We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp, illustrations by Julie Flett.
Orca Books, 2016.
Board book, 26 pages.
This lyrical book is the story of a family – two parents, and the baby they sang home and love.
The book starts with a couple on a blanket in the forest, singing. Then they are joined by a tiny baby as they go about their day. Baby sleeps and snuggles and grows teeth and crawls and gardens with mom and even walks until eventually they are back in the forest singing with baby.
The text is a poem or a prayer written in the second person, which normally I dislike, but works perfectly for this book intended to be read from parent to child. There are two lines on the left page of every two-page spread except the final one, which ends with the final picture across from the copyright page.
The artwork is simply fabulous. Julie Flett is a master children’s book illustrator and while the illustrations might look simple from a distance, they are filled with nuance. The right hand page has the illustration and then the left hand page includes some small detail from the illustration or continuation from the illustration. For example, on the page where baby is sleeping, the continuation is a lamp hanging above the bed. On another page, a bird soars above the text and also is seen through the window.
There is a lot of texture in the illustrations. The shapes look like simple blocks but they are actually quite detailed. Even in cases where a stencil was probably used there is an effort to blur the lines and create interest. If you look closely at the cover image, even the baby’s jacket, which from afar looks simple, is made up of several layers, and the texture on it was hand drawn before being trimmed.
I could go on and on about how wonderful Julie Flett is and all the little details you will notice in her books with continued rereading, but you should go get the book and start discovering those for yourself.
Compared to most readers, I have a bit of a different perspective on this book. As soon as I saw the title and read about it on AICL, I knew this was one I’d buy. You see, especially when purchasing books about families, it’s sometimes difficult to find books that are adoption-friendly. Most baby books make references to baby growing in mom’s tummy or talk about “when you were born”. Books for biracial children or children of color are often more sensitive than the typical literature, but few books feature children and parents of multiple ethnicities.
The entire family in this book is indigenous, but the text and scenarios are appropriate for all families and will appeal to a wide range of readers. To my knowledge, this book is not intended to reference adoption, but the words unintentionally fit perfectly – the forever home, “thank you for choosing us”, and the singing home of the title.
This book has a master illustrator and a great author working together at the top of their game. Both are Native, but this book doesn’t just apply to #ownvoices readers or families looking to diversify their board book collections. It’s also simply a great book to give to any family, but particularly new parents. I’ve already asked that the library get this and plan to purchase several for gifts – it’s perfect for baby showers. I wish I could give every new baby this book.