cover image Dinner at Aunt Connie's House

Dinner at Aunt Connie's House

Faith Ringgold. Hyperion Books, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-56282-425-9

Melody loves the annual family excursion to Aunt Connie's house: everyone gets to go swimming, share a fabulous dinner and see an exhibition of Aunt Connie's most recent art. This year there are surprises as well: a newly adopted cousin her own age (``I fell in love with him the first time I saw him'') and a series of paintings of famous African American women. From their frames on the wall, the pictured women tell of their devotion to civil rights (Rosa Parks and Fannie Lou Hamer), education (Mary McLeod Bethune), literature (Zora Neale Hurston) and other causes and professions. Ringgold's ( Tar Beach ) distinctive primitive style, with its thick strokes and resilient, varied colors, seems especially suited to portraying these women of exceptional substance and strength. The heart of the book--the pages in which the women tell their stories--is at once a magical and a ringing affirmation of their achievements. But the surrounding pages are less impressive. Neither the members of Melody's extended family nor the dinner itself ever seem real, much less ``extra special,'' and the book concludes on an odd, gratuitously sentimental note as the two children discuss their future as a married couple years hence. Ages 5-9. (Oct.)