The Table Where Rich People Sit
by Byrd Baylor. Illustrated by Parnall, Peter. (Aladdin, 1998. ISBN 9780689820083. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 1-12.
This story starts with a complaint. The girl narrator is convinced that her family, particularly her mother and father, does not understand how poor they are. She calls a family meeting, held around a dilapidated but treasured table, to show them that they need money and that they should get better paying jobs. As she points out they are not sitting at a table where rich people would sit. Her mother and father are shocked that she doesn't realize how rich they are and, with her keeping track with paper and pencil, they list their many riches. Each of them: getting to work outdoors, getting to sing at the top of their lungs whenever they want to and the like, is assigned a monetary value -- usually in millions of dollars. Soon, she too is counting and valuing. She concludes that this is indeed a table where rich people sit for they are rich and they are sitting at it.
This is a funny story with a serious message and the idea that money is an arbitrary and usually inadequate value system should be apparent to many readers. As is usual in Baylor's work, the setting is the desert and many of the things the family values are connected with that location. As in I'm In Charge of Celebrations, the reader is encouraged to think about the treasures and beauty the desert holds.
- Computation: The text of the book lists things the family thinks are important and gives a sum of money for each. Some of the things aren't listed however. Find things that could be on the list to equal the sum of four million and sixty thousand dollars.
- Comparing Personal Experience: Make up your own personal list of things of value to you and your family that don't cost money. Can you make your list as long as the narrator in the book does? Are there any things on both lists?
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by P.D. Johnson. (2000, Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0395968674. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr 2-9.
P.D. Johnson has taken a passage from Thoreau's Walden and built an engaging and inventive picture book around it. He tells the story of two bears, one of whom is named Henry. Henry challenges his friend to see which of them will get to Fitchburg first. The deal is that Henry will make the twenty-five mile journey on foot while his friend will go by train. However, his friend must first earn the money for train fare, thus leveling the odds.
- Everybody Needs a Rock - Macmillan, 1985 (Order Info)
Of course they do! Here are ten carefully explained rules for choosing the absolutely perfect one for you. It must have exactly the right feel, color, texture and size. The specifications will make you smile, but they should also cause you to look a little closer at even the rocks in your driveway. Read a longer review.
- Guess Who My Favorite Person Is - Harper, 1985 (Order Info)
Two friends make a game of choosing favorite sounds, sights and feelings. By making detailed choices, the friends in the book force the reader into thinking about specific things which cause joy in his or her own special view. In Parker's illustrations they are man and child, but it could be any two people who meet, play a game of favorites, and become friends during a brief afternoon together. Read a longer review.
- I'm In Charge of Celebrations by Byrd Baylor. (1986, Macmillan. ISBN 0689806205. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr 1 - 6.
Celebrations Indeed! Not the celebrations most of us celebrate, but moments of desert beauty to be celebrated: dust devils, rainbows, coyotes and clouds. A young girl wanders through the desert and shows you things worthy of your notice. This book makes you stop and look around you for your own celebrations. Read a longer review.
Star Mother's Youngest Child by Louise Moeri. Illustrated by Hyman, Trina Schart. (2005, Sandpiper. ISBN 9780618615094. Order Info.) Picture Book. 48 pages. Gr 2-6.
A lonely old woman shouts her loneliness at the Christmas sky on Christmas Eve. In the sky a young star child asks his mother for a chance to celebrate Christmas on earth. When the child shows up at her door, the old woman reacts with selfishness and anger until the child's warmth changes everything.
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