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WHEN I WAS BORN by Isabel Minhós Martins


by Isabel Minhós Martins & illustrated by Madalena Matoso

Age Range: 3 - 8

Pub Date: May 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-85437-958-0
Publisher: Tate/Abrams

This cheerfully existential tome charms, from the stylized cherry tree on the endpapers to the very last page.

The first page is black, with white sans-serif letters: “When I was born I had never seen anything.” The narrator had never seen “the sun or a flower or a face” or the sea or the forest. His hands didn’t know about playing. "Everything was about to start." His mouth discovers it can taste and shout and kiss and stick his tongue out. He lists smells he loves, like the scent of his grandmother’s lap. Each day he discovers something new: running and jumping; saying “nice words and bad words”; learning colors. The images are made of strong, simple shapes and hues of red, white, black, green and gold. There is a wonderful spread of peppers, cherries, melons and tomatoes, as well as a wall of family pictures with an uncle with a long (bright) red beard, an auntie with green skin, a pink-faced grandpapa and a golden-skinned grandmamma (both with white hair). Birds, animals, leaves and boxes sit proudly on the pages, surrounding the child, who sports a green-and-white striped shirt and rosy cheeks.

Translated from the Portuguese and first published in England, this account of a child’s discovery of the world and its wonders unfolds self-consciously but winningly. (Picture book. 3-8)