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Author:  Gloria Jean Pinkney
Illustrator:  Jerry Pinkney


When you hear the words “back home”, what pictures come to your mind?  What memories flood into your thoughts?  Well, for eight-year-old Ernestine, those words held no pictures, no thoughts came to mind.  She hadn’t  been on her family’s North Carolina homestead since she was  too young to remember.    That’s why Mama put Ernestine on a train for a visit “back home.”   Mama knew the importance of family; of Ernestine meeting Uncle June,  Aunt Beula, and Cousin Jack.

Ernestine recalls Mama’s stories of her family and growing up years when Uncle June arrives to pick her up at the train station.  “Mama used to ride to the schoolhouse in the back of this pickup truck, didn’t she, Uncle June?”  Ernestine shouted, jumping up and down and dancing all around it.  “Every day,” he replied.

Cousin Jack teases Ernestine about her “citified” clothes, yet Ernestine works hard to fit in around the farm. She admires Cousin Jack’s new baby goats- even suggests names for them, helps with kitchen chores, and plays with Jack in the barn.  That didn’t work out too well, as she tumbled down the ladder and landed in the hard corn.  But even though he teases her, Ernestine knows she has both a cousin and a friend for life when Jack gives her something as she packs her satchel to go home.

“I have a present for you,” he said, and gave her a small rawhide pouch.  She loosened the  drawstring  and looked inside.   Jack had a big smile on his face.  “So you won’t be forgetting the fun we had.”

As Ernestine packs her satchel to return home she lovingly replaces her Mama’s scrapbook back on the bedroom shelf, puts the overalls back in the drawer until next summer, takes one last look at Mama’s room and pulls the door closed.  At last the words “back home” now have become part of her.

Mary Byrne Kline

1.  What did Cousin Jack name his goat?  Why do you think he gave her that name?

2.  What does the word “chores” mean? What were some chores around the farm?

3.  What was in the pouch Jack gave Ernestine? Was it just for fun?

Listen as Jerry Pinkney talks about his award-winning wordless picture book, Lion & the Mouse, another great book for your home library even if we didn’t review it this month.   Let’s face it, we’re just crazy about the art of Jerry Pinkney.   If you are interested as we are about the how and why authors and illustrators make the decisions they do, you will enjoy this short YouTube video.

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