Friday, September 10, 2021

Review: The Welcome Chair by Rosemary Wells

Today, I did have a review scheduled for List of Unspeakable Fears, but I'm going to push that one off until tomorrow, since I didn't get a chance to read it yet. (Life can be busy!)

But don't worry! I scooted this review up a few days, and it's a winner. This is another picture book (picture book month, remember?) and isn't scheduled to hit the shelves until October 5th. I loved the surmise on this one...a chair which wanders through families and time, and receives a new 'welcome' with each move. Honestly, it reminded me of a rocking chair my own grandmother had. 

But before I jump down memory lane, I'm going to let you dive into this review, and see what you think!



THE WELCOME CHAIR
by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
Paula Wiseman Books
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

COMING...
OCTOBER 5th!!!


Based in part on a 100-year-old family journal, Rosemary Wells brings to life a story that the diary’s fragile pages tell. It’s the story of a wooden rocking chair handmade in about 1825 by her great-great-grandfather, an immigrant Jewish boy who made his way to America from Germany in the early 1800s.

In 1807, Sam Siegbert is born in southern Germany. Sam’s favorite pastime is carpentry, much to his father’s displeasure. His mother says he has a gift from God in his hands. After moving to America, he builds a wooden chair with the word WILLKOMMEN on the back. The chair’s back panel was later marked with welcomes by four generations of the family in four different languages.

After the family lost track of the old chair, the author created a new life for it among new owners from other corners of the world. All the families who loved the chair came to America, escaping religious conformity, natural disasters, tyrannies, war, and superstition. In its lifetime, the rocking chair, with its earliest word WILLKOMMENstood for openness, hospitality, and acceptance to all who owned it or rocked safely in its embrace.


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MY TIDBITS

This is a tale, which beckons young listeners to sit, listen, and leave with a smile in their hearts.

Sam was a Jew born in Germany in 1807, who made his way to the US to find his own way of life and freedom. There, he became a carpenter and created a rocking chair with the word 'Wilkommen'. From there, the chair moved with his family, and then made it's way to others, each time gaining another welcome in a different language. 

This is a lovely tale, which takes young listeners through a bit of history while celebrating immigrants and teaching various situations and events people went through. This is not a completely non-fiction book, though. While the chair, Sam and the origins are based on diaries, the stories after that are pieced together and reflect the history and/or tales of individuals and/or situations, which the author has happened across herself. By weaving all of this together around the journey of a chair, a beautiful tale has been created.

This book is perfect as a read-aloud. There is a bit too much text and depth for the youngest listeners but slightly older ones will be captured by the various experiences. Each person's tale is kept short, allowing the chair to quickly move on, but still, there's enough information to give a very interesting glimpse into each event. The true-to-life atmosphere and historical tidbits are intriguing, especially since the author does a masterful job at writing it in a way, which is anything but boring. Listeners are never spoken down to, but rather, hear the experiences in an engaging way. It's great for individuals, classrooms, and even homeschoolers.

The illustrations are very well done and fit perfectly to the historical journey. It's enjoyable to gaze through them even on their own and watch the list of words on the chair grow. Plus, it's inspiring to see how something can be handed from one family to the next, how different each person's life is, and how something as simple as a chair can bring joy through time. This is a book with a purpose, which the author and illustrator go into with a bit of depth. I found these personal notes added a nice touch, which also fit the atmosphere of the book itself.


And here they are...

Rosemary Wells is the author of more than one hundred and twenty books for children in her forty-five-year career, including more than forty about the beloved bunnies, Max and Ruby, who star in their own television show on Nick Jr. She lives in New England. Visit her online at RosemaryWells.com.

Jerry Pinkney has illustrated 100 children’s books, and his work has earned the 2010 Caldecott Medal, five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Awards, five Coretta Scott King Honors, five New York Times Best Illustrated Book awards, and, in 2006, the Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators. Jerry Pinkney’s many acclaimed titles include John HenryMinty, Sam and the TigersThe Ugly Duckling, and Mirandy and Brother Wind. He lives in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Visit him at JerryPinkneyStudio.com.

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