Coming in April: Kelly Starling Lyons’ Going Home with Daddy

Going Home with Daddy, written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter, is gorgeous.

The story unfolds from the point-of-view of a young African American boy heading to his great-grandma Granny’s for an annual family reunion. The text is heavy with emotion, but none shine as boldly as joy.

Young readers will want to slow down to enjoy the lyricism of Starling Lyons’ poetic prose. Take, for example, the simplicity of her opening line: “We leave when the sky is still dark with sleep.”

Alan, the narrator, has many conflicting emotions about the reunion and the celebration to honor Granny that is a big part of it. He’s excited to see family but sad he hasn’t come up with anything to share during the celebration.

When Alan and his family arrive, he’s greeted by grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, and more cousins than he can count. All his cousins seem to have thoughtful things to share with Granny, including scrapbooks, songs, and poems.

After reflecting on his deep connection to the land and his family Alan eventually does find the perfect thing to share.

Word and text dance on the page. Minter’s illustrations are deeply textured, and he uses color to prompt mood. Dialogue drips with vernacular sounds and sayings, bringing characters to life. Descriptions of the land, food, and fun give the story a strong sense of place.

Going Home with Daddy is the perfect addition to family libraries. Whether your family has traditions that mirror Alan’s or different ones, the universality of emotions depicted can inspire us to be different together.

You will need to wait a bit for this one, it will be released April 1, but it’s worth the wait. I accessed an advance copy at NetGalley.

Atkins’ A Name on the Quilt (1999)

A Name on the Quilt (1999), published by Antheneum Books, was written by Jeannine Atkins and illustrated by Tad Hills. Simple, but warm illustrations face evocative text that describes the family and friends of Ron, a man who passed away from AIDS complications, sewing a quilt to memorialize him.

The story is told from the point-of-view of Ron’s niece, a young girl named Lauren. Lauren, her parents, grandmother, and little brother, all gather, along with three of her uncle’s friends, to work on the quilt.

Making the quilt brings memories of her uncle to the surface. Lauren and Ron had a very close relationships; she recalls swimming in ponds, ice skating on them, dancing and laughing, with her uncle.

As the group makes the quilt, Lauren takes her negative feelings out on her little brother. She doesn’t think he understands how serious their project is, but she eventually realizes he is mourning too.

This story of love and loss beautifully captures the pain of mourning and does a wonderful job making the important work of memorializing present throughout.

Although Ron’s family and friends are clearly participating in a community ritual by making the quilt, the story is deeply personal, only subtly gesturing towards the AIDS Memorial Quilt as a social and political project. However, information on deaths related to AIDS complications and the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project are discussed in the back-matter.

This is a wonderful book about grieving loved ones that also introduces an important form of community activism and collective memorializing. As described on the AIDS Memorial Quilt Project website, the quilt is “a powerful visual reminder of the AIDS pandemic”.

I recommend A Name on the Quilt for personal and school libraries. Although almost twenty years old, the book remains relevant and is a sensitive, age-appropriate discussions of the themes mentioned in my review. The content and fairly text-heavy style make it most appropriate for children over five-years-old.

Aldrich’s How My Family Came to Be – Daddy, Papa and Me (2003)

Published by New Family Press, How My Family Came to Be – Daddy, Papa and Me (2003) is written by Andrew R. Aldrich and illustrated by Mike Motz.

Two white men adopt a black baby whose mother is described as too ill to care for him. The adoption process is touched on – the two men meet with a social worker and have their home inspected before they can adopt. The love they feel for their adopted child and the care they provide is emphasized.

The book is simply written and can prompt conversations about different family forms, particularly adoption, but it is quite unremarkable.

I am noticing a pattern of white couples adopting black children in LGBT adoption stories. It’s something I am beginning to track. I’m not sure what to make of it now, just something I’m noting!

Alice Faye Duncan’s Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

“King was an exceptional leader, but still it took countless leaders and countless people on the ground to create what we reflect back on as one of the greatest social movements ever.”

– Charlene A. Carruthers in Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968, written by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, is not the story of a single man – it is the story of a collective struggle. Duncan makes this struggle real and accessible to even the youngest of readers by unapologetically representing racism and the abuses of power that are a central logic and practice of capitalism. Christie’s atmospheric illustrations envelope each of Duncan’s interconnected vignettes helping express the shifting tone of the emotionally challenging story that puts American history on display in all its complexity.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop is told in the first-person through the point-of-view of a Memphis teacher who was the daughter of a sanitation worker during the 1968 strike. Black sanitation workers were fed up with poor wages that kept them on welfare as well as with unsafe equipment, which led to the deaths of two black sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker. Workers formed a labor union to demand fair pay and dignity, but Memphis’s mayor, Henry Loeb, refused to recognize it. On February 12, 1968 “1,300 men deserted their garbage barrels.” The strike would last 65 days.

In March of 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. infused the strikers with a new sense of hope by going to Memphis and planning a march. The peaceful march was interrupted by rioters and violence was exasperated by police force. King left the city with promises to return. He kept his word and was back in Memphis within a week.

In “Lorraine,” the most poignant vignette in the book, Duncan names her narrator, Lorraine Jackson. Then, Duncan breathlessly and unapologetically paints a painful picture of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last hours in The Lorraine Motel. She describes the details of King’s assassin’s rifle pointed at his hotel room, and the riffle’s bullet as it “pierced the dreamer’s neck.” Duncan’s unflinching description of King’s violent death refuses to spare young readers the real cost of social transformation, a rare show of respect for picture books’ target audience, and one I appreciate greatly.

Duncan moves her reader through the immediate aftermath of King’s assassination as Coretta Scott King worked to continue her partner’s pledge to support the sanitation strike, which ended April 16, 1968 as a result of federal intervention.

Duncan gifts us the story of families and communities doing the hard work of loving, living, and laboring to build a more just world. This is a biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told through the story of one community he helped change, but the community itself is an integral part of its telling. Duncan commits to communicating this hard history and does so beautifully and brilliantly. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for classroom and personal libraries.

Follow Me on Goodreads and Twitter

Hi friends!

I am working to spread the word about RaiseThemRighteous! I am on Twitter at @jlmiller516 and on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/RaiseThemRighteous! Please, follow me across platforms and share my blog with friends and family.

I’ve been posting socially engaged, diverse, and LGBTQ* #kidlit book reviews for about four months, and plan on adding middle grade and young adult literature to the blog in January!

I’m also a @CybilsAwards judge for easy readers and early chapter books – I love it! And, this year I’m going to be a Multicultural Children’s Book Day Reviewer for the first time. I love that these things exist and am so happy to participate!

Jennifer

Gayle E. Pitman’s This Day in June

This Day in June book coverGayle Pitman is the author of numerous LGBTQ* children’s picture books. Published in 2014, This Day in June, is not her newest release, but it is worth reviewing as it captures a beautifully inclusive vision of a Pride Parade sure to delight young readers. This text can easily be read with toddlers, who will enjoy the multiple representations of fabulous queerness colorfully illustrated by Kristyna Litten.

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