Sunday, March 13, 2011

Before You Were Here, Mi Amor

When I was a child, my grandfather said he remembered what he was doing the day I was born. He was hanging wallpaper. I loved hearing this. It meant that my birthday was, to him, a very important day.

I was reminded of my grandfather when I read Before You Were Here, Mi Amor, a 2009 bilingual picture book by Samantha R. Vamos and illustrated by Santiago Cohen.

The book begins. "Before you were here, you lived/ in mi barriguita, sleeping, eating,/ and growing for nine months." If the readers aren't sure from the illustration what barriguita is, a quick turn to the glossary will reveal the meaning, which is, "tummy." The readers also learn that it takes nine months for the baby to develop and that expectant mothers needs to eat drink mucha leche, and healthy foods such as papaya and mango. Mother goes to the doctor and listens to the baby's heart.

I particularly enjoyed how the author shows the family involved in welcoming the new baby. Father makes a meredora, or rocking chair. Mother, father, sister and brother make a list of baby names. Brother draws a picture. Grandparents and an aunt and uncle all contribute. The illustrations are colorful, simple, and joyful. My favorite is the entire family dancing together to salsa music. The climax of the story is the birth of the baby and ends, "And now we know how wonderful you are."

Though all families are different, having a new baby is a family affair. This particular book gives the reader a feel for traditional hispanic culture and language as well as teaches important facts about prenatal care. Small children will will love hearing this mother's story told to her child, and through this, feel that they, too, are treasured.

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