cover image The Welcome Chair

The Welcome Chair

Rosemary Wells, illus. by Jerry Pinkney. S&S/Wiseman, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-2977-2

An inscribed cherrywood rocking chair becomes a symbol of refuge, comfort, and connection for generations of immigrants in this volume by two children’s book luminaries. The chair is created by Sam, a character based on Wells’s great-great-grandfather, who escapes an unyielding father in Bavaria, becoming a woodworker first in New York and then in Wisconsin. He carves the first three “Welcomes” on the chair: in German, as tribute to employers; in Hebrew, to commemorate his own son’s birth; and in English, because, as Sam’s daughter notes, “We are in America.” As the chair passes from family to family, more languages are added, and more stories unfold; the final welcome is inscribed by a present-day family sponsoring a young refugee of war. If Wells paints America’s historical acceptance of others with an overly broad brush, she makes her vision of the country clear. Pinkney’s elegantly textured watercolor, pencil, and pastel pictures occasionally pull back into historical sweeps, such as a covered wagon moving westward in swirling snow. But mostly he hones in on the intensely personal, capturing moments of emotional complexity and immediacy as new arrivals take the chair into their lives and America into their hearts. Back matter includes creators’ notes. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)