Before You Were Here, Mi Amor

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Before you were here, tu papi carved a mecedora from the wood of an old walnut tree so you and I could rock and cuddle together.

The members of a familia lovingly prepare for a new bebé. A tenderly written story, with Spanish words woven throughout, tells readers how Mami is eating healthy food, Papi is building a rocking chair, Abuela is painting elefantes and tigres, in the nursery, and brother and sister are helping with baby names.

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Before you were here, tu papi carved a mecedora from the wood of an old walnut tree so you and I could rock and cuddle together.

The members of a familia lovingly prepare for a new bebé. A tenderly written story, with Spanish words woven throughout, tells readers how Mami is eating healthy food, Papi is building a rocking chair, Abuela is painting elefantes and tigres, in the nursery, and brother and sister are helping with baby names.

With its vibrant and warm illustrations, this debut picture book is perfect for expectant parents or children curious about the time before they were here.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Suzanna E. Henshon
In this beautifully written story, a mother writes a letter to a newborn baby. The first line begins, "Before you were here, you lived in mi barriguita, sleeping, eating, and growing for nine months." The baby learns about how every family member prepared for his arrival—from his mother's careful diet to his father's building a rocking chair to the entire family's summer evenings writing lists of baby names. The baby's brother and sister dreamed of playing baseball with him, and grandmother painted a tropical jungle in the baby's bedroom as grandfather planted a tree in the child's honor. Vamos writes lyrically, "Before you were here, I danced with you to the rhythms and music de salsa." The baby's grandfather imagined him as a football star, while his grandmother envisioned the baby dancing the flamenco. The older sister whispered a welcome to her mother's stomach one day, while the father played the guitar, "Just in case the bebe is listening." There is even a picture of the mother and father at the doctor's office, listening to the baby's heartbeat and an illustration of the entire family preparing a nursery together. One beautiful line stands out, "Before you were here, I loved you even though I could not see you." In this heartwarming book, a Spanish American family welcomes a child into their household in a myriad of ways. This is a wonderful book for young children and their parents to read together. Reviewer: Suzanna E. Henshon, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

PreS-Gr 2

A tender love story about an extended family's preparation for a new baby. As the mother explains to her unborn child, everyone has participated; papi has made a rocking chair, abuela has painted a mural on the nursery wall, abuelo has planted a tree "to grow along with you," etc. Descriptions of the loving family and their various tasks are given mostly in English, with some Spanish words seamlessly woven in and included in a glossary at the end of the story. However, Cohen's illustrations do a marvelous job of giving clues for those who are unfamiliar with the language. For example, the baby's sister draws a picture of nuestra familia , and holds it up proudly. Cohen uses the texture of the paper and his watercolor paints to create depth and movement in the vividly colored illustrations. This lovely story may encourage discussions of individual birth preparations in readers' own families.-Susan E. Murray, Glendale Public Library, AZ

Kirkus Reviews
A new baby is welcomed by the entire family as Mami recounts everything that happened in preparation for and anticipation of the little one's arrival. Hermano wished for a be'sbol partner while hermana drew a picture of la familia. Abuelo planted a new tree; Abuela painted a tropical jungle in the baby's bedroom with jirafas, elefantes and tigres. Mami ate well and felt tiny little pies (feet) flutter in her barriguita (tummy). A gentle and lovingly blended text provides a fluid telling with important and basic Spanish vocabulary woven into the English, from animal and body part names to numbers and colors. Vamos's easily interpreted story is matched by Cohen's black-outlined folk-art-style drawings in bright primary hues; they depict an extended Latino family, all involved in the joy of the pregnancy and birth. This Spanish-flavored introduction, with its universal message of love for new babies and siblings, will become a favorite among growing bilingual families. (glossary) (Picture book. 3-5)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670063017
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/19/2009
  • Edition description: Bilingual
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 3 - 5 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Samantha R. Vamos lives outside Seattle, Washington, with her husband, young son, and their cat. This is her first picture book.

Born in Mexico, Santiago Cohennow lives with his family in Hoboken, New Jersey. He has illustrated numerous books for young readers.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2013

    WONDERFUL book for the entire family, especially those expecting

    WONDERFUL book for the entire family, especially those expecting a little one and already have a child at home. It explains the process of what is happening and what is to come in a warm, heartfelt way. I love the integration of Spanish words into the storyline and learned a few words myself I didn't know prior to reading this book to my son. This book involves the entire family in their preparation for the new baby. This book makes a perfect gift for an expecting mother and "Big Brother/Big Sister" gift.

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  • Posted May 22, 2011

    Perfect Blend of English and Spanish!

    A book that very successfully integrates Spanish vocabulary into primarily English sentences. The story is a beautiful one, told from the point of view of an expectant mother. The entire family is involved in preparing for the baby's arrival; the storytelling quality creates a very warm, loving atmosphere. The illustrations may not be everybody's cup of tea but I think they're appropriate for a children's book and fit the feel of the story very well. I especially appreciated the Glossary at the end of the book that translates all of the Spanish words into English. The story itself runs a bit long in my opinion but the fact that it's chock-full of Spanish vocabulary makes up for its drawn out length. I highly recommend this book as a shared reading between parents and their children.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor" is a must have book for all parents!

