In this Caldecott Honor Book, acclaimed author/illustrator Vera Williams tells the story of a young girl, who along with her waitress mother, saves coins in a big jar in hopes that they can someday buy a big, new, comfortable chair for their apartment, the kind of chair her mother deserves after being on her feet all day in the Blue Tile Diner. Grandma also adds money to the jar whenever she gets a bargain at the market.
There hasn't been a comfortable place to sit in the apartment since a fire in their previous apartment burned everything to "charcoal and ashes." Friends and neighbors brought furniture to their new apartment, but no one brought anything big or soft or comfortable. Finally, after the jar is full, the coins are rolled and mother, daughter, and grandma go in search of a new chair. After carefully trying several chairs at four different stores, they finally find the chair they've been dreaming of for so long.
It takes a long time for the family to save up for a new, comfortable chair. Ask students to think of one thing they would like to buy for their own mothers or grandmothers to make their lives easier. Brainstorm ways students could raise money to purchase that item. Have students write a diary entry from the future, describing what their mother’s reaction was when she was given the gift.
Each illustration in this book is bordered with natty patterning, foreshadowing the family's eventual acquisition of a new, magnificent chair. While reading, stop and have students closely look at the borders and discuss what they think they mean. After completing the book, go back and look at the patterns again. Discuss what students now think the patterns mean. If students changed their thinking after hearing the whole book, discuss what made them think differently.