I could have titled this blog post Serendipity because I have been waiting nine months for my copy of Nine Months Before a Baby is Born by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Jason Chin (Neal Porter Books, 2019). I was a participant at a Highlights Workshop last August where Miranda Paul was one of the teachers. She spoke of this yet-to-be-released book and showed us some page spreads. I preordered a copy as soon as I got home. Unlike a pregnancy, it slipped my mind over the months, but was waiting for me in the mail having arrived sometime in April – I had been traveling for three weeks. If I was thrilled to see it, I can only imagine how thrilled Miranda and Jason both were, as I know they’ve been waiting much longer.
Nine Months Before a Baby is Born is information packaged in delight. Each page spread covers one month in the development of a fetus while mirroring what the family is doing in preparation. It’s perfect for parents to explain what’s really happening in Mommy’s belly to an expectant big brother or sister. Paul’s sparse, yet joyful words, and Chin’s vivid illustrations are a fitting match for showing so much science and family dynamics in the constrained parameters of a picture book.
Extensive back matter is included, which can help inform the more curious or older expectant big sibling of more detail that happens as a baby grows. Two pages are dedicated to each page spread in the text. For example, in the text for the second month the text says: “Arms, legs . . . tail too?” and the back matter associated with this page explains how the tail reabsorbs to become our tailbone.
Further back matter lists Nine Amazing Things Most Babies Can Do Before They’re Born, a chart of human vs. animal gestation periods, and a page of What If . . .?, which includes a paragraph on when something goes wrong. A LOT of information is packaged into this picture book and it’s very well done.
In every writing workshop I’ve been to, I’m told that a good picture book is a dance between the text and the illustrations. Nine Months Before a Baby is Born is a perfect dance.