditions, and those special inherited characteristics that make Ray and each of us unique.
About the Author
Mildred Pitts Walter is one of those rare authors who have mastered both fiction and nonfiction, and who can write as effectively for the picture-book audience as for young adults. Widely admired for her positive, realistic portraits of African-American family life and insightful studies of African-American history and culture, she writes in response to what she once describe in a Publishers Weekly article as "a growing demand from Black parents who are looking for books that provide an authentic portrait of the Black experience written with an understanding that Blackness is more than a mere skin color."
A former kindergarten teacher, Mildred Pitts Walter truly enjoysthe company of children and relishes the chance to hear what young people have on their minds during her frequent school and library appearances.
"One thing I always tell young people," she says, "is that I know a lot of people who read and don't write, but I don't know anybody who writes and doesn't read. If you really want to write you should read!"
She often asks her audience what they think a person should do if he or she wants to become a writer. "Look in the want ads?" one precocious kindergartner answered. She gets some difficult questions from her young readers as well. Once, while she was explaining why a good story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end to an elementary school audience, a hand suddenly shot up. "What about the sides?" the student wanted to know. Another time, a fourth-grader asked her, "What did the first writer read?" Mrs. Walter finds these encounters challenging-and grist for the writer's mill.
More grist comes from travel. Mildred Pitts Walter's love of exploration has taken her to western Africa, China, Cuba, Turkey, Europe, and all over the United States. Mrs. Walter is also a dedicated advocate for peace and equality whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. When her book Justin and the Best Biscuits in the World received the Coretta Scott King Award for Literature in 1987, she could not accept the award in person because she was participating in a peace walk from Leningrad (now called St. Petersburg) to Moscow. She has been honored with many other awards, including the 1993 Christopher Award for nonfiction for Mississippi Challenge (Bradbury), and the Parents Choice Award for Literature for Brother to the Wind. In 1996 she was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. When she is not traveling, Mildred Pitts Walter lives in Denver, Colorado.
|Product dimensions:||5.72(w) x 8.57(h) x 0.58(d)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
Read an Excerpt
A Strange Phone Call
Late in the evening, the telephone rang. Ray rushed to answer it, but his papa had already picked up. Ray heard his angry voice and stopped. "I've told you don't call here. So don't, ever again." He slammed down the receiver. He hit his fist in his hand, shook his head, and walked past Ray without seeing him.
Who could -that have been? Ray wondered, watching his father go down the hall, back to bed. Papa was not the kind to show that much anger. But recently he had been on edge because he was working overtime. Papa was a building contractor, and he wanted to finish his latest job before they left for the big family reunion. This year it was going to be in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the place where Ray's Creole family began. His sister, Marguerite, was excited. She said it was going to be the best family reunion ever.
By noon the next day, the pleasant coolness of the morning had gone. Now it was hot. Windows were open. The clatter of lunch dishes, sounds of piano lessons, and voices of neighbors spread through Ray's El Cerritos neighborhood in California.
Ray's friends were waiting for him to go back to the park. He was walking out the door when Marguerite reminded him, "Papa said for you to mow the lawn today."
"I know. I'll have time when I come back."
"It's already two o'clock. You've been gone all morning. Besides, I'm not cleaning up your mess in the kitchen."
"You're not my boss. You don't tell me what to do." But Ray knew he had better do what she said. He called to his friends, "Go ahead. I'll meet you there later."
When he had finished doing the dishes, hestarted mowing the lawn. Heat beat down. As he pushed the mower, sweat poured off his face. Knowing he had to get the lawn in perfect shape before his papa got home, he dared not take a break.
When he had finished, the grass was smooth, emerald. Green. He looked around. That looks good, he thought, pleased with himself. He hoped his papa would be pleased, too. He thought of his friends, but it was late and he was too tired to go to the park.
He went to his room and threw his cap on a chair. Hot and sweaty, he decided to watch a video his father had bought him about a boy who lived in Haiti long ago, during the revolution there. He liked it because the boy was a hero and because his own ancestors had come from Haiti to Louisiana long ago. He lay on the cool floor, relaxed.
just as he was settled, Marguerite disturbed the quiet. "Ray, come see."
"I cant. I'm busy."
She came to his room. "You've seen that a million times. Turn it off and come help me."
In her room he found her trying on clothes. "What're you doing, girl?" She had clothes all over the place.
"'I'm trying to decide what I'm gonna take to the reunion. Do you think I should wear this dress to the banquet? "'
"Now don't ask me. That's up to you."
Suddenly the back door slammed, and Papa's voice rang out, "'Ramon, Ramon! Come here, right now!" Ray had been named for his Great-gran-papa Ramon Baptiste Moret.
"When he calls you 'Ramon/ you are in trouble, mo frér. What've you done now?"
"'Don't call me mo frér."
"'You are my brother, are you not? And you had better learn how to say more than "good morning-' in our Creole language."
Ray didn't like her speaking Creole to him. He hurried to his papa.
"What did I ask you to have done when I got home from work?"'
"'To mow the lawn. And I mowed it."
""Come. Look at this yard! Grass clippings everywhere-on the walk, in the driveway. Get this cleaned up right now."
. Ray, surprised at his papa's tone, stood with his head down.
"Go on, get it up. When are you going to learn to do something right? You know, you just like your Gran-papa Philippe. Can't depend on you to do anything. You're just like him. Even look like him." With that he turned and walked away.
Ray's throat tightened and tears welled in his eyes as he swept the grass from the walk. Suddenly he was angry. Lately his papa seemed more disappointed than pleased with him. Can't do nothing right for him, he thought. He thrashed the grass, making it more difficult for himself.
His moman drove up from work. "What's wrong?"
Ray did not answer. He kept right on sweeping wildly.
"Whatever it is, you're doing a fine job on the lawn." She walked inside. Ray sighed deeply, glad she was leaving him alone.Ray and the Best Family Reunion Ever. Copyright © by Mildred Walter. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.