Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Parental Pause

As an educator in an elementary school you are privy to all sorts of student announcements.  As soon as they enter your classroom, if they have news, it will eagerly burst forth from their lips.  One of their favorite declarations is the birth of a new member in their family.

Most of them wear the cloak of mentorship with pride. They are happy to be the newly christened older sister or brother.  They acknowledge the changes already happening in their home.  Babymoon (Candlewick Press, April 2, 2019) written by Hayley Barrett with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal (Alma and How She Got Her Name) is dedicated to the precious time when parents and their new child are becoming acquainted and building a relationship.

The house is hushed.  The lights are low.
We're basking in a newborn glow.

The note we post says SEE YOU SOON.

Baby, mother and father are on their babymoon.  They ease into the morning, snoozing when they can.  Time is taken to read stories and play games.  Every little baby moment and movement is a cherished delight.

Before a snuggling noon nap, the trio share a special sweet treat.  Upon waking, it's warm water, soap and suds, it's bath time for baby.  Putting on the diaper is tricky for unpracticed parental hands.

Every gesture by mother and father is cozy and comforting, done with care.  The trio is pleasantly surprised at all the newness.  Hours pass until the day is coming to a close.  Night nestles around the home.  A lullaby is softly sung.

When the next day dawns, the joy begins anew.  There will be stories, naps, games, naps, baths, naps, diaper changes and lullabies to greet another night.  For mother, father and baby it's the bliss of their babymoon.

The gentle, soothing words penned by Hayley Barrett envelope readers with the first alliterative sentence.  This sense of serenity is continued with each rhyming embrace.  Every two lines, on each page turn, creates a calming cadence.  To complete this feeling of freshly acquired harmony Hayley Barrett closes using the same two rhyming words as she did in the beginning; we are part of a loving circle.  Here are two more sentences.

Our long-awaited dream---is you.
Amazed at all we thought we knew.

The words of this beautiful ode are elevated on the front of the dust jacket.  It's circles within circles; the mother cradling the child and the father wrapping his arms around them both.  Small circles, moons, are carefully placed around the trio.  The color palette, medium choices, line work and brush strokes combine to supply us with tranquility.  To the left, on the back, the family dog is curled around the family cat as the duo peacefully sleep.

On a lighter canvas large circles in varying shades of soft yellow pattern the back and front of the book case.  In the center of the front, tucked in a tiny yellow and white-striped blanket is the baby.  Eyes closed and hands clasped the baby sleeps among the moons.

A light hue of golden yellow covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Rendered in acrylic, colored pencil, and graphite on handmade textured paper the illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal are a delicate portrait encompassing affection.  In the first of her double-page images we see the family's home.  A clothesline stretches from the house to a tree.  Hanging from the tree is a tire swing.  The sign reading SEE YOU SOON is three boards attached together by string.  A bird's nest is on the porch roof.  Vines grow around the doorway.  Everything about this picture says this is a happy homes full of hospitality.

Throughout the book, the double-page pictures on heavier, matte-finished paper are filled with exquisite details (and hints of Juana Martinez-Neal's birth country).  The facial features as each person gazes at the other are brimming with love.  Each visual has curves of compassion in them.  The line of the cat's tail follows the shape of the father's head.  The curve of the dog's body follows the curve of the rug and curve of the father's arms around the baby.  The presence of the cat and dog in the home and their place around the baby indicate the thoughtful and tender nature of the parents.

One of my many, many favorite pictures takes place in the kitchen in front of a big window and a row of lower cupboards.  In the corner of the window on the sill is a short, round vase full of flowers.  On the counter are two cups of tea.  Perched on the corner is the cat, watching. The mother has the sleeping baby cupped in her arms.  The father is holding a piece of birth day cake on a plate in one hand and feeding the mother a piece with the other hand.  The dog is intently staring hoping a crumb will drop.

Everything about this book, Babymoon written by Hayley Barrett with illustrations by Juana Martinez-Neal, makes it one to cherish.  It welcomes with infinite kindness and wonder the arrival of a baby.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional book shelves.  This title is certain to become a family treasure.

To learn more Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Hayley Barrett has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Juana Martinez-Neal has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At Penguin Random House you are given a peek of the first few page turns.  Hayley Barrett and Juana Martinez-Neal are guests on The Children's Book Podcast with Matthew Winner.  Hayley Barrett is interviewed about her work and this book at Picture Book Builders.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson features the book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

UPDATE:  Juana Martinez-Neal is featured at author and school librarian Carter Higgins' site, Design Of The Picture Book, on May 7, 2019.

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