Sleep, My Baby
Sleep, My Baby
The stars are smiling.
They say to you,
“Be happy all your life.”
The late Dr. Lena Allen-Shore, a holocaust survivor, writer, peace advocate, and mother of two, was truly an inspirational person, and her last book, Sleep, My Baby, co-authored by her son, Jacques J. M. Shore, is an extension of her transcendent gentleness. As is explained in a note to the reader at the beginning of the book, Sleep, My Baby started as a lullaby that Dr. Allen-Shore created and would sing to her two sons at bedtime. Passed from one generation to the next, it became their family tradition, and now mother and son share this lullaby in the form of a board book.
For me, the power of this book lies in the front and back end-pages: the note to the reader written by Jacques and the explanation of Dr. Allen-Shore’s lifetime contributions to the world. With these, we, as readers, are brought into their generational tradition and made equal stewards of the lullaby into the future. The book is both a celebration of Dr. Allen-Shore as a caring mother and a clear example of the impact of her compassionate legacy as well as a larger acknowledgment of the bond and good-will between the universal ‘mother and child’. The text of the lullaby, itself, is simple and unrhyming, and the refrain repeats three times. The message is of blissful safety, serene sleep, and motherly love. Between refrains, place names are incorporated which give a unifying global perspective to the mother-child interaction. While I enjoyed the gentle, sweet text, personally I couldn’t figure out the melodic version of this lullaby in order to sing it.
Jessica Courtney-Tickle’s illustrations are subtle and soft. Stars and nighttime lights offer a familiar and comforting glow and are present in nearly all the illustrations. Each time the first person is invoked in the lullaby, Courtney-Tickle uses a corresponding image of a singular and specific mother and child duo. Otherwise, her illustrations feature many diverse pairings of mothers and their children, often from the vantage point of outside looking in as if we were the stars looking down upon the nightly bedtime ritual.
This book is a perfect gift for Mother’s Day for new or expecting mothers. It literally was made for reading during those close, cuddly bedtime routines with children. Even though the lullaby specifically references ‘mothers’ as the childminder in the book, parents of all kinds can enjoy sharing this lullaby with their kids. Sleep, My Baby would also be a great addition to the public library and possibly useful for baby time programs (especially if you can figure out the tune!).
Editor’s Note: You can listen to the original version of “Sleep, My Baby”, sung by Dr. Lena Allen-Shore at the website of Jacques J. M. Shore.
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 as a teacher-on-call, and resides in Victoria, British Columbia, with her husband and their two children.