The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
This Caldecott Honor book is a story of a family who takes a trip to visit their relatives one summer. In this book, the family is traveling from Virginia and taking a very long trip to get to their relatives' house.
This book is beautifully written, per the usual from Cynthia Rylant. Her writing is similar to much of her writing style in her other books. She uses very long run-on sentences connected with ands throughout the whole story. She also uses very descriptive language throughout, which makes you really feel like you're traveling with the family and you're there when they arrive.
One thing that I thought was a little unrealistic were how many people were in the car! At the house, there were only three or four people. There's no way ten people fit in the little car that the relatives pulled up in!
Another thing I liked in this book was the repetition. At the beginning of story, they were loading up their car with their snacks and heading out at 4am. They thought about their grapes that weren't quite ready to pluck. Then they drove past strange houses, different mountains, and thought about the family they were going to visit. On their way home, they packed up all their snacks, left at 4am and thought about their grapes that were ready to pick. They drove past strange houses, different mountains, and thought about the family that they missed already. I thought that was a really great way to connect the beginning and ending of the story!
Stephen Gammell. The color pencil generally made the illustrations very light and washed out. It also gave the pictures a lot of texture. Every page is a full bleed, two page spread. I think this was a great way to be able to add a lot of little details in the story. The illustrations also made the story funny. Whenever the car is shown, bags are always flying off the roof and when it gets to the relatives house, they ran into the fence! Gammell is also the illustrator of many many more children's picturebooks, including the Scary Stories books.
I used this book as part of a Read-Think-Write Aloud Lesson with a third grade class today. (I was super nervous, but it turned out pretty great!) I had students do their own creative writing about what the family might be dreaming about happening next summer because the last time of the book was "And when they were finally home in Virginia, they crawled into their silent, soft beds and dreamed about the next summer." The kids were so creative in their stories, I was so impressed!
This was a very nice book and I think all the students in the classroom I was working in could relate to it in one way or another. Whether they themselves have gone on a trip to see their relatives, or their relatives have come to see them.