Picture Book Reviews: Babymoon & Saturday is Swimming Day

Readers, I have two beautiful picture books on the review docket! Courtesy of partner Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House Canada, here on the two titles on review: Babymoon by Hayley Barrett, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal and Saturday Is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum. Enjoy!

 

The house is hushed. The lights are low. We’re basking in a newborn glow. The note we post says SEE YOU SOON. At last – we’re on our babymoon.

Hayley Barrett (of the upcoming What Miss Mitchell Saw with illustrator Diana Sudyka) and Juana Martinez-Neal (Alma and How She Got Her Name) team up for the exquisite and enchanting picture book Babymoon. A term that may now be recognized as one denoting a special vacation that parents take before a baby’s birth, this babymoon (as per the book’s detailed description) refers to the term “originally coined by midwives to describe days like these: at home with a newborn, with the world held at bay…”. With a rosy-cheeked, delicate yet robust and gorgeously expressive baby as the center of focus, Babymoon follows new parents as they make their way through the first steps of parenthood, of welcoming their new-to-the-world baby to their home, and of being a new family. While “reading stories, playing games…getting used to brand-new names”, the new parents are a mix of all emotions and feelings: at once careful, happy, sleepy, and watchful, having to “muddle through” new waters while “delighting in each small surprise”. From my personal experiencing in being a parent- and remembering how terribly daunting, loud, and overwhelming first-time parenthood felt (not to mention expectations of visits!)- I adore Babymoon for its regard for a family’s quiet and solitude, of taking much-needed private time to just be and be with one’s baby. Barrett’s poetic, rhyming text is beautifully soft and gentle- like a lullaby or whispered wishes- while Martinez-Neal’s acrylic, coloured pencil and graphite art (on handmade textured paper) is incredibly warm and lit-from-within, full of expressiveness, glow, and the same cozy feeling readers had the pleasure of experiencing in Alma and How She Got Her Name. For readers looking for a picture book perfect for new families, expecting parents, or for any readers looking for a lyrical, soft and gorgeous family and baby-centered read, Babymoon is an excellent title absolutely worth checking out!

 

It was Saturday morning. I told my mom that my stomach hurt. She took my temperature and said I didn’t have a fever, so I could still go to my swimming lesson.

The award-winning and acclaimed author-illustrator of terrific titles such as Puddle, This Is Our House, and The Twins’ Blanket, Hyewon Yum brings readers the deeply relatable and perfect-for-read-aloud picture book Saturday Is Swimming Day. Yum’s newest picture book opens on a scene of our protagonist and narrator, a young girl, waking up one Saturday morning with a stomachache…perhaps she is not well enough to go to her Saturday swim lessons? The little girl’s mom assures her that her tummy is okay and they get ready for swim class, packing the girl’s “strawberry bathing suit and…too-small swim cap”. As kids around her appear delighted to be at swim lessons, laughing and later splashing in the water, the little girl hangs back on the edge of pool, tummy still hurting. The next Saturday, stomachache is still present, but with swim instructor Mary’s gentle guidance and promise of help, the little girl takes a big, BIG step by getting into the water AND practicing “ice-cream scoops and kicks”!. Surprisingly, the water isn’t all that cold, and the swim kicks are kind of fun to practice! Though not a perfect journey from then on, the progression of the little girl’s feelings about swim class, of learning new skills, and in overcoming fears is so felt and very well done- a story that will likely captivate young readers experiencing (or having experienced) similar emotions. Yum’s watercolour and coloured pencil artwork is glorious here, capturing every emotion and feeling on our narrator’s face (as well as the other characters); the scenes of the little girl and her classmates in the swimming pool are especially marvelous with gentle washes of blue, of stillness and serenity, of worry, of frantic splashes, and of the wonderful contrasts between below water and above water. Perfect for readers looking for a story about dealing with anxieties and fears, about swim lessons, or just about being brave in trying something new, Yum’s Saturday Is Swimming Day is a truly wonderful story (exemplary in art and text) to try out. Readers could also try pairing Saturday Is Swimming Day with titles touching upon similar topics and/or subject matters, such as Jabari Jumps, Brave Molly, The Day You Begin, When You Are Brave, or Mae’s First Day of School.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Candlewick Press/Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available.

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