MADELEINE'S WORLD by Brian Hall

MADELEINE'S WORLD

A Child's Journey from Birth to Age Three
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A father's close-up view of his daughter's growing up, from her active days in the womb to the exhausted tantrum at the end of her third birthday. Hall is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction (The Impossible Country, 1994), but it is the novelist's sensibility that he brings to this biography of his first child, Madeleine. He has done his research on mental and physical development of the infant to the age we now call preschooler: the prehensile grasp of newborns, so strong in the first days; the separation of ``me'' from ``not-me''; the understanding of object permanence; the development of mobility, self-awareness, language; issues of control (the two-year-old's ``No!''). But to his close observations of her development (he was the parent on duty exactly ``40 percent'' of the time), he brought also a familiarity with myth and the growth of consciousness, and a poetic sensibility that realizes things are not always what they seem. A simple example: Blowing out her second birthday candles disconcerted Madeleine. Normal interpretation: Where did the flame go? What magic is this? But Hall probes deeper. Interpreting a photograph from that event, he sees Madeleine as looking ``worried and guilty''; had she ``broken'' or ``killed'' the flames? Is she beginning to understand herself as an instrument, a cause of the effect? When she begins to fear the monsters in the shadows, Hall reads and rereads the books meant to reassure her but finally comes to grips with Madeleine's very real dread and assigns himself to protect her: ``If a tiger came in here, I'd give it a karate chop.'' ``Poop'' is also a big issue, as is Madeleine's ambivalence at the arrival of her baby sister. Like every first-time parent, Hall seems to project his own childhood doubts and fears onto his daughter. Nevertheless, it's a pleasure to have a father report so astutely and with such concern on a baby growing up.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1997
ISBN: 0-395-87059-3
Page count: 257pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997




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