Review of Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born
by Miranda Paul; illus. by Jason Chin
Primary    Porter/Holiday    32 pp.
4/19    978-0-8234-4161-7    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-0-8234-4213-3    $18.99

A pithy quintain describes the moment a fertilized human egg becomes a two-celled zygote: “Small. / Ball. / The point of a pin. / Then it divides… / Our story begins.” It’s the first of nine five-line stanzas that trace a fetus’s development in utero. But this isn’t just a story about the nine months of gestation; it’s also a tale — told mostly with illustrations — of a family happily awaiting a baby’s arrival. As left-hand pages track a zygote’s transformation, first into an embryo (there’s a tail!) and then into a fetus, right-hand pages show slice-of-life scenes of a mom, dad, and soon-to-be big sister (details in the watercolor and gouache illustrations indicate the family is Latinx). Often — and quite cleverly — each stanza’s final line embraces both the future newborn and the future big sister. Take Paul’s “month-five” stanza, for example: “Lips. / Flips. / Curve, dip, and groove. / She has a face. / She likes to move!” Chin’s verso illustration shows a fetus, at week 20, upside-down with legs crossed. On the opposite page, the big sister jumps on her bed while her parents assemble a crib. During the third trimester, the left-hand illustrations begin to push onto the right-hand pages, ultimately taking over the entire double-page spread. It’s another whimsical touch in this joyful celebration of the nine months leading up to a baby’s birth. “Light. / Bright! / Crying and cheer. / Loved ones arrive… / A baby is here.” Back matter includes further details about gestational development as well as a selected bibliography.

From the May/June 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Tanya D. Auger

Tanya D. Auger
Tanya D. Auger is a former middle school teacher with a master’s degree in learning and teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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