Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant

I gathered up all of the Cynthia Rylant books I could find from our sister school (the Academy) and pondered on which ones to read. I chose The Relatives Came. What spurred my interest was the cover...A carload of people driving down a dirt road with luggage tied to the top of the car and heads and arms hanging out of the car - and big smiles on all of their faces. All four wheels of the car are in the air as if the car is driving so fast to get to where they are going that as they hit bumps it's making them airbourne. I thought this book had possibilities of being very light hearted and funny compared to some of the other Cynthia Rylant books I've been exposed to so far.

And then the story hit home again when I opened to the first page and saw that the "Relatives" that "came" were from Virginia. How cute.

The pages were illustrated in a manner that was funnier than the actual story, although the story was good. While the author told of the bologne sandwiches, crackers, and soda pop that were packed in an ice chest, the illustrator prepared pictures of a jam packed car driving fast down a dirt road. A mailbox was sadly in the way of the car (the mailbox base was apparently broken in two as the car zoomed by and must have hit it), and a piece of luggage had fallen off the car in an effort to get where "The Relatives" have set off to get to as quick as they can! But, even funnier was the illustration of the car arriving to the destination. The author described how it must have been a long drive because all of the food and pop that was packed was consumed, and they finally arrived (they traveled to Ohio to see family). But the illustration is of a car barreling into a fence. The back of the car is up in the air because it hit the fence so hard and the luggage is also flying all over the place.

The relationship between the "Relatives" from Virginia and the relatives that they were visiting (in Ohio) is a very loving relationship as described by Cynthia Rylant, "Then it was hugging time. Talk about hugging..., crying sometimes. They hugged us for hours." And the next two pages showed how much the family hugged each other.

I thought is was also humerous how the depiction of the family from Virginia was obviously from a more rural area. When the "Relatives" first set off on their journey to Virginia the author mentioned the different mountains they encountered and that this reminded them of their grapes back home (that were almost ready to pick being "almost purple"). The illustrations of the family reunion showed the "Relatives" playing a fiddle and a banjo. They must be from deep in the mountains or attended Juilliard.

The "Relatives" stayed a long time with their Ohio family, but the Ohio family enjoyed the company "they helped us tend the garden and they fixed any broken things they could find....We were so busy hugging and eating and breathing together." But, I came to the conclusion that they left to go back home to harvest their grapes that were finally dark purple and ready to be picked. I pictured them selling these grapes to a vineyard.

I have a large extended family and during holidays everyone comes together. I can relate to the large dinner table strewn with food, and babies crying and dropping their food everywhere, people sleeping all over the house. The book was a delight.


  1. I also can connect to this story. My family also packs up and drives to NY. I am always very sad when I say good-bye to my family. So, I was just wondering if the mood changes at the end of the story and if that is reflected in the illustrations.

  2. I have read this book several times, and I remember that the first aspect of it that made me pick it up was the cover of the book. This book certainly is very different from some of the other Rylant books that we have taken a closer look at. It is nice to read something more light-hearted.

    I read up a little more on Cynthia Rylant because I was interested in finding out some of her inspirations for her books. I did find that she was from West Virginia and lived there with her mother and grandparents when she was young. It didn't seem to me that Rylant had a large extended family--in fact, she led a very difficult life as a child. I wonder if Rylant dreams about this kind of family reunion, or if she has lived it. What do you think?

    There are many resources to read on Rylant, but here is one of the links that I found interesting: