“At the Reynolds house in Chelmsford,” Peter H. Reynolds said, all seven family members would all sit around the kitchen table — “classic ′60s formica and chrome” — for family dinners. Their mother, “a master storyteller,” would prompt everyone to share stories from their day. It set a powerful example, Reynolds added, “that story and history are really powerful, and that being together is powerful too.”
Being together, preferably gathered about a table, is the theme of Reynolds’s latest book, “Our Table” (Orchard Books), which features a small girl, Violet, realizing that the table around which her family once gathered has disappeared, and togetherness has been replaced by individual family members staring at screens. How to bring it back?
“I’m a huge fan of human connectivity,” said Reynolds, who now lives in Dedham. He worries that too much dependence on technology — cell phones during meals, for instance — can create an atmosphere where we are “together and not together.” He’s not opposed to technology in general; Violet and her father decide to watch a video about carpentry as they begin to resurrect the table. Still, he added, “I wanted to write a fable to gently remind people that we need to have technology be in service to us and not the other way around.”
It’s not just families Reynolds hopes can reconnect: “This country has also been split apart. And I would love to see people back at the table together, sharing the things that we have in common and working together.”
Yes, the book is illustrated and short, but it’s not only for children, Reynolds added. “It’s a picture book for all ages.” What he hopes is for readers to ponder the book’s message as we head into the holiday season, perhaps even jotting down notes from this year’s favorite meals, to be remembered in following years.
Peter H. Reynolds will read at 5 p.m. this Sunday at an in-person event at An Unlikely Story in Plainville.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at email@example.com.