Jama Kim Rattigan

My Aunts!

My mother (red muumuu), surrounded by the aunts who were all over me growing up. These same lovely ladies were first featured in DUMPLING SOUP!

Inez, Queen of the Ants

Awards and Honors

Book of the Year, School Library Journal

Pick of the Lists, American Booksellers Association

Smithsonian Notable Book

Notable Trade Book in the Language Arts, National Council of Teachers of English

Abilene Independent School District Mockingbird Book List, 1996

Booksigning at Junior Editions, Columbia, MD

favorite ant/​aunt picture books

Two Bad Ants by Chris Van Allsburg

One Hundred Hungry Ants by Elinor J. Pinczes and Bonnie MacKain

The Life and Times of the Ant by Charles Micucci

Ant Ant Ant! An Insect Chant by April Pulley Sayre and Trip Park

What Aunts Do Best/​What Uncles Do Best by Laura Numeroff and Lynn Munsinger

Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One by Kate Duke

My Great-Aunt Arizona by Gloria Houston and Susan Condie Lamb

Aunt Flossie's Hats (And Crabcakes Later) by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard and James Ransome

The Aunts Come Marching by Bill Richardson and Cynthia Nugent

Aunt Minnie and the Twister by Mary Skillings Prigger and Betsy Lewin

Aunt Mary's Rose by Douglas Wood and LeUyen Pham

Aunt Pitty Patty's Piggy by Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock

Visiting Aunt Sylvia's by Heather Austin

Her Majesty, Aunt Essie by Amy Schwartz

Truman's Aunt Farm

Truman sends away for ants, but gets aunts instead.

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas, ages 4-8

This is my second published picture book, and was the most fun to write. It has been wonderful sharing the book and its humor with young and old alike.

I actually got the idea from my husband, Len, who suggested I write about an ant farm, since we had just sent one to our nephew for his birthday. Len was thinking "scientific insect book;" I envisioned a place where top notch aunts received their training.

Since my mother was one of 12 children, I had a lot of aunts around me growing up. I felt more than qualified to write about this "affliction." My mother's sisters served as a kind of "Greek chorus." I couldn't so much as sneeze without their commenting upon it.

Truman was named in honor of Truman Capote, who wrote my all-time favorite short story, "A Christmas Memory." He was supposedly raised in the South by aunts.

Aunt Fran isn't my aunt, but a close friend from grad school, a "colleague in adventure."

And the food? Rice pudding is Len's favorite dessert. Jelly sandwiches are the "jam pennies" Prince Charles used to eat in the nursery (I am a diehard Anglophile), and little hot dogs are simply adorable.

These days, I enjoy being an aunt, but I don't pinch any cheeks. And in the woods surrounding our house, there are GIANT ants!!

StudANT Activities

1. Obtain an ant farm for classroom observation.

2. Read about and draw an underground ant colony or diagram a mature ant.

3. Write a letter to your aunt.

4. WORD PLAY: Make a list of real words with "ant" in them (e.g., deviant, anticipate, antique), or Make up your own words, substituting "ant" in real words (e.g., studant, obediant, valantine, fant club), or Make a list of other puns or homonyms.

5. Describe or draw a portrait of your real or ideal aunt.

6. Make up your own funny aunt/​ant story.

7. Construct a family tree.

8. Make a classroom ANThology of aunt portraits, stories, words, letters, diagrams, etc.

9. Sponsor an aunt party or picnic. Bring your aunt to school. Refreshments per the book: rice pudding, jelly sandwiches, little hot dogs.

All website content copyright 2005-2018 Jama Kim Rattigan, and should not be reproduced in any form without permission. All rights reserved.


Picture Books
A story about celebrating New Year's in Hawaii, illustrated by Lillian Hsu-Flanders (Little,Brown:1993),32 pages
A retold Hawaiian legend,illustrated by Carla Golembe (Little, Brown:1996),32 pages
A fANTastically funny story,illustrated by G.Brian Karas (Houghton Mifflin:1994),32 pages