An artistic meditation on gestation.
Turning publishing convention on its head, the illustrations came first in this stunning, extra-long picture book. Sanna’s watercolors, originally created for a wordless book published in Italy, depict the nine months of human gestation with sequential spreads of a pregnant woman’s growing torso, crescendoing to birth. Her belly increasingly protrudes with successive page turns, but it is not merely a woman standing still; instead, the illustrations can be read both as an expectant mother’s body and as the curved wings of a sea gull, the arc of a whale’s tail, and the sloping descent of a hillside. This merging of the body and the natural world emphasizes humanity’s place in the circle of life while presenting breathtaking visuals. The accompanying, poetic text guides readers through successive images, shifting focus to the developing fetus through direct address. “Month 4” reads, for example: “And while you are still learning to breathe / Patterns are drawn on your fingertips for you and you alone.” Corresponding backmatter pages offer “Developmental Facts that Inspired the Text” (which, unfortunately, are unsourced). For Month 4 this expository text reads, in part, “The fetus’s lungs are not completely formed yet, but it has started to practice respiratory movements. Fingerprints and footprints are being defined.” It’s a sophisticated offering, perhaps better suited for baby showers than nurseries, but it’s lovely all the same.
Sublime. (Picture book. 5-adult)