When You Were Born


With poetic language and magnificent, deeply moving paintings, this beautiful book preserves the sense of awe inspired when a baby is born.

When you were born you came quietly,
and with eyes deep as an ocean you looked at me . . .

A new baby is born — and as family, friends, and neighbors gather to share the joy, they emerge changed. Their world is redefined as they take a moment to remember the past, imagine ...

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With poetic language and magnificent, deeply moving paintings, this beautiful book preserves the sense of awe inspired when a baby is born.

When you were born you came quietly,
and with eyes deep as an ocean you looked at me . . .

A new baby is born — and as family, friends, and neighbors gather to share the joy, they emerge changed. Their world is redefined as they take a moment to remember the past, imagine the future, and marvel at the tiny miracle before them. In poetry as soothing as a lullaby, Dianna Hutts Aston evokes the sense of reverence that surrounds a newborn like enfolding arms. And in radiant, Chagall-like paintings, unlike any he's published before, Coretta Scott King Award­winning artist E. B. Lewis captures a feeling of wonder that will resonate with anyone who has gazed into the eyes of a newborn child.

A mother describes the joyful time of her baby's birth and how it was celebrated by family and neighbors.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With breathtaking paintings and a lilting, poetic text, Aston and Lewis present a book that sparkles with the beauty and grace of the subject it celebrates a newborn child. Each stanza repeats the phrase, "When you were born," as the child's mother offers first her own impressions ("you came quietly,/ and with eyes deep as an ocean/ you looked at me") and then describes the reactions of others. Lewis's (Talkin' About Bessie) exquisite illustrations evoke a sense of movement and feeling, as if each onlooker were enveloping the baby in a blanket of love. Like the artists to whom (according to the book jacket) he wishes to pay homage, Lewis's figures echo the colors and shapes of Chagall, Matisse, Redon and Giotto without being derivative. The sophistication of the art may appeal more to parents, but younger children will respond to other elements: bright flowers burst upon the page, houses and trees hang in space, and the arms of rounded figures edged in medieval gold reach to the sky. Aston gradually widens the child's circle from family to community to the world. She grounds complex sentiments in particulars: the grandmother sits "among the pink snapdragons/ in the garden" singing "the lullaby she had sung to me," and the world "hum[s]/ its everyday tune/ of footsteps and voices,/ engines and bells,/ but here/ in our home,/ our souls/ sang with joy." The book incorporates several religious references ("I knew/ you were a gift/ from God," etc.), but these phrases do not draw attention to themselves. A reassuring and heart-warming reminder that each newborn is a rare gift to be treasured. Ages 3-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Looking for books to celebrate Kwanzaa, with its emphasis on seven spiritual and community-affirming principles? When You Were Born is a beautiful tribute to family and the miracle of new life—and a perfect example of umoja, the unity of family and community. Through an extended free verse poem, Dianna Hutts Aston describes the wonder felt by various family members when they first held the newest arrival. Daddy "stroked your satin skin and planted kisses on your downy head," the dog "sat there quiety, on guard" and the neighborhood children giggled and "whispered loudly, This is the cutest baby ever!" Particularly striking are E.B. Lewis's watercolor and marker illustrations, with vivid colors and fluid lines reminiscent of Marc Chagall's joyful art. A wonderful baby-welcoming gift! 2004, Candlewick, Ages 2 up.
—Mary Quattlebaum
Kirkus Reviews
Welcome-baby books make for joy when not squashed by gooey sentimentality, and this one works. While Aston's prose poem is occasionally lush, it's also beautiful as she ties the newborn to the circle of family: "When you were born / your grandmother . . . sang to you / the lullaby she had sung to me." "[Y]our uncle-my baby brother all grown up-took you in his hands . . . and he whispered, ‘A baby is so small!' " Daddy, grandfather, neighborhood mothers, and children, even the dog, greet the new child, filling the house with food and planting a magnolia tree that will grow with the baby. Lewis's illustrations pay homage to his favorite artists: Chagall, Matisse, Redon, and Giotto. Watercolor and marker with touches of gold make these wonderful paintings, each framed opposite a page of text. The line is nervous and vivid, the shapes fully formed geometry that seem to float in space, the colors strong but with dreamlike patterns and edges. Even the endpapers of blue with gold stars echo a cloak with which Giotto clothed the Madonna. Sure to have a huge audience. (Picture book. 4-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763614386
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 368,320
  • Age range: 3 months - 18 years
  • Product dimensions: 10.25 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Dianna Hutts Aston was born in Texas, attended the University of Houston, and worked as a journalist for several years. She is the author of several picture books for children, including LOONY LITTLE, illustrated by Kelly Murphy. Of WHEN YOU WERE BORN, she says, "When my own two children were born, I realized the love I had for them had no beginning and no end. The feeling was so profound, I knew I had to write about it."

E. B. Lewis is the illustrator of more than thirty books for children. Among his many honors are a Coretta Scott King Medal for TALKIN' ABOUT BESSIE: THE STORY OF AVIATOR ELIZABETH COLEMAN by Nikki Grimes and three Coretta Scott King Honor Books: MY ROWS AND PILE OF COINS by Tololwa M. Mollel, VIRGIE GOES TO SCHOOLS WITH US BOYS by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, and THE BAT BOY AND HIS VIOLIN by Gavin Curtis. He says of WHEN YOU WERE BORN, "I approached this work with a childlike reckless abandon, using watercolor and marker on existing paintings. The images were created out of a desire to capture the essence of the magnificent experience of welcoming a new child."

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