Dinner Table Talks create the opportunity for families to have important conversations centered around books. These discussions will build our capacity for talking about race and define our roles in fighting against both every day and systemic racism.
This 2020 Caldecott Honor book gently and proudly tells the story of Lil Alan and his family as they return to his father’s childhood home in the South to celebrate traditions and family history. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and siblings all are prepared to share the meaning of the homestead that has been in the family for generations. Lil Alan feels he has nothing to contribute, until he reflects on what it means to be ‘home with daddy’ and the rest of his family and finds his voice. This joyful picture book, a celebration of ritual and family, is beautifully illustrated by Coretta Scott King Honor winner Daniel Minter, with motion and emotion on every page.
Recommended by Caitlin Bockman | Children's Room Associate
Have you ever had to take a trip to see a relative? Did you wake up early, before the sun was up, and pack suitcases and a cooler full of snacks like Lil Alan? What was that experience like or what do you imagine that experience to be like?
Family reunions are extremely important in the African American community. Why do you think it's good to connect with your extended family?
In the early 1900s, many African American people moved North and would "go down home" to visit relatives every year. This time period is known as The Great Migration. Why do you think so many African American people left The South?
“Cotton has been on this land a long time, just like us..." Daddy is talking about the time that African American people were enslaved. What do you know about slavery? (If you have not talked with your young child about slavery before, we highly recommend reading Jalani and The Lock by Lorenzo Pace.)
This image appears in Going Down Home with Daddyand is an Adinkra symbol. These symbols were created by people from Ghana and the Ivory Coast (on the continent of Africa) and were printed on clothing worn on special occasions. See if you can find this symbol and other Adinkra symbols in the illustrations.
This particular symbol is Sankofa which means learning about the past to get ready for the future. Why do you think it's important to learn about your family history? How will this knowledge help you with the future?
Older Children (3rd Grade & Older)
Lil Alan's family reunion is as much about connecting with family history as it is about connecting with family. What do you know about your history?
When African American people were enslaved, their family could be separated or sold away from them. Do you think that is the reason why family reunions are important to the African American community?
From singing her favorite song, reciting a poem or making a scrapbook bound in her favorite color, each of the grandchildren talk about how they will celebrate the reunion and their grandmother. How would you choose to celebrate a family member?
"Pa would drive your Uncle Jay and me on a tractor just like this one. Look to your left, Pa would say. Look to your right. The land just seemed to go on forever. Everything you see, Pa told us, is ours.” For a long time, African American people couldn't own land. Why do you think they were prohibited from being landowners? How do you think they felt once they could own land?
This book won the Caldecott Honor Award for one of the most distinguished picture books published in 2019. Look at the story the illustrations tell. Why do you think this book with these illustrations deserved to be recognized for its excellence?
Daniel Minter incorporates Adinkra symbols from Africa into his illustrations. Why do you think he chose to use these symbols in his work? Why do you think it is important to incorporate this connection to Africa?
This activity can be done with the whole family!
Lil Alan has a hard time thinking of a tribute for his family celebration. All his cousins have already prepared something to share, but he has nothing. Lil Alan thinks about the time spent with his family and the history of the land of his Granny, he finally knows what to do.
There are often “treasures” in our homes that remind us of our family and relatives from generations before us. Think about what you would want your family to know at a family celebration.
Step 1 – Find something, a bowl, basket, container, that is large enough to place family treasures in.
Step 2 – Think of people you want to represent or items that have significance to your family’s history.
Step 3 – Every family member can help look for one or more of these family treasures; or you can all work together.
Step 4 – After everyone has found a treasure(s), on a small piece of paper write why each item is seen as a treasure and what makes it important to your family. Then place items in whatever vessel you have to hold your treasures.
Want to continue the conversation? Need more resources about race?
Take a look at the following booklists about diverse families: