THE WELCOME CHAIR

Whether stated in one language or many, a resounding welcome to immigrants.

One legendary author/illustrator turns to a family story to celebrate immigration to America; another illustrates it.

In 1823, Wells’ great-great-grandfather, a talented woodcarver, leaves Bavaria to escape his father’s Orthodox Judaism and lands in New York City. While working as a bookkeeper, he fashions a rocking chair with Willkommen carved into its back. Resettling in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, with the chair, he begins a family, carving new words for welcome in both Hebrew and English. The chair then journeys with his daughter back to New York, where Fáílte, Irish for welcome, is added when the chair is given to an Irish servant as a wedding gift. Years later, the family story having ended, Wells turns to political turmoil and natural disaster to continue the chair’s history. Dominican nuns fleeing the Trujillo dictatorship carve Bienvenido; a Black physician brings home a baby from Haiti after its devastating earthquake and adds Akeyi. To round out the saga, a girl named Amira coming to America from a “distant land destroyed by war” is welcomed by new friends, that same chair, and a newly carved word for welcome in Arabic. Wells clearly states her strong feelings about immigration in her preface, in her author’s note, and in this deeply felt generational story of a well-used and well-loved chair. Pinkney’s signature artwork forms an inviting accompaniment with its soft lines and muted tones. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Whether stated in one language or many, a resounding welcome to immigrants. (illustrator's note, photograph) (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2977-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

JUST BECAUSE

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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