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A Chair for My Mother Hardcover – October 1, 1982

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books; 1st edition (October 1, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 068800914X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688009144
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 0.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

A young girl tells how she, her mother, and her grandmother save up all of their spare coins in a big glass jar toward the day when they will buy a much-needed easy chair. (Their old furniture and their possessions were destroyed in a fire.) If the plot is scant-after the jar fills up, mother, daughter, and grandmother buy the chair and bring it home-the atmosphere of anticipation and family warmth is strong. Williams' illustrations are energetic watercolor paintings brimming with color and a cozy, indulgent expressionism. Intense roses, blues, yellows, and greens vie for attention in the pictures' blocky compositions, where natty patterning adds extra spice. A striking, offbeat backdrop for a loving story. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

A tender knockout-from the author/illustrator of, most recently and auspiciously, Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe. "My mother works as a waitress in the Blue Tile Diner," the little-girl narrator begins -- and to the accompaniment of vividly colored, direct, proto-primitive pictures -- the real, life-like story comes out. At home is a glass jar, into which goes all Mama's change from tips and the money Grandma saves whenever she gets a bargain at the market. "When we can't get a single other coin into the jar, we are going to take out all the money and go and buy a chair ... A wonderful, beautiful, fat, soft armchair." This is because -- we see as she tells it -- all the family's furniture burned up in a fire; and though neighbors and friends and relatives brought replacements (a buttercup-and-spring-green spread to contrast with the charred gray gloom just preceding), "we still have no sofas and no big chairs." Only straight, hard, kitchen chairs. Then the jar is full; the coins are rolled in paper wrappers, and exchanged for bills; and "Mama and Grandma and I" go shopping for the chair. This last sequence is a glory: Grandma feeling like Goldilocks, trying out all the chairs; the very rose-covered chair "we were all dreaming of," plump in the middle of the floor; the little girl and her mother, snuggled in it together ... and she can reach right up "and turn out the light if I fall asleep in her lap." It's rare to find so much vitality, spontaneity, and depth of feeling in such a simple, young book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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One of the best children's books I have read!
I love how this book tells a simple story yet illustrates wonderful family values without being preachy.
E. Stewart
This is a great book that teaches children on the topic of Compassion.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Caitlin on August 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
I am almost 20 years old and I won this book when I was in pre-kindergarten---I love it as much as I did then. The pictures are (obviously) marvelous and the story is very touching. It's one of those books that an adult can read and enjoy as much as the child. You find something new in it each time you look at the pictures. The story is especially current as it discusses hard financial times, single parenting, and families struggling to make it. All in all, its great!
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book is about a family that lost all of their furniture in a house fire. The family members decide to save coins to buy a new chair for their home. The mother is a waitress and tries to save all of the money she can to help out the family. The mother and daughter take all of the money they save it in a jar. When the jar is full they go out and buy a beautiful chair for the family to enjoy. This book is appropriate for ages 6 to 10. The illustrations are very meticulous with a painted appearance and show exactly what is going on in the text. Each page has an inventive and vibrant border on it that pertains to what is happening on that particular page. This is a Caldecott Honor Book that teaches a valuable lesson on how hard times can always be worked through and that working hard and giving 110% will always make a difference.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of those books that contain an extremely simple story. There are no apparent conflicts, the story flows along is a simply mellow sort of way and you finish it and say "how sweet," and then sort of go along with your business.
Strangely though, this is one of those stories that once read, absolutely sticks with you for some reason and is much more profound that many a more complex tale I have read.

Simply put, which I feel is appropriate here; this is the story of a little girl and her family. Her mother is a hard working woman who is supporting the family. In the not so distant past, their apartment had burned down and the family lost everything. The entire neighborhood and the little girl's extended family pitched in and helped. Most things were eventually replaced...most thing with the exception of a nice comfortable chair that the mother could set in at night and rest her weary body. Over time the little girl and indeed, the entire family saved and saved their pennies until they were able to buy momma a new chair, or at least a very nice used one.

That's it! That is the story!

When we take this simple tale of love between family members, the neighbors and the relatives, and mix it with the wonderful whimsical art work, we have something very special in this book. Hard times are hard times but the message of everyone pulling together is strong here and is certainly applicable in the hard times many are facing today.

Now I like this story and every kid I have read it to likes it. It is simply pretty special.

