Nine Months: Illustrator Jason Chin's 2019 BGHB Nonfiction Honor Speech

When our editor, Neal Porter, came to me with this manuscript a few years ago, I was very excited because it was by Miranda Paul. I read it, and it was terrific. I was all ready to sign up, but then I got scared. I thought, How the heck am I going to do this? I have never seen a fetus before. I guess I was one once, but I don’t remember that. 

As a nonfiction illustrator, of course my goal is to make accurate pictures. I figured I could find enough references to make accurate pictures of the embryo and fetus, but as a communicator and as an artist I also want the art to have feeling and to connect with the reader. I want the art both to look like the subject and to convey my feelings about it. If it’s a place: what it feels like to be there. If it’s a person: what they look like and who they are. So, I look for ways to connect with the subject myself, and since I’m a visual person, this means looking at it. But I had never seen a fetus inside the womb. 

Then my brother called and said, “Jason, we’re having a baby.” Well, there’s a sign, I thought. I had found my way in. 

[Read Horn Book reviews of the 2019 Nonfiction winners.]

The father in the book is my brother, Michael. The mother is his wife, Mariana, and the star of the show is my niece, Olivia. Of course, I still had to do research and learn what a fetus looks like, and, working with doctors, I gained enough knowledge to do the subject justice. 

Thank you, everyone. Thank you to everyone at Holiday House for making this book happen. Thank you, Miranda, for the excellent text. And thank you most of all to Neal Porter for convincing me to do this book and for connecting Miranda and me in the first place.

From the January/February 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Read author Miranda Paul's BGHB speech here. For more on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, click on the tag BGHB19.

Jason Chin

Jason Chin won the 2022 Caldecott Medal and the 2022 Asian/Pacific American Picture Book Award for Literature for Watercress, written by Andrea Wang. He also received a 2019 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book Award for Nonfiction for Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born, written by Miranda Paul (both Porter/Holiday).

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