When Lightning Comes In a Jar

Author & Illustrator:  Patricia Polacco


When I read the first two sentences in this book, I was hooked! “Today is my family reunion! I can hardly wait.”

 Every summer growing up, my family would spend part of our summers driving to our aunts and uncles and cousins for family reunions.  Oh! The crazy fun times we all had together.   There’s just something about listening to old stories and tasting good old recipes that have been handed down that makes for some pretty wonderful memories.

Tricia helps her Gramma and her Aunties carry the “gazillions” of jello salads and  meatloafs to the tables outdoors.  Soon after it is time for croquet, bag races, watermelon-seed-spitting contests, and a baseball game of dads and uncles against kids.   Tricia asks her gramma if she and the Aunties will be telling stories at night like they always do.  “Might,” said Gramma, looking up at the sky.  “And we might catch lightning in a jar.”   Throughout the rest of the day and evening, Tricia keeps looking for signs of lightning to appear.  Each of the Aunties share delightful stories of their lives growing up, but Tricia waits, wondering when her Gramma’s magic will come.  Finally when the last rays of sun have gone, Gramma gathers all the children around.  Aunt Bertha places a wicker laundry basket full of glass canning jars at Gramma’s feet. Quietly Gramma speaks:

“Shadows lengthen, the day near done,

birds fly low at setting sun.

Stars will rise from earth below, 

In these hands their light will glow.

Come up, lightning, come up, stars,

We’ll snatch you up in these here jars!”

Can you guess what Tricia and her cousins did then? Yes! They grabbed those jars and the dash was on to capture fireflies.  Tricia and her Gramma sat a long time on the porch swing that night enjoying the “lightning”…


1.  How would you explain the title of the story?

2.  How would you summarize this family’s relationship with one another?

3.  What was the purpose of Gramma and her sisters telling stories?

Mary Byrne Kline

Share your thoughts...