MAY 18:

  • Happy birthday Gloria D. Miklowitz (Secrets in the House of Delgado), Barbara Ann Porte (Beauty and the Serpent), Ron Hirschi (Ocean Seasons), Diane Duane (So You Want to be a Wizard), Deborah Guarino (Is Your Mama a Llama? ), and Debbie Dadey (Bailey School Kids series).
  • It’s the birth date of Irene Hunt (1907-2001), Across Five Aprils, and Lillian Hoban (1925-1998), Bread and Jam for Francis.
  • In 1897, Dracula, a novel by Irish author Bram Stoker, is published. Read Dick and Jane and Vampires by Laura Marchesani, illustrated by Tommy Hunt, and Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber.

May 18 has been designated Visit Your Relatives Day. The idea of a trip to see family members can bring many different images to mind. When I was a child, one of my happiest times each year came during the month of July when my father, my mother, my two sisters, and I got in the car and drove from northern Indiana to southern Ohio to visit our relatives. I had, it seemed to me, hundreds of kin—aunts, uncles, cousins, second cousins—near the small town of Oak Hill, Ohio. We had picnics and outings and get-togethers that lasted for days.

Cynthia Rylant grew up not far from Oak Hill, in Appalachia, West Virginia. Although she had rich childhood experiences, she didn’t have books. When she started reading children’s books in her twenties, she realized that most of them didn’t reflect the people, or the situations, she knew so well. So she set out to write about the types of people she had grown up with. In her career as an author, she’s crafted so many great titles—When I Was Young in the Mountains, Missing May, and the Henry and Mudge series. One of my favorite Cynthia Rylant books, The Relatives Came, has been in print for twenty-six years and won a Caldecott Honor Medal.

Traveling all day and all night from Virginia, a carload of relatives arrive to visit those they love during the summer. They stay for weeks, have picnics, pose for pictures, share the bed and floor of a humble house, play music, and hug. Oh how they hug. Eventually they have to leave for their own home. When they get back, they fall asleep, dreaming about next summer. This wonderful account of a family reunion has been written in simple but poetic language and extended by Stephen Gammell’s evocative watercolors. Although this family may be poor in possessions—they are very rich in love and community.

Today I can’t visit my relatives in northern Indiana and southern Ohio, but I send a virtual hug to them. If you can, bring along a copy of The Relatives Came. Then you can all enjoy it—and the hugs—together.

Here’s a page from The Relatives Came:


Originally posted May 18, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Caldecott, Family, Humor
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Relatives Came


  1. Brenda says:

    The Relatives Came has always been one of my favorite books because I actually experienced those scenes every summer. I am now repeating these scenes with my grandchildren when they visit our cabin in Northern Michigan during the summer.

  2. Love, love, love this book and this author!!!! I also have found memories of going to visit family in the summer.

  3. I was in a class in which we read the text first without the pictures. We were to imagine what we thought the illustrations would look like. The reason for this exercise was because apparently Rylant had a very different idea of how the illustrations should look than what Stephen Gammel eventually drew. Personally, I can’t imagine this story without Gammel’s illuatrations. They make the text come to life even more. This is a good example of how an illustrator can take the text and bring so much more to a story than the author could possibly imagine.

  4. Sydnee says:

    I came across this book for the first time just a few years ago. I’ve never had a family reunion, but it made me wish for one someday. There is a whole lot of love and humor in this book.

  5. Anita says:

    Peter: That would be a very interesting exercise. I’ve only seen the two together — but I imagine the text could be illustrated in a completely different, less humorous, and more realistic way.

  6. G.Perry says:

    I just read this today.

    That is a lot of hugging.

  7. Great choice for this time of year, we are all excited about the upcoming summer and family visits. Love love love this book and this author. I read this book and When I Was Young in the Mountains and watch the BrainPOPjr movie about Cynthia Rylant with my first graders. The students then write a sentence or two using the five senses (like Cynthia) and create a companion illustration. This is after learning about her early reader series while exploring that section of the library.

  8. Tess W. says:

    This book is such fun to read! The sort of book I want to reread over and over. The activity in every illustration and the way the words tie in to contribute even more activity reminds me of my own family gatherings – noise and motion and people and excitement. Great choice!

  9. Suzi W. says:

    One of my favorite Rylant books. And I adore Gammell’s illustrations.

  10. Karen Lee says:

    We have a large family, so this is one of the first books I read to my granddaughter, just five days after she was born. At eight months old, she still enjoys it as much as her board books. Our family is a lot like the one in the book: lots of hugs, laughing, good memories!

  11. Jewell Stoddard says:

    I love this book & agree with Peter about Gammel’s art. Rylant conjures so much happiness with all the different relatives. Favorite line: it was hard to sleep with all the new breathing in the house. (I don’t know if I quoted that correctly.)

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