    While reading, "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor," I could not stop thinking of my sister who is expecting a baby later this year. I can not imagine a more perfect book for a mother to read to her child. The book is wonderful for so many reasons and highlights some of the common family values we all share. This book does a great job introducing the family, not just the nuclear family, but the extended family as well. And as an aunt to be, this meant alot to me. It goes beyond an introduction of family to also show the importance of one's family and the excitement the entire family feels as they await the birth of their new arrival.
    The story would make any child feel so wanted and loved as they learn what went into their arrival. This book provides a wonderful platform from which a mother and child can bond.
    In addition to introducing a child to family values and the love of their family, the book does an exceptional job of teaching a child some basic words in two languages!
    I recommend this book for everyone who is not only expecting a child, but for those who have children already so the children can learn what it was like before they were here. I can not say enough wonderful things about this book and can not recommend it highly enough. It is the perfect gift too!
    "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor" is a heartfelt and heartwarming story of a family's preparation for their baby, told in two languages, with wonderful illustrations. I think it is one of those books that your children will want read to them repeatedly and it will elicit questions from them whose answers can only strengthen the family bond and the love that your child feels.

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  • Posted June 9, 2009

    Lovely book to read (or give as gift) for families with siblings

    I received this book a few weeks after my third son was born and we just love it. It is a beautiful story that can be related to any family welcoming a new baby, but we especially liked that the family in the story includes older siblings. It can be a pretty confusing time when mom and dad are going to bring a new baby home and the toddlers are about to become siblings. This book helped us talk about the birth of the new baby while also showing how important a role the older siblings take in welcoming the new arrival. After reading the book, we talked about what we did in our family to prepare for our boys' new baby brother and they just loved that. The fact that it is a bilingual book is an added bonus -- why not learn some Spanish words while reading a book you love? Our boys enjoy mastering a new word, so this was fun. The illustrations are vibrant and colorful and engaging. This is a great book for parents or siblings-to-be and makes a great gift!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2009

    The BEST Bilingual Childrens Book

    My kids and I LOVE this book! It accurately captures the eager anticipation that all family members experience as they prepare for a new baby. The illustrations are beautiful. This is the best bilingual children's book I've read yet.

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  • Posted May 21, 2009

    Beautiful writing, gorgeous illustrations

    ... and I learned some spanish!

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  • Posted April 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Wonderful Gift

    "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor" by Samantha Vamos, is a warm and moving children's story, about the involvement of family anticipating the arrival of a child. It is an English-Spanish bilingual story vividly illustrated in luminous colors by Santiago Cohen. Words and pictures flow and embrace each other. As an example, in the passages depicting the salsa and the flamenco dances, the words sing and the pictures dance. And the colors glow. I bought a book for each of my children, one for my granddaughter, one each for two friends' grandchildren, and one for my upstairs neighbor expecting her second child. I speak no Spanish; there was no need. The Spanish words are so cleverly integrated within the text that their meaning is obvious in context. Nonetheless, the glossary at the end of the book was a happy discovery; it allowed me to re-read and hear the words in the warm and lush sounds of Spanish. Before "Before You Were Here. Mi Amor," I had been searching for a special gift to give to my wonderful expectant neighbor. Now I have given her something with meaning. Good children's stories open the world to them, others make them feel valued. This book does both.

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  • Posted April 22, 2009

    Soon to be a mami

    This book was given to me as a gift at the most opportune time in my life - a few months before the birth of my own (first) child. As I sat swaying in my rocker/recliner, though not homemade by papi but special nonetheless, like the mami of the book, I rubbed my belly as I wondered how my little one would change our lives - both me and my husband but also my very large, extended family - for the better and how much we would love him. I read it to him in my belly and was simply enchanted by its loveliness. It's a book I will cherish and read to him again and again, both inside and out of my barriguita. It makes a wonderful gift and how can anyone not fall in love with its colors, vibrancy and cultural flair?! In addition, as a multilingual mother wondering how I will teach my children some of the languages that I speak without them getting bored or resentful, I feel Before You Were Here, Mi Amor and I hope more and more books like it, even in other languages like French, Italian and Arabic (though I doubt the market is as large for those in the United States), is a superb and natural way to start incorporating another language into my child's life. Though not of a Spanish or Latino background myself, I believe the importance of learning other languages, and especially a language as essential as Spanish, is often overlooked but something I have made a priority in my life and something I want to pass on to my children. With this book, I can do that in a fun and exciting way and from very early on in their lives. In an ever-growing global, internationally-connected world like ours, this is the perfect book for all our children, and for us adults too!

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  • Posted April 22, 2009

    Our New Favorite Book!

    What a beautiful, eloquent book! "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor" has become my three-year old daughter's new favorite. She recently picked up a few Spanish words, but unfortunately, my husband and I don't speak Spanish and haven't been able to share the wonder of a new language with her as much as we would like. This book gives us the chance to learn together, repeating words, learning to pronounce them, and looking them up in the glossary. No wonder "Before You Were Here, Mi Amor" was recommended in this month's issue of Parents Magazine! This is the perfect book if you have children of your own or a special child in your life.

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  • Posted March 19, 2009

    Fabulous Bilingual Picture Book

    Great family book - we loved sharing this family story and the bright colorful illustrations. It's fun to reminisce and hear the story of the time when mom was expecting and all the preparations underway for the arrival of baby. It's a great baby gift! As a Spanish speaking mom, I love the chance to share Spanish words with my girls. It's the kind of book kids will want to read aloud over and over again.

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