Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sweet Moon Baby

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale. Karen Henry Clark. Illustrated by Patrice Barton. 2010. November 2010. Random House. 32 pages.

On a summer night in China, a baby girl was born. She was perfect.
"We have barely enough rice to feed ourselves," the father said.
"She should have pretty things," the mother said.
"She should learn to read," the father said.
They were happy and sad at the same time.

I'll start with the good news. I loved, loved, loved the illustrations. I thought they were amazing. I just wanted to keep looking at them over and over again. So beautiful, so expressive, so right. They reminded me of my first love--Umbrella. And you can't really get higher praise (from me) than that. While I didn't love the fact that the moon had a face in a few of these illustrations, overall, I was quite happy with how this one was illustrated.

Sweet Moon Baby is both odd and sweet. (It's not often those two combine--in my experience. Odd and funny get along better in some ways.) It's an adoption tale. Readers see the biological parents (in China) decide to give their baby girl up for adoption. HOWEVER, instead of being a realistic story about adoption, it is a gentle (though odd) fantasy. Where readers first see the parents set their baby girl afloat before the adoptive parents find her--still floating--after months (if not years) of searching.

I did enjoy reading about the adoptive parents. The book did a great job in introducing them. There were times it was just beautiful. Words full of hope and faith and love.
On the other side of the world, a husband and wife could not sleep. They wanted a daughter. Still, she never came. They made a garden to keep busy while they waited for her. "Maybe she will like carrots," the wife said. "Maybe she will like peas," the husband said. Still, she never came.
Next they planted fruit trees. "In case she likes pie," the wife said. "In case she likes climbing," the husband said. Still, she never came.
They built a house with a room just for her. "Perhaps she will like pretty things," the wife said. "Perhaps she will like books," the husband said. They were happy and sad at the same time.
On the baby's journey she encounters many, many animals. And these animals protect her, guide her. (Of course, the baby is depicted as still being asleep.) The last page reveals--through illustration--that each of the animals that helped her on her journey can be found in her room--as stuffed animals. Which perhaps indicates that this story of how she came to be part of her new family has evolved through retelling. I could see it working as a fanciful story her parents told her, or even as a fanciful (imaginative) story she's told her parents. Or, it could even be a collaboration. I can almost picture the family sitting around together talking. The interaction, the interruptions. (Tell me more! And then what happened?!) In that way, it almost works for me.

There were elements of this one I liked. There were many places where it almost worked for me. But. In the end, I'm not quite sure about it.

© Becky Laney of Young Readers

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