Review of The Welcome Chair

The Welcome Chair
by Rosemary Wells; illus. by Jerry Pinkney
Primary, Intermediate    Wiseman/Simon    40 pp.    g
11/21    978-1-5344-2977-2    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-5344-2978-9    $10.99

Two renowned picture-book creators trace the journey of a wooden rocking chair in this affecting immigration story based in part on Wells’s family lore. Wells begins with Sam, her great-great-grandfather. Born in Bavaria, Sam has a gift for carpentry. Discouraged in this pursuit by his rabbi father, he leaves home for New York City, finding work as a bookkeeper for a German family. When that family’s son is born, Sam builds a wooden rocking chair with the word willkommen inscribed on the back. To honor the birth of his own son born a few years later, Sam adds the phrase for welcome in Hebrew, later also adding it in English. Next, the chair is a wedding gift for an Irish seamstress, so the word fáílte, Irish for welcome, is added in brass letters. Then, it providentially lands in the possession of others (two Dominican nuns, a Haitian doctor, and a young Somali girl) who have fled their homelands and found America to be a safe refuge. Each new owner has the word for welcome added in their language, connecting the families’ experiences and creating a powerful narrative thread. The late Pinkney’s jewel-hued watercolor, pencil, and pastel illustrations capture this atmosphere of acceptance and warmth, bringing readers even closer into the story. The immigrants’ feelings are evident through their body language as they gather with loved ones around the chair, itself beautifully replicated in the art. An author’s note further explains Wells’s inspiration and provides more historical context; an illustrator’s note describes Pinkney’s artistic process and influences.

From the January/February 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Emmie Stuart
Emmie Stuart
Emmie Stuart is a school librarian at the Percy Priest Elementary School in Nashville, Tennessee.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.