Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Waiting For Wonder

We understand the deceptions of time.  We know how seconds can feel like hours and hours can feel like seconds.  Perspective and what is occurring during any given moment or collection of moments are determining factors.

Children are curious about their growth inside their mother's body.  This curiosity is even stronger when they're told a new sister or brother is developing inside their mother now.  Nine Months Before a Baby Is Born (Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, April 23, 2019) written by Miranda Paul with illustrations by Jason Chin eloquently presents through information, poetry and artwork the changes inside a mother's body and inside a family's home.  As anticipation builds those months feel alternately like forever and flashes of lightning.

The point of a pin.
Then it divides . . .

Our story begins.

Accompanying this verse on the left are factual words like first trimester, month one, weeks one to four.  Days seventeen and eighteen are portrayed even illuminating changes within hours.  We have joined this family in waiting and wondering.

With each page turn a new month, new weeks and new differences are happening.  A heart beats.  An embryo becomes a fetus.  A thumb is tasted.  A little girl plays with her baby doll and stuffed animals in her backyard.

At five months there is movement inside the mother's belly.  A mother and her little girl sing to the growing child.  She has ears to hear at six months.  Excitement swells along with the mother's body.

For the last two months the space is now full of a child moving slower and getting ready to be born.  When she arrives out in the world, her cries fill the room.  She is surrounded by loving joy.

After reading and rereading the words penned by Miranda Paul readers gain a deeper understanding of the changes happening in a family home as they await the birth of a child.  To pair and blend these poetic observations by enhancing our knowledge adds a marvelous measure to the waiting.  For each of the five line verses the final word in the third and fifth lines rhymes.

For the first five months four lines appear on the left with the final line on the right.  This changes for months six, seven, eight and nine until the circle is completed at birth with the lines on the left once again.  It's an excellent effect for pacing.

Looking at the matching dust jacket and book case readers can see as autumn comes, the birth of a child is about to happen too.  The lush colorful fall foliage on the trees frames a family with their two canine companions walking through a park.  To the left, on the back, the first interior illustrations of the egg and zygote, with clarifying captions, are shown on a blue background.

The blue is continued as a canvas for the opening and closing endpapers.  Rendered in watercolor and gouache on paper by Jason Chin the illustrations begin their interpretation on the title page.  We are going back in time from the jacket and case illustration to the previous winter.  As snow drifts down, the family, including the dogs, bundled in winter wear is walking through their neighborhood.

Opposite the verso, they are home.  Boots have tracked in snow.  A leash is being unhooked and a tennis ball is offered by the little girl to the other dog.  On the wall a commemorative poster highlights Morelia, Michoacan during a celebration.  This is the first suggestion the family might have a Hispanic heritage.  Later we see them reading a bilingual book, in Spanish and in English.  On the fireplace mantle in a following image is another hint.

The pictures Jason Chin paints of the development of the child inside the mother are intricate and fascinating.  They are on the left opposite the activities of the family on the right until as the baby grows, they move across the gutter farther and farther.  Finally, two pages are dedicated to the child waiting to be born. This is a dramatic portrait.  Readers will pause.

It is followed by a series of double-page pictures.  In each scene Jason Chin creates of the family we can see the warmth of their affection in their expressions and body postures.  We are also aware of the shift in seasons.

One of my many favorite illustrations is in the spring or early summer.  The family, their yard surrounded by a fence, is outside.  In one corner the parents are working on making a garden patch.  One dog is off to the left merrily digging.  In the foreground next to a large tree, the little girl has arranged her toys around a checkered blanket for a pretend picnic.  The other dog is resting and watching her.  She is seated on an overturned blue bucket feeding her baby doll a bottle.  She, like her mother, is wearing boots.

Nine Months Before a Baby Is Born written by Miranda Paul with illustrations by Jason Chin is a remarkable nonfiction narrative.  It is one you will welcome in both your professional and personal collections.  I can't imagine a discussion about pregnancy and the arrival of a new family member without this book.  At the end of the book are two pages with more facts about those items referenced in the poem's verses.  It is followed by several pages speaking about Nine Amazing Things Most Babies Can Do Before They're Born, a comparison of the length of time for babies to grow in animals and humans, and a What If . . .? section.  Acknowledgements and a selected bibliography close the book.

To learn more about Miranda Paul and Jason Chin and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Miranda Paul has a blog and an account on TwitterJason Chin has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson featured this title on her site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

Please take a few moments to read about the titles selected this week by those participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at her blog, Kid Lit Frenzy.

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