MAY 8:

  • It’s the birth date of Milton Meltzer (1915-2009), Tough Times, Mary Q. Steele (1922-1992), who sometimes used the pen name Wilson Gage, Journey Outside.
  • It’s World Red Cross Day. Henry Dunant (1828-1910), born on this day, inspired the creation of the International Red Cross, as well as the Geneva Convention. He received the first-ever Noble Peace Prize in honor of his efforts.
  • Best birthday wishes to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, first held on this day in 1877. Read Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster by Berkley Breathed.

Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, a time to remember all of the sacrifices and kindnesses of our mothers. As a body of stories, children’s books are probably kinder to fathers than mothers. But our Book-of-the-Day is about a memorable mother and a child who appreciates her.

Vera Williams grew up in a household where her mother had a full-time job. As a child, she often wished her mom stayed at home, like others in the neighborhood. But later when Vera herself became a working mother, she realized what a wonderful gift she had been given: not only shelter and food but also an example of a woman who balanced family and work. Fortunately, authors can write from their own experience or they can rewrite history, imagining a childhood they would have liked to have had. In the case of Vera Williams, she created Rosa, the daughter she wished she had been, to narrate A Chair for My Mother. She writes, “I now had the power, as a writer and an illustrator, to change the past into something I liked better and to make it as a kind of gift to my mother’s memory.”

In this beautiful example of a mother/daughter relationship, the little girl Rosa says, “My mother works as a waitress for the Blue Tile Diner.” A fire has left the family without any good furniture, particularly a sofa and comfortable chairs. And so all the tips that her mother makes, the coins that her grandmother saves when she gets a bargain, or anything Rosa can contribute go into a large glass jar. In the end, they go shopping and finally find a plump rose-covered chair that the girl and her mother can snuggle in together. Although the family is poor, they are very rich in community and in loving relationships. Hence each illustration in this book is framed with a lush border that indicates the rich emotional life these three women share with each other and with their neighbors.

Besides being a wonderful book to use with very young readers ages three through eight, parents enjoy the book just as much as children. A Chair for My Mother reminds us that we don’t have to wait until adulthood to thank our mothers; we can do that when we are children. That is why we have Mother’s Day—to remind us all to be thankful for everything our mothers do for us, every day of our lives.

Here’s a page from A Chair for My Mother:


Originally posted May 8, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Award Winning, Caldecott, Family, Multicultural, Women
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for A Chair for My Mother


  1. Danni says:

    A Chair for My Mother is a beautiful, touching book. I love Vera Williams’ bright art and wonderful frames. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

  2. G.Perry says:

    Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mother’s here.

    I’ve read this little book and I really I like the author’s thinking of the possibility of changing the past into something better with her pen. Yes. What a gift that can be.

    As a child, I was obsessed with saving my mother someday, which unknown to me, was impossible.

    Something extraordinary ( it was so unexpected) I have come to own in my soul of souls, is that when one’s mother was a harmful experience, an incredible thing can happen later.

    As you heal and become more mature and learn to love and laugh, as they say, you can begin to let loose the resentment and longing for what should have been, and let it give way to compassion and sadness for her struggle with life. That, is the only way you will ever give it, and her, wings.

    This is a fine day.

  3. Anita says:

    Danni and Gordon:

    Thank you for the comments. Being able to use creative work to come to terms with the past and to move beyond it is one of the main reasons to write and illustrate books. Books can heal the person who creates them and the person who reads them.

  4. Tom Angleberger says:

    Great choice! I love this book, but had no idea about the story behind the story!

  5. A wonderful entry for Mother’s Day; thank you! My daughters loved this book as much as I do. The younger one, before she could quite pronounce the title, called for regular rereading of “Chair My Mother.”

    When I was growing up, our living room table held two glazed figures of fat peasant women, very charming little things. One held a pig, the other a sack of potatoes.They were made by one of my mother’s best friends in high school. That friend’s mother was the same woman honored by “A Chair for my Mother.” Yes, it turned out, when I grew up and went into children’s books, that my mother’s friend’s sister Vera had gone that route as well.

  6. Anita says:

    Tom and Paul: Thank you for these comments. Amazing story about Vera’s sister — and the connection between two of our finest illustrators for young readers.

  7. suzi w. says:

    Wow!! It’s like a children’s almanac two-fer: a story about Vera W. AND a story about Pau Z.l!! This was one of the first “Reading Rainbow” books I remember when we moved back to the States when I was in 7th grade and my siblings were toddlers. That was the period of my life when I fell in love with picture books. My dad would read to my siblings in a big red chair in the room that had been mine when I was an only child. Our family favorite was Daniel Pinkwater’s Big Orange Splot.

  8. Vera B. Williams has been an inspiration to me for many, many years. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a little time with her and hear her speak about her life and work. The Zelinsky-Williams connection has made my day!

  9. Andrena says:

    I read this one to my class of third graders and used it as an Author Study during Reading Workshop. I noticed that it brought a calm to my classroom. I think we all enjoyed the colorful, peaceful rhythm of the relationship between mother and child. She was so hard working – and my students could relate to the endurance of such a mother and the loving outreach of extended family. One of my favorites.

Leave a Comment

Daily children’s book recommendations and events from Anita Silvey.

Discover the stories behind the children’s book classics . . .

The new books on their way to becoming classics . . .

And events from the world of children’s books—and the world at large.