Saturday, November 07, 2009

A chair for my Mother

Written and Illustrated by Vera B Williams
Caldecott Honor Book (1983)
I picked this book from the library solely because it was a Caldecott Honor Book - the gold stamp for kid lit.

The story is narrated in first person by a young girl who lives with her mother and grandma. They live a simple hardworking life (we might even say that they are poor, although the book never uses that word).

Due to a stroke of bad luck they lose all their meager belongings and have to start afresh. The neighbors pitch in and among other things give them some old furniture. But what's really missing in their home is a comfortable chair. Her mother complains that after a hard day at work she would like to curl up in a soft velvet chair but all they have are the hard kitchen ones.

So mother brings a big jar back home and they all work towards filling it up with their spare coins at the end of each day. When the jar is full, they will take the money and buy a chair. So that is where the title - A chair for my mother - comes from.

It is a simple no frills story - no rhymes or clever words, but it works because it is so simple. The illustrations ofcourse are beautiful, of Caldecott standard. Very detailed with nuances that I might miss, but obviously a child would catch. For example, the border on each page is relevant to the picture - notice the border on this picture of their kitchen..

And ofcourse the message.. Now a bit of personal background - I was brought up by my widowed mother and we had very little money growing up. But the thing I remember from my childhood is not the lack of money, but the sense of camaraderie we shared at home. A feeling that as long we worked hard and supported each other we could overcome all our problems.

No doubt this book struck a chord in me - and it paved the way for a dialogue between me and my daughter. I found myself talking about the hard times I had growing up and I could sense that young as she is, it was the first time she had ever thought about anything like this. About working hard and together to reach a common goal, about the unparalleled joy of deferred gratification. When you want something so badly and get it after much hard work, it does taste sweeter does it not?

A must read for our privileged children.


Anonymous said...

This was a gorgeous book!
I have been following your reviews for a few weeks now and love it! Great job!

Anusha said...

touching review, Poppy and loved what you said about "deferred gratification".
I'm touched to see how it opened up a sensitive topic of conversation between you two.

Tharini said...

Goosepimples as I finish reading your last line. Wonderfully felt and conveyed. Yes, our privileged children need this, as do we.

Poppins said...

@etcparenting: Welcome to Saffron Tree! And thank you :)
@Kodi's mom: Thanks, and yeah I was surprised and pleased too.
@Tara: We need it more than anyone else !

utbtkids said...

Poppy dear, thats a very moving review. The books that touch us personally in someway are the best!

Sheela said...

Poppy, you are right, this deferred gratification is certainly a useful lesson for our kids... and us!

Choxbox said...

Have read this book Poppy. Didn't go this deep into it make me see it with fresh eyes - thanks!

Have you read this story by Munshi Premchand called 'Idgah'? Its about this little boy being brought by his mom with great difficulty who goes to an Id fair and instead of buying something for himself like his friends did, gets a pair of kitchen tongs for his mom because he remembers how her fingers burn every time she makes rotis for him. His whole thought process has been captured beautifully in the story. We had it in school and my daughter's textbook has it this year, waiting to see her reaction!

Sorry for the long comment!

Poppy said...

@Utbt: Thanks!
@Sheela: Glad you think so
@Chox: That reminds me of the Havell's ad - obviously inspired from that story then. Have not read it..

Meera Sriram said...

Beautifully written Poppy! It reemphasizes how books can be precious voices to transmit valuable lessons and thoughts to our children, and when you can relate to it, much sweeter! Thanks for bringing this to us.

On a side note, I am also reminded of a book my daugher and I enjoy a lot called "The Best Place To Read" - it is about a little boy who complains while trying to find a comfortable chair to sit and read (dad's is poky, grandma's is rocky and so on), but finally settles down in the perfect place - his mom's lap! I initially thought this book was heading that way:)

Praba Ram said...

A simple book and a simply beautiful review. Love what you said about - no frills, no clever words...:-) A powerful one...particularly, "not the lack of money, but the sense of camaraderie" - deeply moved!

Thanks, P!

Poppins said...

@Meera: That sounds like a sweet book :) Thanks!
@Praba: Thank you so much for the kind words

the mad momma said...

what a beautiful review poppy. and its partly because you just touched such a personal chord. i must hunt it down

Poppins said...

@TMM: Thank you!

Anonymous said...

came to this yesterday only and I loved it! Especially this post.
By the time it came to an end I could feel goosebumps. I'm sure to look for this book

Lifelink said...

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