Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Picture Book Review: The Welcome Chair by Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (2021)

Quick Booktalk

A rocking chair carved with words of welcome is passed down through generations of immigrants to the U.S. 

About the Illustrations

As always, Jerry Pinkney's pictures, done in his signature style, are a beautiful accompaniment to the text of this book. He captures each historical time period covered by the story, evoking a particular era with just one or two images. The details of architecture, clothing, furniture, tools, and even a ship are carefully rendered on each page. Facial expressions, too, help convey the emotions of the people in the story and contribute to the reader's understanding of the significance of the chair. 

Story Time Possibilities

The main text of this book, which begins with true events from Rosemary Wells's own family history and finishes with a story from her imagination, would be excellent to read aloud to an elementary audience. My concern, though, is that the preface and author's note politicize the subject by alluding to immigration issues of the present day as though there is only one right way to think about them. This is a much more nuanced topic that requires proper context if one is going to have an informed opinion. I would probably not read the author's note aloud to younger kids, but with older ones it might be possible to use the book as a jumping off point for discussion, provided an adult gave them additional context. 

Readers Advisory

This book reminds me a bit of The Quilt Story by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola, but The Welcome Chair covers a much longer time period and has much more depth. While the main focus is on immigration, this book also speaks to themes of family history, community, friendship, and hope. I think it's probably best suited to grades 3 and 4. I also think it would be interesting to read this book with other chair-themed stories, such as A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams and Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats.  


I received a digital review copy of The Welcome Chair from Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 

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