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Before You Were Born

Before You Were Born

4.0 2
by Jennifer Davis, Laura Cornell (Illustrator)

It's the mystery of mysteries-what's going on inside a pregnant woman's belly? That's what Jennifer Davis's older children wanted to know while she was expecting the younger. So to explain, she wrote BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, now with 102,000 copies in print, a joyful lift-the-flap book that tells the parallel story of mother and baby during the nine months of


It's the mystery of mysteries-what's going on inside a pregnant woman's belly? That's what Jennifer Davis's older children wanted to know while she was expecting the younger. So to explain, she wrote BEFORE YOU WERE BORN, now with 102,000 copies in print, a joyful lift-the-flap book that tells the parallel story of mother and baby during the nine months of pregnancy.

Illustrated with full-color whimsy by Laura Cornell, whose delightful work is familiar to readers of Jamie Lee Curtis's Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born and When I Was Little, BEFORE YOU WERE BORN is a month-by-month countdown written in rhyming verse.

Each page shows what's happening to the mother on the outside and then, under the flap, in the mother's belly to the baby on the inside. Children learn how Mommy is feeling and how the baby is developing, about hiccups, kicks, and umbilical cords, a first heartbeat, and the contractions that mark the beginning of labor.

For expectant mothers and curious little kids, and especially for kids with siblings on the way, it is an interactive storybook that delivers delight and information and reassurance, too.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Jeanne K. Pettenati
This lift-the-flap book describes the monthly progress of a mother's pregnancy with simple rhymes and amusing illustrations. The author explains what happens to a mother as a baby develops in her womb. The child-friendly text and pictures reveal biology on a very basic level. A child will learn when her skeleton began forming, when she started to smile and frown, and when she could suck her thumb in utero. Morning sickness, weight gain, and contractions are also discussed. This a great way to teach children about the way they were before birth and to teach older siblings about the changes that pregnancy brings.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2-A whimsical yet accurate look at many different aspects of prenatal development. Told from a pregnant woman's point of view, the lighthearted rhyming text begins, "Before you were born and with 9 months to go..." and counts down to delivery day. In the bottom left corner of each double-page spread is a thumbnail drawing of a baby along with an informational tidbit on a developmental milestone that each month brings. For example, readers learn that at seven months to go, "You were now starting to smile and frown." The facing page then focuses on one identifying event for that month such as hearing the baby's heartbeat, feeling the effects of the hiccups, or experiencing rapid weight gain. After focusing on the mother's perspective, a postcard-sized flap can be lifted to reveal the fetus, happily painting its growing nails or gleefully dancing, boom box in hand. Loose, jaunty, black-ink lines and splashy watercolors support the humorous tone of these anecdotal vignettes that are sure to garner laughs as the woman's belly grows out of proportion to her tall skinny face. Readers will enjoy the interactive nature of this energetic title.-Martha Topol, Traverse Area District Library, Traverse City, MI
Kirkus Reviews
Another look for the very young at what's going on (in loose terms) inside a mother's belly during the nine months of pregnancy. Every spread is devoted to one of the months. The left page is given over to a simple one-line countdown—e.g., "Before you were born and with 9 months to go " There is also a tiny illustration tucked into a corner of this page, accompanied by a kernel of hard information, such as when the baby grows hair and nails. The opposite page has an illustration of the mother, getting bigger and clumsier and experiencing the preborn's movements. A flap lifts to reveal the baby in its home, going through its changing paces; it's a neat gimmick, and the payoff is Cornell's artwork, lighthearted and comical, pretty much as far from a biology lesson as one can get (the baby is a congenial cartoon, often clothed or accessorized, who, but for its umbilical cord, could live inside or outside the womb). There is a gap between the clever design and premise, and the information given: Davis's mild rhyming text plays pregnancy mostly for laughs and reassurance; more intriguing are the factual snippets on the lefthand pages, which will have more than one listener merrily imagining the time he or she was the size of a flea, or, even better, curled up and the size of a toaster. (Picture book. 3-6)

Product Details

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.28(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.63(d)
Age Range:
2 - 6 Years

Read an Excerpt

(From the author's foreword) As a mother of four, I've found that my children are fascinated by hearing about how they grew inside me before they were born. I've told each child the story you'll find here many times, especially on his or her birthday.

When I was growing up, the particulars of pregnancy were kept mysterious, resulting in misunderstandings and unnecessary worries. I created a homemade version of "Before You Were Born" for my two older children when I was carrying my third child. The idea was to gently and humorously help my children understand how babies develop and let them know that the changes I was going through were commonplace.

Reading the book together provoked lots of questions and the children became more involved in the pregnancy. I have since used my now-battered copy to reminisce with them about their births and to bring to life the joy they brought me even before they were born. I hope you have fun celebrating and sharing the experience with your child.

Excerpted from Before You Were Born. Copyright (c) 1998. Reprinted with permisson by Workman Publishing.

Meet the Author

Laura Cornell has illustrated all of Jamie Lee Curtis’s bestselling books. She lives in New York City.

Jennifer Davis, a mother of four, wrote Before You Were Born to answer the questions her older kids asked while she was pregnant. She lives in Beaufort, South Carolina.

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Before You Were Born 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
My 2 1/2 year old big-sister-to-be loved it. We started reading it 6 weeks before the baby was due, not to overwhelm her thru my whole pregnancy. She asked for the book over and over. Before You Were Born gaily illustrates the symptoms of pregnancy: Dad excitedly telling the relatives, Mom getting green, the cat jumping when the baby kicks, the baby dancing while Mom tries to sleep, etc. It is written to show the older child that this happened with their birth. My daughter really bought into this. The ending phrase, 'we're a happier family because of you' made her feel special during this time of upheaval. Brava!