cover image This Baby

This Baby

Kate Banks, illus. by Gabi Swiatkowska. FSG/Foster, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-37514-0

A girl's questions about the baby growing inside her mother fall naturally into poetry, whose hand-lettered lines curl and twine through Swiatkowska's haunting paintings. "This baby,/ twisting, dipping/ kicking Mama's ribs./ Will this baby like the cat?" asks the baby's older sister-to-be, a grave girl in pigtails and red tights. "Knit, Mama, knit./ What will it be?/ A girl or a boy?/ Soon we'll see." In a conversation like this, the mother usually supplies reassurance; here, she sits knitting silently, radiating steadiness and affection, and the daughter, with characteristic older sisterish maturity, reassures her mother: "Will I like this baby?/ Will this baby like me?/ Knit, Mama, knit./ And soon we'll see." Swiatkowska (A Not Scary Story About Big Scary Things) pivots easily between the real and the magical; the sister imagines the deliciously plump, saggy-diapered baby sailing in a boat across her mother's knitting, then walking a tightrope made of the mother's yarn across a starry sky. Banks (The Eraserheads) acknowledges the gravity of children's thoughts and the depth of their love; it's a quiet, idiosyncratic celebration of new life. Ages 4%E2%80%938. (July)