With Thanksgiving coming up and families gathering again, these two new multicultural picture books introduce two special families as they come together.
- In “Ruby’s Reunion Day Dinner” (2021, Harper, written by Angela Dalton, illustrated by Jestina Southerland, ages 4-8), Ruby welcomes us to her special event, telling us, “… the room quakes with laughter as my family gathers in Grammy and Pop-Pop’s kitchen.”
Her joyful Black family is making a soul-food Reunion Day dinner. Everyone contributes their own special “signature dish” — everyone but Ruby.
Not only does Ruby not know what to contribute, but when she offers to help each member of the family as they stir and chop and cook, they respond “You sure you’re big enough to help, Lil’Bit?”
The text offers mouthwatering sensory details as Pop-Pop’s chicken sizzles in the skillet, “the spicy perfume of cloves” wafts from Uncle Red’s glazed maple ham, and Auntie Billie cooks corn on the hot grill. Warm digital illustrations bring each member of the family to life and capture the action and expressiveness of the family. They also capture Ruby’s frustration as she sits on the back steps, shoulders slouched.
However, when Auntie Billie complains about the heat outside, Ruby thinks of the perfect job and contribution. She looks beyond her aunt at the lemon trees growing in the fields behind the house. After “picking lemons so yellow they make my eyes squint,” Ruby makes lemonade, chills the jug in the fridge, and puts it on the table.
“‘Looks like you found your signature dish,’ Daddy says as he and my family drink with sweet relief from the heat.”
This joyful book brings together culture, family and a strong story.
- In “Mi Casa Is My Home” (2021, Candlewick Press, written by Laurenne Sala, illustrated by Zara Gonzalez Hoang, ages 3-8), a young bilingual narrator combines Spanish and English to introduce the reader to her home and family.
- “Hi. Soy Lucia. Bienvenido a mi casa. I live here with my big, loud, beautiful familia.”
We see “la puerta,” where Abuela likes to wave at the neighbors; and “la sala,” where our narrator builds the best forts, and where “I put my feet by other feet and snuggle up to a pelicula con las tias.”
The bright childlike watercolor illustrations bring the large multiracial family to life as they go about their day. We see “lo cocina,” where everyone gathers on holidays “to help and talk and ooh and aah for Abuelo as he makes his masterpiece: pavo a la espanola” (turkey) and “‘el patio’ … where the trees remember me.”
The joy in the text and illustrations is contagious, showing tag games, hula-hooping, magic shows, dancing and more. We even get to see “‘el bano’ … where I shave my barba con Abuelo,” and “mi habitacion,” Lucia’s own room. “It’s where I know I got taller when my hiding spots get smaller,” and where she gets tucked in at night when the lights get low and her eyelids close.
“En mi casa. With my favorite people,” the warm child-friendly book concludes.
Wishing all of you readers a happy Thanksgiving and happy, safe gatherings.