The Red Oak Rocking Chair

Nelibeth Plaza

Publisher: LifeRichPublishing Pages: 23 Price: (paperback) $16.99 ISBN: 9781489714220 Reviewed: October, 2018 Author Website: Visit »

Nelibeth Plaza’s children’s picture book tells the story of a little girl’s life from the eyes of the red oak rocking chair in her bedroom.

The chair narrates this quaint tale, beginning by recounting how it was built with care by Mr. Thompson in southern Missouri. “I have been through four generations,” it notes, adding that Mya, the most recent of the family line, is its favorite member.

As the story continues, the chair tells about Mya’s young life: being rocked by various family members who read and sing to her; experiencing teething and other rites of babyhood (the chair remembers a terrible, “pungent” smell. “YUCK! IT WAS POOP!”); and enjoying family meals.

With the passage of time, however, the rocking chair is increasingly left alone, and soon Mya leaves the chair behind for college. The story ends on a sorrowful note: “If I had tears, I know I would cry, and if I had lips, I would kiss Mya goodbye,” says the chair.

This is a promising tale about the love of family and an inanimate object’s love for the sweet child it helped raise. Readers will enjoy its multi-cultural setting: for example, when Mya’s family sits down to dinner, they feast on Puerto Rican foods such as tostones (fried plantains) and arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas). The sense of extended family is also a wonderful element.

Unfortunately, the narrative frequently falters. Sentence fragments dot the text (“Listening to those traditional children’s poems and finger games as Mya giggled.”), and the point of view is confusing; oddly, the chair seems to understand what’s happening in the kitchen and dining room, even though it’s always pictured in Mya’s bedroom.  Also, six of the final pages lack illustrations (text appears against a plain, wood-grain background), which will cause children’s attention to wander.

Overall, this is a pleasant read with a sweet premise, but further polishing would greatly enhance the story’s appeal.

Also available in hardcover and ebook.

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