When Families Gather

In the midst of the hol­i­days, or at any gath­er­ing-time of year, these books are “just right” for read­ing out loud to young and old. Cel­e­brate family!

The Rel­a­tives Came
writ­ten by Cyn­thia Rylant
illus­trat­ed by Stephen Gam­mell
Atheneum, 1985

The rel­a­tives’ sta­tion wag­on: it smelled like a real car, looked like a rain­bow, and was roomy enough for a crowd.
Lucky! Because a big crowd in all shapes and sizes piled into that old wag­on at four o’clock one sum­mer morn­ing and piled out of it the next day at their rel­a­tives’ place on the north side of the moun­tains. All in good moods.

The vis­i­tors set­tled in every­where through­out the house, laugh­ing and mak­ing music and hug­ging every­one from the kitchen to the front room. And they stayed for weeks.

1986 Calde­cott Honor

On No, the Aunts Are Here
writ­ten by Adam Rex
illus­trat­ed by Lian Cho
Chron­i­cle Books, 2023

One girl’s all-too-rec­og­niz­able expe­ri­ence — a vis­it from a troupe of over­whelm­ing and over­ly enthu­si­as­tic rela­tions — esca­lates to new heights of chaos, absur­di­ty, and delight in a laugh-out-loud take on fam­i­ly reunions.

Not Enough Beds!

Not Enough Beds!
writ­ten by Lisa Bullard
illus­trat­ed by Joni Oelt­jen­bruns
Lern­er Pub­lish­ing, 1999

Zachary goes through the alpha­bet recount­ing who sleeps where, from Aunt Ali­son in an over­stuffed chair to him­self under the tree, when all the rel­a­tives come to vis­it at Christmas.

Going Down Home with Dad­dy
writ­ten by Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons
illus­trat­ed by Daniel Minter
Peachtree Pub­lish­ing, 2020

On reunion morn­ing, we rise before the sun. Dad­dy hums as he packs our car with suit­cas­es and a cool­er full of snacks. He says there’s noth­ing like going down home.”

Down home is Granny’s house. Down home is where Lil Alan and his par­ents and sis­ter will gath­er with great-grand­par­ents, grand­par­ents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Down home is where Lil Alan will hear sto­ries of the ances­tors and vis­it the land that has meant so much to all of them. And down home is where all of the chil­dren will find their spe­cial way to pay trib­ute to their fam­i­ly his­to­ry. All the kids have to decide what they’ll share, but what will Lil Alan do?

2002 Calde­cott Hon­or Book

Stel­la Brings the Fam­i­ly
writ­ten by Miri­am B. Schif­fer
illus­trat­ed by Hol­ly Clifton-Brown
Chron­i­cle Books, 2015

Stel­la’s class is hav­ing a Moth­er’s Day cel­e­bra­tion, but what’s a girl with two dad­dies to do? It’s not that she does­n’t have some­one who helps her with her home­work, or tucks her in at night. Stel­la has her Papa and Dad­dy who take care of her, and a whole gag­gle of oth­er loved ones who make her feel spe­cial and sup­port­ed every day. She just does­n’t have a mom to invite to the par­ty. For­tu­nate­ly, Stel­la finds a unique solu­tion to her par­ty prob­lem in this sweet sto­ry about love, accep­tance, and the true mean­ing of family.

Thank­ing the Moon: Cel­e­brat­ing the Mid-Autumn Moon Fes­ti­val
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Grace Lin
Knopf Books, 2012

This sim­ple, young, and sat­is­fy­ing sto­ry fol­lows a Chi­nese Amer­i­can fam­i­ly as they cel­e­brate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

Each mem­ber of the fam­i­ly lends a hand as they pre­pare a moon­lit pic­nic with moon­cakes, pome­los, cups of tea, and col­or­ful lanterns. And every­one sends thanks and a secret wish up to the moon.

