The Greatest Table

The Creative Company. Aug. 2019. 32p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781568463032.
Gr 2-5–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.
VERDICT 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.

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