Please allow me a small rant here. I note that at least one reviewer; maybe two took exception to this story. They did not like the fact that the woman did not have a husband.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By R. D. Allison (dallison@biochem.med.ufl.edu) on June 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This is a small children's book about a little girl and her waitress mother who are saving change in a jar to buy a new chair for their apartment. The book was a 1983 Caldecott Honor book (i.e., a runner-up to the Medal winner) for best illustrations in a book for children. It shows the joy of attaining one's goals after continued effort.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kara Reuter on September 14, 2004
Format: Paperback
A working-class family consisting of a daughter, mother, and grandmother have lost their house in a fire. Although the community banded together to help them assemble the essentials, they have been saving their change in a jar for a year to furnish their bare living room in their apartment. They dream of the perfect chair and, when the jar is finally full, like Goldilocks (as Grandma said), they go searching for and find a chair that's just right.

This book focuses on three generations of women who are self-reliant. The illustrations are bright and colorful and each spread is embellished with a floral or geometric border. I especially love the illustration of the community showing people of many hues coming out of their houses and lining up to deliver household items to the family in need.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By "lmmirabella" on August 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
I borrowed this book from the library to read aloud to my 2 year old. He loves it and I'm adding it to my wish list.
The story is about a family of mother, grandmother and daughter (maybe 7 or 8 years old). The mother works as a waitress to support her family. The little girl realizes and appreciates how hard her mother works - she often helps out at the diner herself after school. She's learned from her mother the value of saving - when her mother's boss gives her some money for filling the salt shakers, she puts half in the big jar at home.
The little girl speaks of a fire that detroyed their home and all their possessions. Through the help of extended family and friends they are able to start over. However their new apartment lacks a place for her mother to "take a load off [her] feet" The family saves coins in a big jar for a year to be able to buy a new easy chair - from the mother's tips, from the grandmother's market savings, from the little girl's "earnings".
The pictures are beautiful - colorful, almost luscious. Our favorites are of the mother collapsed in a chair while the little girl counts her tips and a picture of the little girl's fantasy chair - huge, covered in velvet with roses on it.
The words are simple enough that beginning readers will be able to master it, especially after having listened to it being read aloud over and over again. My son has asked for it at least a dozen times in the last week!
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More About the Author

Vera B. Williams lives in New York City.

In Her Own Words..."Throughout my childhood I was encouraged to make pictures, tell stories, act, and dance--all of this at a heaven in our New York City neighborhood called the Bronx House.

"Saturdays I painted with a crusading art director, Florence Cane. In her book The Growth of the Child Through Art, I appear under the name Linda. I was sixteen when the book appeared and embarrassed by it. But at age nine I had been totally proud when a painting of mine was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and I was later shown in the Movietone News explaining to Eleanor Roosevelt its Yiddish title, "Yentas."

"In 1945 I went to Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a unique educational community. I graduated in 1949 in graphic art, which I studied with Josef Albers. Along the way I planted corn, made butter, worked on the printing press, and helped to build the house in which I lived with Paul Williams, a fellow student I married there.

"I wanted that connection of art and community to continue. And it did at the Gate Hill Cooperative, a community we built with other Black Mountain people, a poet, musicians, and potters. I lived and worked there from 1953-1970 (after which I moved to Canada). My children (Sarah, Jenny, Merce) grew up there. For them, we branched out into a school, part of the Surnmerhill movement. The gingerbread houses that led to my first book for Greenwillow I first made in sticky variety at our school. I have always liked to teach and have taught art, cooking, writing, nature study, for nursery age on.

"At forty-six, no longer married, living in a houseboat on the bay at Vancouver, British Columbia, I did my first book. But before that could happen, the fates decreed a stint of cooking and running a bakery at a small school in the Ontario countryside. My love affair with Canada included also a 500-mile trip on the Yukon River. Many of those adventures I put in Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe.

"I also write and draw for adults-short stories, leaflets, and posters. As a lover of children, I try to do what I can to help save their earth from nuclear disaster. This pursuit, too, has added its excitement to my biography, including, in 1981, a month's stay in the federal penitentiary in Alderson, West Virginia (an outcome of a women's peaceful blockade of the Pentagon). Perhaps this experience will some day appear in one of my books. So far I've found children's books a wonderfully accommodating medium where any of my various activities might pop up."

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