Around the Table That Grandad Built
writ­ten by Melanie Heuis­er Hill
illus­trat­ed by Jaime Kim
Can­dlewick Press, 2019

In a unique take on the cumu­la­tive clas­sic “This Is the House That Jack Built,” a fam­i­ly gath­ers with friends and neigh­bors to share a meal around a table that brims with asso­ci­a­tions: nap­kins sewn by Mom, glass­es from Mom and Dad’s wed­ding, sil­ver­ware gift­ed to Dad by his grand­ma long ago. Not to men­tion the squash from the gar­den, the bread baked by Gran, and the pies made by the young nar­ra­tor (with a lit­tle help). Serv­ing up a diverse array of dish­es and faces, this warm and wel­com­ing sto­ry is poised to become a savored part of fam­i­ly gath­er­ings to come.

Ohana Means Fam­i­ly
writ­ten by Ili­ma Loomis
illus­trat­ed by Kenard Pak
Neal Porter Books, 2002

oin the fam­i­ly, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to pre­pare for a tra­di­tion­al luau cel­e­bra­tion with a poet­ic text in the style of The House That Jack Built. Now avail­able in paper­back.

“This is the land that’s nev­er been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana’s luau.”

writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Don­ald Crews
Green­wil­low Books, 1998

Four chil­dren trav­el with their moth­er, and when the train arrives in Cot­ton­dale, Flori­da, the sum­mer at Big­ma­ma’s house begins! Don­ald Crews bril­liant­ly evokes the sights, sounds, and emo­tions of a mem­o­rable child­hood experience.

First Laugh, Wel­come Baby!
writ­ten by Rose Tahe and Nan­cy Bo Flood
illus­trat­ed by Jonathan Nel­son
Charles­bridge, 2018

In Nava­jo fam­i­lies, the first per­son to make a new baby laugh hosts the child’s First Laugh Cer­e­mo­ny. Who will earn the hon­or in this story?

The First Laugh Cer­e­mo­ny is a cel­e­bra­tion held to wel­come a new mem­ber of the com­mu­ni­ty. As every­one — from Baby’s nima (mom) to nadi (big sis­ter) to cheii (grand­fa­ther) — tries to elic­it the joy­ous sound from Baby, read­ers are intro­duced to details about Nava­jo life and the Nava­jo names for fam­i­ly mem­bers. Back mat­ter includes infor­ma­tion about oth­er cul­tur­al cer­e­monies that wel­come new babies and chil­dren, includ­ing man yue cel­e­bra­tion (Chi­na), san­skaras (Hin­du), and aquiqa (Mus­lim).

Din­ner on Domin­gos
writ­ten by Alexan­dra Katona
illus­trat­ed by Clau­dia Navar­ro
Bare­foot Books, 2021

This mag­i­cal home turns a nor­mal Sun­day into domin­go: the best day of the week.” Warm mem­o­ries wash over a first-gen­er­a­tion Lat­inx Amer­i­can girl as she expe­ri­ences a typ­i­cal Sun­day night din­ner at her Abuelita’s house. Read­ers are immersed in the rich ways love is expressed with­in this home: the deli­cious smells of Ecuado­ri­an home cook­ing, danc­ing, hug­ging and play­ing games with aunts, uncles and cousins. As Ale­jan­dra thinks about all the good times her fam­i­ly has had there, she decides that she wants to be brave and try speak­ing Span­ish with Abueli­ta so that they can deep­en their bond.

Hanukkah Upside Down
writ­ten by Elis­sa Brent Weiss­man
illus­trat­ed by Omer Hoff­mann
Har­ry N. Abrams, 2023

Some­times, fam­i­lies who are far apart gath­er vir­tu­al­ly. From their homes in New York and New Zealand, cousins Noah and Nora decide to have a com­pe­ti­tion. Win­ter ver­sus sum­mer: Who can have the world’s best Hanukkah? But as the eight nights of Hanukkah go on, the con­test proves tougher than they imag­ined. Even as each cousin cel­e­brates the hol­i­day with their own unique tra­di­tions, they real­ize they have more in com­mon than they thought.

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