The Welcome Chair (Rosemary Wells)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Welcome Chair, written by Rosemary Wells and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, a moving story of the immigrant experience in the United States.

Partially based on Wells’s family history, the story begins with a young woodcarver from Bavaria leaving home to strike out on his own, traveling across the sea to the United States. He finds work as a bookkeeper and apprentice, creating a rocking chair with the word “Willkommen” (German for “Welcome”) carved into the backrest as a gift for his employers. As the chair is passed down through his family, then eventually on to other immigrant families, the Welcome Chair has a new word for “welcome” added to it: “Baruch Haba” in Hebrew, “Welcome” in English, “Fáilte” in Irish, and more. With each new culture that makes the chair a part of their home, they add to its beauty and legacy, until it becomes a gift to a newly arrived refugee family, a gesture of friendship and, of course, welcome.

Gorgeous. Wells takes a deeply personal story and expands upon it to highlight the fact that, to this day, the United States is a nation built on immigration and diversity. The welcome chair is both a unique and memorable artifact as well as a poignant symbol of how a diversity of cultures can add to the beauty of the whole, and its story is compelling to read. Pinkney’s realistic illustrations give a grounded view of the chair and its long life, giving the necessary gravity to the characters that surround it and their often-serious circumstances and experiences. These experiences (which include brief descriptions of deaths, war, and other weighty subjects), as well as the tone and length, make this a story best suited to older elementary to middle grade readers; JJ enjoyed the illustrations but struggled with the more advanced text and tone. Overall, however, this is a beautiful story about the immigrant experience, and it’s absolutely worth the read. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Max & Ruby And Twin Trouble (Rosemary Wells)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Max & Ruby And Twin Trouble by Rosemary Wells, a gentle tale of what happens when not one, but two new babies are added to the titular siblings’ lives.

Latest in the pair’s series of adventures, Max and Ruby are preparing for the arrival of a new baby in their household. The oldest, Ruby is sure that she is practically an expert, especially after practicing with her Hannah the Howler baby doll. She even knows where babies come from, and tries to explain it to the younger Max, who insists he already knows: babies come from taxis, just like their little cousins did. Ruby attempts to get him to practice with Hannah, and while he watches with interest, he doesn’t quite understand the difference between a pretend baby and the soon-to-be real thing. Then the big day comes, but when mommy and daddy arrive home (in a taxi), there’s not just one new baby – there’s two! Ruby and Max help out however they can to keep the busy household moving along. That is, until one day when the twins simply won’t stop crying, and cannot be consoled. But it’s playful Max who just might have the unorthodox solution…

Sweet. Max and Ruby, despite being giant anthropomorphic rabbits, are refreshingly childlike in their interactions and logic, and this innocence leads to some gentle and relatable comedy. It’s also nice to see the pair genuinely excited for their new sibling(s), even if they’re a little misinformed; while many new baby books only explore the apprehension surrounding the family addition, this one shows excitement, and the helpful things little ones can do during this hectic time. The illustrations fit these themes of innocence and light humor; my only issue is the Hannah the Howler doll, which was just legitimately scary-looking, with her giant, sunken-looking eyes and lifeless open-mouthed grin. However, she serves a humorous point to the plot on two occasions, and so can be forgiven. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it, so we’ll call this one Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Kit & Kaboodle (Rosemary Wells)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kit & Kaboodle by Rosemary Wells, a tale of two very good kittens and their mischievous friend.

Readers are introduced to Kit and Kaboodle, two young kittens who are always on their very best behavior, and their tiny mouse companion Spinka, who is always quite naughty. Over the course of three stories, Kit and Kaboodle go about their days, doing things like washing their favorite socks, watching their dad play baseball, and taking their nighttime bath, only to have Spinka puckishly sow her mischief. Each time, Kit and Kaboodle are suspected by their parents, to which they protest their innocence. Then their day continues and Spinka enjoys having gotten away with her tricks.

Uh… hmm. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan. The stories were meandering, often without a compelling plot and always without a satisfying resolution. I’m not sure If Spinka was supposed to be a imaginary or supernatural or just a mouse, but I didn’t love that her pranks – which were often destructive and/or ill-intentioned – went completely unpunished, and she ended up perfectly satisfied that she had stolen belongings or destroyed property. That’s a super-weird message for a book. The antique-style illustrations that are Wells’ signature were fine, but nothing particularly innovative or even aesthetically pleasing. The length was okay, but JJ honestly seemed a little bored – though she did enjoy attempting the word “Kaboodle” for herself. But between the lackluster stories, the antiqued-looking art, and the unsatisfying endings, this one just didn’t do it for us.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)