The Table Where Rich People Sit

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by Byrd Baylor. Illustrated by Parnall, Peter. Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades 1-12.
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Review

cover art

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.

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Activities

  • 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?
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