How Do You Make a Baby? – written and illustrated by Anna Fiske

 How Do You Make a Baby? – written and illustrated by Anna Fiske, Gecko Press, 9781776572854, 2020

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

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  This is a light-hearted look at how babies are made that manages to convey a lot of information in a chatty fashion. The author is Swedish and lives in Norway and the book does exude a certain Scandanavian frankness about the whole process, both in the illustrations and the text. Fiske starts out with love (I love ice cream, I love my dog, I love my friend…) and then moves into how adults in love want to be physically close to one another. It’s an inclusive explanation that shows mixed race and same sex couples and introduces anatomically correct comics of love making, complete with labeled diagrams. Then the sperm race (some in scuba gear, wearing bathing suits, etc.), the baby growing inside the mother, the delivery and the uniqueness and wonder of babies. Fiske even manages to work in that some couples can’t make babies in the “usual way” and rely on in vitro fertilization or adoption.  Libraries should have lots of different books about reproduction available so that children and families can find the one that suits their sensibilities and this one certainly stands out. I thought the book was cute and could be helpful for some patrons.

The drawings are what makes the book unique. The people are highly stylized and goofy-looking, almost always pretty unisex except for 2 convex lumps on the ladies’ chests. The flat colorful characters are drawn by hand, with heavy black outlines and then filled in with digital color. Some pages are very busy, with lots of small vignettes showing women in various stages of pregnancy or the embryo developing inside the uterus. Others are more graphically eye-catching, such as a double-page spread that shows the sperm racing toward the egg.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I thought the drawings were funny and interesting, but they definitely won’t be for everyone. Some may find the matter-of-fact tone and lack of reverence off putting or the illustrations weird. Adult readers would have to explain that the whole thing is infused with humor — eggs don’t really talk and sperm don’t have rubber duckies, nor do developing fetuses speak to their mothers. There’s some word and concept choice that I found clumsy, such as “every month the baby is growing in the uterus” (when does an embryo or fetus become a baby?) and the book becomes almost exclusively heteronormative once the babies are on their way, despite the earlier nod to inclusivity.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Families looking for options teaching children about the miracle of birth…Obviously, there are lots of choices on the market, and different families have different needs, so I like the idea of adding this unusual book to the mix.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Parenting section

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes, if you’re looking for new options.

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: July 28, 2020

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