Just because a book fills a need, that doesn’t guarantee its quality; fortunately, this book both addresses premature birth and succeeds marvelously.
Like any big brother–to-be, Jacob is conflicted when he hears about his family’s upcoming arrival. Sure, he’s excited, but teddy bear Bob, clearly Jacob’s externalized id, is unafraid to bring up potential problems. Bob’s worries are utterly forgotten, however, when the infant arrives far too early, and the grown-ups’ fear communicates itself to Jacob. As time wears on, Jacob feels abandoned; all his parents and grandmother think about is their preemie. Reminiscent of the straightforward honesty of a Robie H. Harris title, the storyline doesn’t coddle readers but acknowledges feelings, both good and bad. From conversations about what’s going to happen (“Is the baby going to die? Grandma didn’t know”) to anger toward the baby itself (a black page contains just an image of Jacob and the words “I wish the baby would die”), Kantorovitz draws on personal experience to give a rounded view of the situation. Images are laid out like snapshots in a family album, drawn in the faux-naif style of Jacob himself, and his childlike narration is printed in a typeface that emulates a child’s handwriting. This filter helps to blunt the potential horror even as it honors Jacob’s emotions and experiences.
A laudably candid effort, unafraid to treat its readership with the utmost respect. (Picture book. 2-7)