Told from the point of view of a little boy, Room for the Baby (2012, Random House) by Michelle Edwards is the story of his crafty mama and the many ways community comes together to prepare for the coming of a new child. It all starts in Mama's sewing room with the announcement that an addition to the family is forthcoming. There are two problems, though, there is no room for the new baby in the family's small urban apartment nor do they have any of the necessary things that baby will need. Both are remedied by the transformation of the discarded sheets, towels, clothing, and mittens without mates that fill every corner of the sewing room.
Using Jewish holidays to mark the passing of time, Mama fills the year with knitting and sewing. Sheets become diapers, outgrown pajamas become baby clothes, unraveled sweaters become diaper soakers, and a steamer trunk is refashioned into a crib. Along the way, all the neighbors donate used items as Mama's raw material and in return they receive handmade items for their own families. When baby Lily finally makes her appearance, she is greeted by family and neighbors, all bearing gifts made with repurposed items and loving hands.
This is a very sweet story and there is much to admire about it. It celebrates community over consumerism, giving over receiving, it encourages creative problem solving, and it demonstrates the ways that eco-friendliness and simplicity can go hand-in-hand with beauty. As a non-Jewish reader, I loved the reference to the Jewish holidays and predict that they will provide a point-of-entry for discussion of these celebrations when my son is old enough to ask about them. The illustrations are bright and colorful and match perfectly the patchwork theme of the story. This is a great little book and would be perfect to help prepare an older child for the coming of a younger sibling.
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My review copy was provided courtesy of Random House.