When My Cousins Come to Town by Angela Shanté
When My Cousins Come to Town is a love letter to all that a big family of cousins has to offer, summers with grandma, the give and take of lots of kids together, the special bond that can form, and the trying out of new versions of ourselves.
A beautiful first person narrative, When My Cousins Come to Town, is told by the youngest cousin visited each year by all of her other cousins at her grandmothers. Each cousin is unique with their own nickname carefully detailed by Ms. Shanté. Our narrator longs for an identity and nickname for herself, so she ‘tries on’ each cousin’s passion, from cooking to running. None of them quite fit.
In the end, our young protagonist learns that we each have our role and a set of gifts to share. In the process, the give and take of trying things out, being supported by our family, and recognizing our own individual strengths in conveyed.
This would be an amazing read aloud for any elementary classroom. The strong narrative about looking for yourself is a wonderful social emotional topic, while the story line lends itself directly to problem/solution. What I love is that there isn’t an easy or quick solution to the problem, but many, many attempts by our narrator before she finally feels her place in the ‘cousins’.
The cousins engage in ‘cousin’ summer activities, swimming, movie watching, playing outside and playing together. Many students will relate to the ‘gang’ or some part of this close family’s summer rituals. This would be a perfect narrative mentor for writing as well, each page zooms into one aspect of a cousin and our narrators close watching of their behaviors.
Big questions like who are we, what is our motivation, how do we belong in a group rise to the surface in this engaging narrative. It will be a book you return to again and again.