Cover image for Little Cliff and the porch people
Little Cliff and the porch people
Taulbert, Clifton L.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 28 cm
Sent to buy special butter for Mama Pearl's candied sweet potatoes and told to get back lickety-split, Little Cliff is delayed by all his neighbors when they want to contribute their own ingredients.
Reading Level:
AD 670 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.6 0.5 27683.

Reading Counts RC K-2 4.1 2 Quiz: 23669 Guided reading level: O.
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Childrens Area-Picture Books
PIC BK Juvenile Fiction Picture Books

On Order



Little Cliff's grandmother sends him off to get a pound of butter, but all the front porches he must pass are full today--of neighbors who want to help him with his errand. Full color.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 3^-8. As in the movie Like Water for Chocolate, these picture books celebrate the intimacy of the family kitchen, the place where important things happen, busy and full and cozy with people cooking, talking, playing, singing together. For middle-grade readers, see Carlson's moving autobiographical story, The Canning Season, on p.1067. In My Momma's Kitchen is told in a child's voice in brief one-and two-page vignettes, with big, framed paintings. The kitchen is the place where good news is shared, where Momma and her sisters cook and laugh and remember, where kids play, where Dad makes his ritual corn-pudding (even if it's more fun watching him cook than having to eat it). Bootman's rich oil paintings show the warmth of the interiors, and his realistic portraits of individual people express the strength of their connections across generations. In the touching last vignette, the child wakes up in the night, goes down into the kitchen, and finds Dad there with the cat, and soon her sister and Mom join them for food, stories, and songs. Yes, it is idyllic (not a hint of a quarrel or disagreement in this family), but this is a great book to start kids telling stories of a special place at home. The appeal of Taulbert's picture book may be less for children than for nostalgic adults who read to them. It's a warm memory of "chubby" Little Cliff, who lives with his great-grandparents, Poppa Joe and Mama Pearl, in a big frame house in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s. It's a place of neighborliness and home cooking. On his way to buy butter for Mama Pearl's special candied potatoes, Little Cliff is called into people's houses, and each one gives him their own ingredient for Mama Pearl's dish. He gets nutmeg right off the tree, pure vanilla, and fresh grease, and he watches the hand-churning of the butter. Finally, of course, the neighbors join Cliff's family for the feast. Lewis' beautiful, relaxed, light-filled watercolors capture the bonds of the close community through the eyes of the naive child, who finds their caring a bit of a nuisance as well as a source of joy. The best picture--and one many kids will relate to--shows Cliff enduring Cousin Savannah's exuberant kisses, his screwed-up face a mixture of a smile and a grimace. --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

Taulbert's (Eight Habits of the Heart; When We Were Colored) first picture book is an expertly told story warm with nostalgia for the tightly knit black communities of the South in the '50s. Sent down the road to buy a pound of Miz Callie's "special butter"‘a vital ingredient for his great-grandmother's candied sweet potatoes‘Cliff wants to heed Mama Pearl's admonitions not to stop along the way and to get back "lickety-split," but the good manners instilled in him by Poppa Joe, his great-grandfather, demand that he greet his elderly neighbors as he passes. In the time-honored "Stone Soup" tradition, Uncle Abe Brown offers fresh nutmeg when he hears what's cooking in Mama Pearl's "magic skillet," Mr. Boot-Nanny provides some vanilla from New Orleans and Cousin Savannah insists on giving him a small jar of "fresh grease." When Cliff finally returns with the butter‘and everything else‘Mama Pearl gets to work on the sweet potatoes. As suppertime rolls around all the impromptu contributors show up to help enjoy it. Taulbert's assured pace and judicious use of Southern vernacular imbue his prose with a strong regional flavor, and he draws his characters with great tenderness. The text's strengths are matched by Lewis's (Down the Road) luminous watercolors, especially his portraits. Firmly grounded in realism and brimming with an appreciation for familiar, homespun pleasures, they invite readers to pause a minute, as if to soak up some front-porch hospitality. Ages 4-8. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 4-Taulbert weaves his memories of growing up in his great-grandparents' house in the Mississippi Delta during the 1950s with a strong plot to create a successful picture book about the past. When Mama Pearl wants to surprise Poppa Joe with her special candied sweet potatoes for dinner, she sends her great-grandson Little Cliff to the store for butter. On the way, he politely greets several of the "porch people" in the neighborhood, and each one contributes his or her bit to help make magic in the skillet. Using Uncle Abe's nutmeg kernels, Mr. Boot-Nanny's pure vanilla flavor, Cousin Savannah's fresh grease, and Miz Callie's special butter, Mama Pearl transforms the raw, nasty-tasting sweet potatoes into a delectable treat. Everyone shares in a wonderful meal and they all agree with Cliff that her skillet "works the best magic in the whole wide world." The book is full of remarkable characters, all of whom are beautifully delineated in Lewis's realistic watercolor paintings. The pictures serve to underline the essential warmth, caring, and friendliness of the neighborhood. A strong intergenerational story.-Judith Constantinides, East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.