cover image If You Were Born a Kitten

If You Were Born a Kitten

Marion Dane Bauer. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80111-2

The phrase ""if you were a..."" introduces the way in which a variety of different animals enter the world in this gentle, spare text. ""If you were born a kitten, you'd slip into the world in a silvery sac, and your mother would lick, lick, lick you free."" Bauer cleverly conveys a plethora of facts, ranging from the birth of seahorses from their father's pouch to a bear cub who arrives ""naked into a wintry den."" The skin of a baby deer mouse is ""so thin that the milk in [its] tummy"" shows through and baby elephants suck their trunks. An oversized trim makes room for the equally compelling larger-than-life pastels. Stammen's (Bears Out There) close-up focus showcases every hair on a kitten, while maintaining the gentle edges of a soft focus photograph. Of course, the final pages tell baby's story: ""You rode curled beneath your mother's heart,... You floated in a salty sea, waiting and waiting. Waiting for us who were waiting for you."" The tone is lovingly maternal, soothing and perfect for bedtime. Ages 1-4. (Oct.)