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BEFORE YOU WERE BORN by Howard Schwartz Kirkus Star


by Howard Schwartz & illustrated by Kristina Swarner

Age Range: 6 - 9

Pub Date: April 1st, 2005
ISBN: 1-59643-028-1
Publisher: Roaring Brook

In this retold midrash, a father explains to his son how the angel Lailah brought him from the Treasury of Souls, placed him in a seed, taught him many secrets, tales and languages while he grew in the womb, then at the moment of his birth touched his lip, which not only caused him to forget all that had gone before, but left that indentation in the skin that everyone has. Casting human figures with rounded forms, delicately flushed cheeks and downcast eyes, Swarner illustrates the journey in quietly lyrical paintings that seem to glow beneath layers of color; the child, dressed in red, nestles within the angel’s arms and feathered wings, looking out onto a wide world rich in stars, flowers and butterflies. Schwartz closes with discussions of the tale’s sources, and of the idea of guardian angels in general; the emotional intensity of his offering will linger with children of any cultural tradition. (Picture book/folktale. 6-9)