When the Babies Came to Stay – story by Christine McDonnell ; pictures by Jeanette Bradley

  When the Babies Came to Stay – story by Christine McDonnell ; pictures by Jeanette Bradley.  Viking, 2020. 9781984835451

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre:   Picture book

What did you like about the book?  Four babies arrive on an island – one by mail plane, two tucked in a tote on a ferry, and one is found in a pile of fishing nets.  All have notes attached asking for shelter and safety.  The fisherman, ferryman, and harbormaster who find them don’t know what to do with them; the mayor wants to send them back to the mainland. But the island librarian simply bundles them into her book wagon and brings them to her cozy attic home above the library.  She creates a room for them and her neighbors help – building cribs out of lobster traps and sewing sails and nets into nursery décor.  The babies are given names (in ABC order, of course), and are raised lovingly by the librarian with lots of support from the initially skeptical islanders who teach them about knots and sea birds and let them sound the ferry horn.  When questioned by other island children about their origins (“Why don’t you look alike?…Where are you really from?”), the foursome are calmly reassured by the librarian that they are home, and they are a family: “Families don’t always look alike, you know, and where we’re going is more important than where we came from.”

This is a sweet, soothing tale emphasizing the values of acceptance and community and reinforcing the adage that “it takes a village to raise a child.”  Words and pictures paint a charming portrait of coastal island life, as warm and inviting as it is hardy and practical.  The soft-toned illustrations of the setting and the culturally diverse island residents (including the four newest ones) are appealing and enhance the charming story perfectly.

Anything you didn’t like about it? no

To whom would you recommend this book?  This would be a lovely gift book for new adoptive parents, and a perfect addition to libraries and bookstores in coastal towns.  The underlying themes of acceptance and the meaning of family make it a great choice for storytime in any setting.

Who should buy this book?  Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture Books 

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Leigh King, Lincoln St. Elementary School, Northborough, Mass.

Date of review:  4/11/2020

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