Soon she hears the
sweetest sound she knows.
A sound filled with love.
A song that surrounds her
and caresses her.
In Born, readers journey alongside the consciousness of an unborn baby from a philosophical state in utero into the physical world and gentle embrace of her adoring mother. John Sobol’s narrative is beautifully written, using third person and very poetic. It would be hard to read this lyrical poem without feeling the great emotional weight created by the contemplation of such universal experiences as the nature of birth, life, and connection. Without being anatomical in any way, Sobol deftly shares the possible sensory exploration of a baby in utero.
Illustrator Cindy Derby’s accompanying watercolour and digital collage images add to the sense of mystery and primordial other-worldliness. In juxtaposition with the unborn baby, Derby suitably pairs water imagery: waves, whales, flamingoes, and a solitary boat. These images are tied in nicely after the baby is born – adorned on the baby’s blanket and experienced as a landscape by mother and baby. As the flamingoes take flight, this is possibly symbolic of the baby’s imminent take-off into life. Derby’s depiction of the baby is full of visible emotion, and she very skillfully, yet subtly, captures the depth of the connection between baby and mother. Overall, Derby’s visual storytelling is extremely strong, and her illustrations could stand alone and still create a very compelling narrative; however, the combination of Sobol’s words and Derby’s illustrations together make a thoroughly captivating story.
While I can see using this book with children as they are becoming older siblings or with young children venturing into ontological questions about birth and life, I think this particular book might have a greater emotional impact on adults, such as pregnant couples or new parents and, in particular, mothers since much of the sentiment of the story revolves around the physical and emotional connection between baby and mother, both pre- and post-birth.
Born is a book for purchase for the library or home bookshelf. Although Born might work as a read-aloud, this book strikes me as one that is better off read one-on-one with a child in a quiet space with lots of time for asking ‘why’ and ‘what if’ questions.
Dorothea Wilson-Scorgie has completed her MLIS degree at the University of Alberta and her MA degree in Children’s Literature at the University of British Columbia. She is a member of the Victoria Children’s Literature Roundtable steering committee, works at as a teacher-on-call, and resides in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband and their two children.