Patricia Polacco, Author . Philomel $16.99 (40p) ISBN 0-399-23164-1

Polacco (Betty Doll) once again mines her own reminiscences, framing this offering around two family reunions, one long ago, one present day. Roly-poly aunties and Gramma, swathed in housedresses and flowered aprons and bearing "zillions of meatloafs" and "gazillions" of Jell-O salads, and other relatives gather on young Tricia's grandparents' farm for a day of baseball and croquet, bag races and leisurely stories about one-room schoolhouses and seeing "the first-ever flying machine in the state of Michigan!" The children are all measured at the milk shed, where Tricia notes the marks of her grandparents' generation ("Hard to imagine that once they were little just like me"). Although the text-laden narrative begins to bog down here, the tempo quickens as evening falls and it's finally time to catch "lightning in a jar" (fireflies), summoned by Gramma's magic. Fast-forward to a present-day gathering at the author's home, where little has changed. "We'll eat scrumptious Jell-O and meatloaf, play baseball and croquet,... and scrawl new measurements on my milk house doorjamb," while "a new crop of children" awaits the magic of fireflies. The softly shaded watercolor and pencil illustrations brim with nostalgia, underscoring the tender continuity of generations and traditions. Though some readers may liken the experience to meandering through a stranger's photo album, others will gladly accept Polacco's invitation to attend this family reunion, and adults will appreciate the author's warm message of the importance of heritage. Ages 4-8. (June)

Reviewed on: 05/13/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
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