Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan

A couple of nights ago, feeling nostalgic, Hubs & I cracked out a few old photos and videos of Sprout when he first joined our family. It was fun for us, and for Sprout, to marvel over how small he was, how adorably squishy and cute, with his mop of curls and big eyes. We told Sprout story after story about his first days home: when he ate ice cream (and cried inconsolably at the cold); the way he used to stand in front of the oven and watch food cooking (Hubs called it "food tv"); the obsession with trains that meant we had track spread all over the living room. It seems like yesterday to us, of course, but to Sprout it's almost unthinkable that he was ever that small, and he loves to hear about himself at that age.

Tonight's title puts me in mind of that fascination that Sprout, like most kiddos I've known, has with hearing about himself as a baby. Patricia MacLachlan's You Were the First is a wonderful look back at a young child's early days, as told from the perspective of his doting parents. "You were the first to sleep in the basket with the yellow ribbon wound round," the book begins, opposite a picture of Mom and Dad (and puppy) gazing down at their newborn. On it goes, through early experiences like laughing at the dog, to milestones like learning to crawl, to reveling in the thrill of snow with Dad. On each page, there are tender family moments, and at the end, a reassurance: "One day there may be a second -- or a third -- to sleep in the basket with the yellow ribbon wound round. / But you will always be the first."

You Were the First is a beautiful book, gentle and sweet, written by a skilled author who knows what children enjoy. If you haven't read a Patricia MacLachlan title, you're missing out -- there are so many that we love, I'm hard-pressed to name them all . And this is a very worthy addition to her canon of modern classics, which is really what she writes, after all. While goofy and trendy titles capture attention, and are great for what they are, it is quiet books like this that parents can share with their children when it matters, when they need bolstering from the world around them. (And it could easily work for adoptive families, as there's no mention of pregnancy or birth, just an opening scene of the darling boy in his bassinet.)

MacLachlan's words are elegantly set off by Stephanie Graegin's illustrations. Graegin hasn't garnered as much attention as I feel she deserves, but she's one to seek out. Her finely articulated illustrations truly match the mood conjured by MacLachlan's prose. There are also lots of small touches that kiddos will enjoy - the presence of the baby's stuffed elephant, popping up here and there, the beaming puppy who is clearly besotted with his boy, and the cozy domesticity that's present in every image of the little family. Even the endpapers are adorable, small jewels of images that trace a baby's early months and days. 

It's worth noting that this is a transracial family, Asian American and white, which for me is a huge bonus. It's always nice to find a title like this that reads so easily and soothingly -- and diversity too? Almost too good to be true. Jump at the chance to read You Were the First to your little ones, whether they are onlies like Sprout, or the first (or tenth) of several. Because it's the kind of inclusive, peerless book we need more of for our children, and for ourselves as well.

You Were the First by Patricia MacLachlan, published by Little, Brown
Ages 2-6
Source: Library
Highly recommended

1 comment:

PragmaticMom said...

I thought this was such a sweet book too! So perfect for my oldest who sometimes feels like she gets the shaft for having to be most responsible!