Book: Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale
Author: Karen Henry Clark
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Age Range: 4 to 8
Sweet Moon Baby is a fanciful, fairytale-like story of adoption. One night, in China, a perfect baby girl is born. Her loving parents don't have enough food for her, and want more for her than they can give her. So they put her in a basket, and she floats away in a river, under the watchful eye of the moon. Various animals help her along her way, as she sleeps, safe.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a husband and wife hope for a daughter. While they wait for their daughter, they make a garden for her, and plant fruit trees for her to climb, and buy her books. And eventually, they follow the path of the moon, and find the little moon baby in her basket, and take her home.
I can't even read this book, can't even describe it here, without tearing up a little bit. A happy kind of crying, of course. For me, the emotional connection lies in the details. The parents in China say: "She should have pretty things" and "She should learn to read." Much later in the book, the parents in the US say: "Perhaps she will like pretty things" and "Perhaps she will like books". Both sets of parents are "happy and sad at the same time." The girl does grow up with a love of books and pretty things, but she still dreams of China. It's beautiful. I know it's an incredibly idealized view of adoption, but what a nice view to share with a child who has been adopted.
Karen Henry Clark's text is quiet and dream-like. Sweet Moon Baby reads like lullaby. Like this:
"The river grew shallow. She was caught in the mud. A turtle saw her in the moonlight and carried her to deeper water."
Still, she slept."
"They chased a shooting star across the midnight sky. She was not there. They followed the next one as it flashed beside the moon.
She was not there either.
They searched the moonlit flower beds. She was not with the ferns or roses. She was not in the daisies."
Really, the only complaint I have about the text is that it's hard to read Sweet Moon Baby aloud, because of the whole teary-eyed thing. But that's a good problem to have!
Patrice Barton's illustrations mesh perfectly with the story. They consist of pencil sketches, scanned in and edited digitally with Corel Painter software. The smiling, pink-cheeked baby in her basket, wrapped in a red blanket, is lovely. You can't look at her without wanting to pick her up. The animals that help the baby are friendly, as is the face in the moon. All of the pictures have a soft focus to them, adding to the dream-like quality of the book. The color tones throughout convey moonlight.
Sweet Moon Baby is a keeper. Lovingly written by the mother of an adopted daughter from China, I think that this story will be appreciated by parents everywhere (whether of adopted children or not). Because what Sweet Moon Baby celebrates is not so much adoption, but the depth of love that parents have for their children. I think that children will find that message reassuring, too. Highly recommended!
Publisher: Knopf (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: November 2010
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.