Monday, October 3, 2016

The Morning Chair by Barbara M. Joose & Illus by Marcia Sewall

We love this book so much!!! Originally I wanted to read it because it is written by Barbara M. Joosse, who also wrote Mama, Do You Love Me?  But then I saw the illustrations, in a soft, graphic style and primary colors and I loved it even more. And the story...! 

This story is based on Barbara Joose's husband's own story. It is rather sweet to think of Bram being a real little boy, adjusting to America. 

Bram lives in a seaside town in Holland. 

The first part of the book explores all the things he loved in Holland, all the little rituals he enjoyed as a boy--raw herrings on Sunday walks with his father, his own bed with a sweet smelling straw mattress and his grandmother's quilt.

And most especially, the morning chair. A special chair he and his mother snuggle in to discuss life while she drinks tea from her blue china teapot and he drinks from his tiny little cup. 

Isn't that delightful? Elsie, our four year old, glommed onto the idea of a morning chair and often asks for a morning chair snuggle. 

Oh my heart!

But things were not easy in Holland after WWII. So Bram's family emigrated to America

One thing I found interesting was the family's preoccupation with green olives as symbols of American-ism. Bram hates green olives, but his father tells him all Americans eat green olives, so he better eat them. 

"But I am not American. I am Dutch," said Bram. 

National identities were not something to just shrug off, to Bram.

It is hard starting out in a new country. Their furniture takes longer to get to them, so they have a strange and empty apartment to live in. And everything is so new and confusing that Mama doesn't have a lot of time for talking to Bram. He feels everything moves too fast and he is lonely for his old life. On Sundays though, they go for walks in the park. And instead of raw herring, they get hotdogs. Similarities, mixed in with the differences. 

Finally the furniture crates arrive. That night, Bram sleeps on his sweet smelling straw mattress under his grandmother quilt. And in the morning...

There is the blue and white teapot. And the morning chair.

"Bram," Mama said, "Do you know what time it is?"

Bram pulled his breath in from the soles of his feet, and let it out slowing.

"It's time for the morning chair," he said. He crawled into the morning chair, jiggled his legs, and waited.

Isn't that a great description of a little boy getting his heart's desire? 

Mama makes Dutch cookies and they talk about things. All the good and bad of America. Mama agrees with Bram that green olives are rather icky and there is room enough in America for people who do not like green olives. 

They both agree that policemen on horseback were worth coming to America to see.

Their cozy, snug apartment with all their Holland things. Bram feels such enormous relief at being among his things again. As a "thing" person, I can understand his relief. There are just certain things that represent the best of life. Odd little things. My certain blue oatmeal bowl, my special work bag, my particular kind of peanut butter, my flannel sheets... 

I try to not be materialistic, but I do sympathize with Bram.  

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