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THE BABY ON THE WAY by Karen English


by Karen English & illustrated by Sean Qualls

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 2005
ISBN: 0-374-37361-2
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A child’s question to his grandma opens a window to another time and place in this intimate, intergenerational conversation. Grandma answers young Jamal’s question about whether she was ever a little girl by going back even further than that, first to when she was the tenth “baby on the way” for a rural family, then, after her birth, describing how she was carried around the house in “takin’ up ceremonies” (“somethin’ probably passed down from slavery times. People don’t do that no more”), and as the “lap baby,” how she displaced the next eldest sib to the status of “knee baby.” Using a palette of pale, thickly brushed blues and greens to give his flat-perspective scenes a subdued tone, Qualls alternates between Grandma’s spacious-looking urban kitchen and the more crowded country setting, where family and neighbors gather round to provide help following the birth; his figures, young and old, bear quiet, reflective expressions in keeping with the general tone. In the end, suggesting that Jamal may one day himself be asked the same question, Grandma offers to tell him about when he was the baby on the way—and what young listeners won’t want to hear their own versions of that story? (Picture book. 5-8)