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The Children's Bookshelf: Our Table - November 22, 2021

OurTable.jpg

OUR TABLE written and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds is a wise picture book about what happens to a family when its members are taken over by their electronic devices and forget to come together around the family dinner table.

At first, we see the family going shopping for food, fixing food, eating food and sharing stories together. However, the family members begin to take less and less time around the table. Father prefers to sit in front of the big screen television, mother is comfortable talking to friends on her cell phone and brother plays games with his friends online in his room. Violet is lonely.

Throughout the story Violet sees the table getting smaller and smaller for lack of use until it disappears altogether! Violet takes the matter into her own hands and decides the family must build a new table. She enlists her father to watch a program about carpentry, asks her mother to post an inquiry to anyone who knows the ends and outs of building a table and convinces her brother to develop plans on his computer.

Up till now the illustrations of the sad process of the table shrinking are done in one plain purple color. But, when the family all pulls together and builds a new table, energetic colors start to fly.

The final illustration is beautiful and full of joy as the entire family gathers around their new table with food, smiles and one of the most precious of things----STORIES!

OUR TABLE written, illustrated and hand-lettered by Peter H. Reynolds is a thoughtful picture book for children 4-8 years of age and the whole family (Orchard Books/ Scholastic, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.   

Activity Questions for Our Table

Younger readers: What color is the new table? Who is looking at the directions for the building of this new table? Who is fitting a leg on the new table? By looking at the picture what do you think Dad has been doing? How is the dog helping? Is Violet happy?

Older readers: The final illustration shows the whole family around the new table eating, talking and exchanging stories. Think about what each of the four family members could be sharing. Then, write a paragraph of dialogue for Violet, for her mother, for her father and for her brother that depicts what you think each family member is communicating. What was the last thing or story you shared around the family dinner table?

All readers: draw a picture of your table at home. Think about it. Get a visual picture of it in your mind’s eye before you start. Be sure to include all your family members, the food you all would be eating, the dishes and tablecloth you would be using and anything that would be on the table such as a centerpiece, flowers or candles. Would pictures or a mirror or wallpaper be on the wall? Use colorful pencils, markers or watercolors. Have fun!

Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.