Pecan Pie Baby, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Sophie Blackall is a realistic look at what it can feel like to be expecting a new younger sibling. The girl in the book, Gia, lives alone with her single mother. She reacts with unabashed grouchiness whenever the topic arises of the "ding-dang baby". She worries that the baby will get in the way of her sleepover friend, and she bristles over the way everyone seems more interested in the new baby than her. But what she really worries about is the loss of her mother's undivided attention.
The baby is due to arrive "by the time the first snow is on the ground," and Gia makes "a silent wish for winter to come and go quickly without bringing any snow." Gia's mother, for the most part, accepts her reluctance, but she does point out to Gia that "this baby sure loves itself some pecan pie." And so mother and daughter (and unborn baby), eventually, bond over pie.
What I like about this book is that there's not really a warm and fuzzy happy ending. Gia does come to terms with the expected arrival of the baby, to a certain extent, but she still thinks of the time before the baby was even a possibility as "the good old days."I find this refreshing.
I also like that Pecan Pie Baby is up-front (without comment or judgement) about Gia living alone with her mother, with no father figure in sight. I'm not saying that all books should portray that situation, of course, but this is a reality for a lot of kids. It's nice to see it reflected in a book (and one by a well-known and respected author). Gia and her mother are black. Gia has uncles and aunties and cousins and friends of a variety of ethnicities. This, too, feels real, as does showing that although Gia and her mother live alone, they have family and community support around them.
Woodson's writing style is perfect for the feel of the story. Like this:
"Upstairs, I got that teary, choky feeling. And even though there were a whole lot of people in my house, I felt real, real,
Blackall's ink and watercolor illustrations match the tone of the book perfectly. Gia is beautiful, if not always cheerful, and her mother's belly grows realistically throughout the course of the book. I especially like a page that shows several of Gia's memories of "all the years it had been just me and Mama", happy little dream bubbles of simpler times. I'm not really a pecan pie person (all chocolate all the time for me), but Blackall makes the pie, and Gia's world, look warm and inviting.
Pecan Pie Baby is a must have for libraries, and is also highly recommended for any family expecting a second child. Even if the older sibling isn't going around talking overtly about "the ding-dang baby", Gia's struggles might bring some hidden feelings to light. I would think that this would be a good read-aloud in elementary school classrooms, too, because of the way that it reflects single parent households and larger mixed-ethnic families. Recommended!
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (@ThePenguinPeeps)
Publication Date: October 28, 2010
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Paula Chase Hyman
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