Greatest Table, The

The Greatest Table

Michael J. Rosen (Author)

Becca Stadtlander (Illustrator)

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In a world of bountiful food yet increasing food insecurity, we are called to remember that all creatures have a place--and may be fed sustainably--at the greatest, communal table offered by our planet.


This picture book is an illustrated poem presenting the idea that food connects everyone on the planet, and that there is plenty for all. “The greatest table isn’t set / inside a single home— / oh no, it spans the continents, / and no one eats alone.” It goes on to describe the table, picnic bench, tray, beach blanket as a spot “where all of us can help ourselves, / and all of us are fed, / and no one has been turned away / with only rice or bread.” While the planet is indeed full of enough resources to end hunger, the book never addresses the unequal distribution of those resources and makes it seem as though people can just choose to take a seat at this “uncommon table.” Unfortunately, the idealistic metaphor may be lost on young children, particularly those who may experience actual food insecurity, and thus this title should be reserved for adult use. Stadtlander’s bright and homey gouache paintings are extremely appealing, and do a nice job with diversity as far as ethnicity, region, and cuisine; however, everyone shown seems to be uniformly thin and able-bodied. The depictions of meals are truly mouthwatering and adroitly capture the camaraderie of sharing a meal with others. Best intentions aside, this title never adds up to more than the sum of its parts, making it a nonessential purchase for libraries serving children.

–Anna Haase Krueger, School Library Journal , 11/2/2019

This was new. For the first time, when I announced that I’d be doing my usual 31 Days, 31 Lists schtick, I received a request from some readers wondering if I could post this particular list earlier in the month. Typically I post it on December 25th, but this does folks little good if they want to buy stuff for that day in particular. As such, voila! A new timing for an old list. Not that these are all Christmas books. We’ve got some Thanksgiving, some Valentine’s Day, some Halloween, and even a collection of different Jewish holidays all together. Some are books that were intended for a certain holiday. Others will simply fit in well when you do your holiday displays. Enjoy! 2019 Transcendent Holiday Picture Books What do we like about Thanksgiving again? Well, we like the food and the family and friends. We like the essential idea of giving thanks for the people around us. And The Greatest Table by Rosen embodies this idea fully. Based on one of his poems (which appears in the back) the greatest table consists of all the tables where food is shared. Where no one is turned away and where “there’s always someone we can toast.” Not sentimental, but I like the sentiment.

–Elizabeth Bird, Fuse #8 Production (An SLJ blog) , 12/3/2019