cover image Boardwalk Babies

Boardwalk Babies

Marissa Moss, illus. by April Chu. Creston, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-939547-66-8

Moss (the Amelia’s Notebook series) surveys the use of premature infants as sideshow entertainment in this informative overview of pioneering pediatric history, which occurred on the Coney Island boardwalk from 1903 to 1943. To convince a highly skeptical medical establishment of incubators’ lifesaving value, neonatal technology advocate Martin Couney ran the Baby Incubator exhibit each summer. Staffed by medical professionals—including Couney’s wife and, later, daughter (born prematurely)—the exhibit saved 6,500 babies: “It didn’t matter what religion they were, the color of their skin, or how poor the parents were. Families weren’t charged anything... entrance fees paid for everything.” Chu’s (In a Village by the Sea) realistic illustrations in muted hues set a gentle tone, albeit one incongruous with colorful endpapers depicting other human boardwalk acts, whose cheerful portraits belie the topic’s ethical complexities. Despite the absence of historical context for sideshow entertainment, this narrative nonfiction account will prove absorbing. Ages 8–9. [em](Mar.) [/em]