A lyrical story about how looking back is helpful when you start looking forward. . . .
A young girl thoughtfully considers her family tree and the vibrant ancestors who populate it. As each family member’s story is revealed, her quiet meditation—about what kind of person she’ll be when she grows up—transforms into a testament to the importance of sharing family stories.
The simple, elegant narrative combined with Sean Qualls’s evocative art makes for a wonderful read-aloud experience.
Nelson's (Almost to Freedom) paean to family is narrated by a girl who repeatedly asks the title question as she retraces the occupations and personalities of her family role models. Great-Grandpap was a music-loving mailman who gave up his banjo gigs to spend time with his family. Great-Grandma was a housewife who defied her prejudiced white parents by marrying a black man ("Mama says Great-Grandma knew more about love than most folks"). Grampa is a preacher who lives by the Golden Rule, and Uncle is a pool shark who is true to himself. "Mama is a mama" who "was born with a talent for lookin' after folks" and who helps her daughter answer her lingering question: "She says God gives us each some seeds to sow. The rest is up to us." Though perhaps a bit static, Qualls's (Dizzy) spare, muted artwork has an understated quality (buildings defined by thin pencil lines give the barest suggestion of setting) that conjures the distance, yet importance, of the past and the strong connections that bind the narrator to her family. Ages 4 8.