Angel Coming

( 1 )


Mama says we must be ready,
ready for that angel coming.

High in the hills of Kentucky, a little girl eagerly awaits the arrival of a very special visitor — an "angel" who, she is told, will come riding...

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Mama says we must be ready,
ready for that angel coming.

High in the hills of Kentucky, a little girl eagerly awaits the arrival of a very special visitor — an "angel" who, she is told, will come riding up the mountain on horseback, carrying a baby sister or brother in her saddlebag.

Li'l sis is what I'm wanting.
Li'l sis is what I'll call her.
I'll braid her hair right pretty,
brush it out most every night.

But the "angel" is not exactly what the young narrator imagined, and neither is the precious bundle that comes when she least expects it.

This gem of a story highlights a little-known piece of American history: the Frontier Nursing Service, a pioneering group of women who came to be called "angels on horseback."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the Kentucky mountains and narrated in unrhymed, lilting verse through the eyes of a child, Henson's (Making the Run) moving story captures a community's eager anticipation of a new baby. Gaber (When Winter Comes) suggests the union of humans with nature as her opening full-bleed spreads begin with the Appalachian landscape and zero in on a circling owl and its eye-view of the girl narrator's home. The girl believes an angel on horseback will bring "a tiny babe tucked in her saddlebag,/ a tiny babe tucked safe and warm" (an author's note explains the origins of the legend). Meanwhile, they prepare for the infant's arrival: "Pap brings down the cradle/ carved out smooth from cherry wood,/ whittled pretty with vines and roses,/ made for me when I was new." Gentle dialect conjures age-old traditions, such as "the aunties" gathering to stitch a quilt: "All day long they sit and chin-wag./ All day long they make it grow." In the impressionistic acrylics, children run barefoot and the small house is spare, but abundant riches derive from the warm, close-knit neighbors who work and dance together. The girl celebrates her lush surroundings: in one exhilarating image, the owl swoops below her as she stands on the mountaintop, arms stretched wide: "Higher still I'm queen and ruler-/ I'm higher than the sky does sit." Returning from her walk, the girl meets the angel, along with a new baby brother. This beautifully told tale demonstrates the way a new baby's arrival causes ripples throughout the land. Ages 3-6. (June) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
An angel is coming, Mama tells her, an angel tucked safely in a saddlebag. Many years ago, in the remote reaches of Appalachia, children were told that babies came via an angel on horseback. Indeed, there was such an angel and she did assist mothers as they welcomed newborns into their families. Mary Breckinridge, who created the Frontier Nursing Service, traveled to women in hard-to-reach places who could not otherwise get medical care. Her impact was so great that the angel on horseback notion has become a legend of sorts in Appalachia. With this legend as a backdrop, a little girl eagerly awaits the arrival of a new little sister—or so she hopes! Mama washes clothes, Pap gets the cradle down, and the neighbor ladies make a quilt for the angel on its way. The angel does come, as does a little brother who is perfect in every way. A sweet story of a youngster awaiting the arrival of a sibling, it is so much more. This story is a delightful way to share a snippet of Appalachian culture as well as a little history of the area. An author's note at the end explains Mary Breckinridge's contribution to the health care of the area and how it carries on still. Gaber's illustrations are warm and inviting if somewhat flat overall. 2005, Atheneum, Ages 3 to 6.
—Joan Kindig, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-Set in the Appalachian Mountains during the early 20th century, this pleasant story is told in a manner that will appeal to children. In the quiet narrative, a young girl awaits the arrival of a new sibling. The lyrical text reads like poetry: "Mama says an angel is coming, coming clear up the mountain, riding clear up Lonesome Creek, a tiny babe tucked in her saddlebag, a tiny babe tucked safe and warm." Attractive, realistic acrylic paintings show the family's preparations as Pap takes the handmade cradle out of storage and Mam washes tiny garments that once belonged to the narrator. Glimpses of life in the hills include a quilting bee with all of the aunties and storytelling by the fireplace. In the end, though she hoped for a sister, the girl readily accepts her little brother, declaring, "Can't help but love him just the same." An appended author's note gives a brief history of Mary Breckinridge and the Frontier Nursing Service, describing the nurse-midwives who traveled into rugged terrain to serve families that otherwise went untended. It also explains that many young Kentuckians believed that babies arrived in the saddlebag of one of these "angel[s] on horseback." An engaging piece of historical fiction.-Maryann H. Owen, Racine Public Library, WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In the lilt and cadence of Appalachia, a little girl keeps watch for the angel on horseback her mother says is coming, bringing "a tiny babe." She watches each day, while her parents wash baby clothes and take down the cherry wood cradle "made for me when I was new." Aunts come to make a quilt, and Pap plays the banjo. One morning the girl climbs high to look above the fog, and then races home to discover a lady in blue with her horse as tall as Pap and Mama with her new brother. This lovely story reflects the historical reality of 1920s Eastern Kentucky, when trained nurse-midwives of the Frontier Nursing Service made monthly visits on horseback. Gaber's pictures seem lit from within, both the glowing faces and green and blue landscape of the hills. A few historical photographs and an author's note enrich the offering. (Picture book. 3-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442430778
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 1,317,094
  • Age range: 3 - 6 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Heather Henson grew up in Kentucky and recently returned to her home state after spending many years in Brooklyn, New York, where she worked as an editor of children's books and a freelance writer. She now lives on a farm with her husband, Tim and three children, and is the author of several picture books and novels, including That Book Woman.

Susan Gaber has illustrated a number of picture books, including When Winter Comes, The Stable Where Jesus Was Born, and The Very First Thanksgiving Day. She lives with her family in Huntington, New York.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 16, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A little girl awaits the delivery of a new sibling.  As thepostm

    A little girl awaits the delivery of a new sibling.  As thepostman comes on horse she looks for a package big enough to be a baby brother or sister.

     While the book is not a completely true story on how babies come to families, it is not one I ever thought of. It is a fun way to think of a baby coming and is probably for children under 5. The art is amazing.

     Something in the pacing through me off from the story.  I felt I also wanted more at the end. 

     Angel Coming is cute, heartwarming and visually stunning book.  

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