Jan 8, 2012

#TheList, No. 304: A Chair for My Mother

Word of advice: don't read this right before you go to sleep thinking, "well it's a short book, I'll just read it fast and then write about it in the morning."  No.  You will instead be depressed and unable to sleep.

It's a picture book, so that part about it being a fast read is a fact.  Story summary: A young girl's home burned up in the past, so now she, her mom, and her grandmother are saving up all their change to buy a new chair for the mom to rest in after work.  It's cute, until you start thinking about how this tiny tot is working at a diner alongside her mother just for a few measly dimes so she can one day get a chair.  And you thought your not being able to afford both Instant and DVD Netflix was bad.  You're selfish.

The story is executed really well.  There are a bunch of layers underneath the main premise of getting that chair.  Spoiler alert, they get the chair.  Phew.  If they hadn't, I would have been distraught.  Anyway, aside from the efforts made to get the chair, there's a lot here about the strength of family and friends during a difficult time.  Even further buried in the story is the lack of father.  It's clear that he's not there, but the reason why is unspecified.  I actually like that it's not touched upon; doing so could either add an extra element of sadness or unnecessary anger.  It's interesting that he's not there and it remains interesting because of the small mystery around it.

Images are obviously an important aspect of a picture book (#Duh).  The painted illustrations effectively blend people and objects together with warm colors, creating a haunting effect at times, especially after the revelation that the family lost their possessions in a fire.  Illustrations demonstrating the strong community and their success at buying a chair are far brighter than the first half of the story.  It's subtle and effective.  
This story is full of potential library activities and lesson plans: 1) Have kids talk about what they would do to help their family get a chair; 2) Discuss reasons why Rosa (the kid) only puts half of her money away for the chair; 3) Draw their own version of the story; etc. etc. 

So check it out.  Not before bed.

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