cover image My Baby

My Baby

Jeanette Winter. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35103-8

Winter travels to Mali with aplomb in this picture book exploration of a traditional textile art. As a child, Nakunte learns from her mother how to create the patterned cloth called b g lan (""Her painting stick goes CLICK-CLICK in and out of the mud paint all day long"") worn for special occasions like weddings and funerals, and later, an adult Nakunte keeps the whole village supplied with the beautiful cloth she paints. With the arrival of her own baby imminent, Nakunte gets to work on a b g lan for the little one. Searching out the whitest cloth, she mixes up a mud ""black as a starless night"" and begins. ""Listen, my baby, do you hear the drums that call?"" Nakunte says as she paints a drum-shaped border for the cloth; Winter frames the image of Nakunte at work with the same repeating drum pattern. As Nakunte tells her unborn child about the wonders of the world around her, she incorporates elements of each into her cloth. From checks that mimic a leopard's spots to the herringbone pattern of a fish skeleton, the designs slowly fill the b g lan--just in time. ""Welcome--my baby!"" Winter sets up a sumptuous contrast between the stark black-and-white of the b g lan cloth and the color harmonies of the vivid African setting. And her fascination with artistry--expressed in books about subjects as diverse as Bach, Georgia O'Keeffe and Diego Rivera--expands in this poetic tale that draws an elegant parallel between artistic creation and procreation. Ages 3-6. (Mar.)