Across the double title page a host of people, all ages, all nationalities, each carrying food are in motion toward the table. Richard McGuire is the artist.
The greatest table isn't set
inside a single home---
oh no, it spans the continents,
and no one eats alone.
Beginning with five stanzas four lines each, Rosen welcomes and explains. The renowned Patricia Polacco pictures a homey dining room scene with her Babuska and four children, representative of a blending of cultures, seated together ready to enjoy a meal.
The next fourteen leaves containing two lines each are visualized by Guy Billout, Brian Pinkney, Diane Goode, Dena Schutzer, Kevin Hawkes, David Wiesner, Eve Chwast, Anita Lobel, Robert Sabuda, Chris Van Allsburg, Lois Ehlert, and Lisa Campbell Ernst in colorful, interpretations exemplifying their personal specific style. Demonstrating his versatility Robert Sabuda, usually known for his paper engineering skills as a pop-up book artist, presents a graphic that looks very much like hand-colored woodcut printing. Not being one to disappoint is Chris Van Allsburg who chooses to illustrate his two lines with a screaming child in a high chair bowl spilling its contents.
In closing are two stanzas:
The next time you sit down to eat,
the greatest table's set,
connecting you with each of us
who hasn't eaten yet.
So if you're hungry, join us here,
pull up another chair.
We'll all scoot over, make more room;
there's always some to spare.
Complimenting this closing using a two-page spread Floyd Cooper portrays an Asian group of varying ages kneeling on mats, hands resting on their laps, attired in the formal wear of their country about a table filled with dishes of noodles chopsticks on each.
Hand-lettering the lyrics (which I believe is inviting and adds intimacy), using oil crayons on pastel paper Raschka brings bold, full double page spreads to each line of the song. Heavy black lines are filled with every tone and hue reflecting the autumn time of year; comfort and warmth radiate off the pages. He chose a joyful cast of characters, a cat, a blue jay, a squirrel, a turtle, and a rabbit, to lead readers across the pages.
He finishes with a short explanation of Simple Gifts followed by the music and lyrics.
Bringing us beauty, magic and meaning, children's book illustrators are something to be thankful for not only today but always. For their gifts to all of us I am, and will continue to be, grateful.