Going Down Home with Daddy

Book review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Going Down Home with Daddy Book Poster Image
Beautiful book about a very special family reunion.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

References to the Native people of the American South, the slave trade/slavery, and Jim Crow provide opportunities for extended learning about American history. Adinkra symbols, cowry shells, and other African-inspired features in the illustrations might inspire conversations about African cultures and their connections here. The cousins mention the gospel hymn "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" and a Langston Hughes poem.

Positive Messages

Central message is that nothing's more important than family. Others: History is a vital part of every family's story. Appreciate what you have. Strive for excellence for yourself and because people before you worked hard to make your life possible.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Lil' Alan is a thoughtful, reflective, and loving role model of a narrator. He clearly cares deeply about his family and history, knows how they fit together. The family respects and adores their matriarch, Great-Grandma Granny. Lil' Alan's dad is kind and loving. All characters are Black, with some variation of skin color and a variety of hairstyles (flat top, cornrows, bantu knots, etc.).

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2020 Caldecott Honor book Going Down Home with Daddy, by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter, is a lovingly told story about the power of family. Lil' Alan doesn't know what he'll do to honor Great-Grandma Granny at the family reunion, but, as he observes and thinks about his family's history and the land they're from, he figures out the perfect tribute. Lush art accompanies weighty text of one to several paragraphs per page, so dwelling on the pictures and reading aloud is advised. Lil' Alan, Granny, and the rest of the family model love, cultural and historical identity, and togetherness in a way that feels natural and attainable. All characters are Black, of varied skin tones, with a variety of hairstyles (flat top, cornrows, bantu knots, etc.). Connections to history, African cultures, music, and literature can lead to extended learning. Positive messages about the importance of family and striving for excellence to honor those who came before us make this a perfect pick for family reading.

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What's the story?

In GOING DOWN HOME WITH DADDY, Lil' Alan, his sister, and parents rise before dawn to drive from the city to Great-Grandma Granny's farm, but he can't sleep in the car because he doesn't know what he's going to do for Granny to mark 75 years of living upon her land. When they arrive at the farm where his daddy grew up, Granny embraces him, his uncle teases him, he visits with his cousins, and goes on a tractor ride. He looks around at the farm, listens to his daddy's stories about the land and the family, eats "love-made dishes" of collards, mac and cheese, and okra, and ponders pictures (and the lives) of Granny and Pa as his momma remarks on how his eyes look like theirs. He thinks and he thinks and then -- finally --he knows what he'll do when it's his turn to speak.

Is it any good?

The story and illustrations in this beautiful, powerful tribute to family togetherness will enchant young and old alike. Going Down Home with Daddy tells several stories. Author Kelly Starling Lyons describes a family, its history, and the land that has allowed them to thrive. The story also sweeps across history, acknowledging the Native people who cared for the land before Africans were chained and brought to the continent, and the stain of segregationist Jim Crow laws.

Daniel Minter's gorgeous illustrations link this American family to Africa in its details: Patterns in clothing and animals reflect traditional textile designs, Granny's cowry shell earrings call to mind coastal Africa, and stamped on every page in the background are West African adinkra symbols. The farm staples of okra, watermelon, and cotton are drawn in white and overlay sumptuous reds, oranges, and yellows or vibrant greens and soothing blues. The last picture, featuring Granny's dress and her outstretched hand, may stay with readers the longest. Maybe she's feeding her chickens, or maybe she's offering readers her love like they are family, too. Either way, this book is a treasure for any family bookshelf.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Lil' Alan figures out what he will present to the family in Going Down Home with Daddy. What are some things Lil' Alan does to try to come up with his presentation? How does his family help him? What would you want your family to know at a family celebration like this?

  • What parts of American history come up in this story? What do you know about them already? What do you want to learn more about?

  • On each page, symbols are stamped in the background of the illustrations. What do these mean? (An adult can help you find out.) What do you think the tree on Granny's dress means?

Book details

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For kids who love picture books and family stories

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