Cinnamon Baby, written by Nicola Winstanley and illustrated by Janice Nadeau, is about a baker named Miriam. Every day, Miriam saves the cinnamon bread, her favorite, for last, singing songs while kneading the dough, and filling her bakery with the smell of cinnamon. Then Miriam marries Sebastian (after a courtship involving Sebastian buying bread every day for a year), and later gives birth to a baby. Unfortunately, however, the baby cries. And cries. And cries. The baby cries buckets and rivers of tears. Until Miriam figures out how to soothe her "cinnamon baby", that is.
This is an enjoyable book to read aloud, with multi-sensory passages like this:
"There she would make wonderful bread, full of smells to make your nose twitch and tastes to make your tongue tingle. She made a spicy bread, studded with little peppercorns and basil, and a sweet bread with ginger. She made a light, white loaf with dill, and a crusty brown one with sunflower seeds and honey."
I love "tastes to make your tongue tingle". They are words to make your tongue tingle, in fact.
Miriam and Sebastian are an interracial couple, as shown in the illustrations, but only mentioned in the text obliquely, in the description of the baby:
"The child had big brown eyes and dusky skin and smelled like sweet milk."
I like the casualness with which this is treated. And I love Nadeau's illustrations, rendered in watercolor, graphite pencil and paper collage, and assembled digitally. They have a collage look to them, with muted colors and ornate details in the background that somehow make the setting look European.
There's also a wonderful humor to the pictures. When the baby cries, tears rain from the stroller, such that passers-by need umbrellas, and things eventually float away. The illustrations are more over-the-top than the text would suggest, and I think that readers will get that they are conveying delightful hyperbole.
My only issue with this book is that it seems more aimed at parents than children. The protagonist is Miriam, not the baby. And parents will certainly be able to relate to the problem of a baby who won't stop crying (there's a wonderful montage of all the ways that Miriam tries to soothe the baby, from singing to juggling). I would be interested to see whether or not 4-8 year olds are interested in this problem of an endlessly crying baby, or captivated by the idea of the wonderful smells of the breads.
Still, Cinnamon Baby is a lovely picture book with gorgeous prose and unique illustrations. I think that I'll remember the smiling Miriam and her musician husband, and their cinnamon baby, for a long time.
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Publication Date: February 1, 2011
Source of Book: Library copy
Nominated for 2011 Cybils in Fiction Picture Books by: Vasilly
© 2011 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).