Poet Laureate of West Virginia Harshman’s anthem to extended families is a mellow catalog of togetherness.
As the whole family converges on the old homestead in the country, a whirlwind of activity ensues: Great-Grandpa tells stories around the campfire, children frolic at the swimming hole, and everyone piles into the rowboat. The one-word imperatives that conclude each disappointingly nonlyrical, four-line stanza can be stealthily employed to encourage audience participation—count; sing; clap. "When it is time for breakfast / and the grown-ups are ready, / Aunt Jayne says / WASH." The quietly subdued narration is offset by Palacios’ dynamic pen-and-ink–and-digital illustrations. Palacios’ attention to detail draws readers’ eyes to everyone from the cherubic baby to the shaggy dog. Frogs are popeyed, and birds are comically interested in the organized chaos of the daily outings. There’s a shimmering quality to these late-summer images, from the russet-haired kids in sleeping bags on the floor to the panicked scramble through meadow grass from angry bees. However, the too-familiar European-American, middle-class family featured in the story lacks diversity of any kind. A single parent, a disabled child, or a multiracial or same-sex couple would have added authenticity to the portrayal of today’s American family and would have positively contributed to the national discourse on inclusiveness.
Though joyful, this celebration of the American family is regrettably nostalgic. (Picture book. 4-8)