Thursday, September 15, 2011

A book for mothers and daughters to share together

Baby shower presents can be tricky. The standard gift-basket items are nice and all, but how many 0-3mo onesies and hooded towels can one family ever hope to use? Branching out to books and movies has its own pitfalls, though. Most children will eventually get all the 'safe' classics like Disney movies and Curious George books. So, if you want to leave an impression, you'll need to reach farther, without hurting Grandma's sensibilities.

If you're heading to a baby shower for a soon-to-be-born little girl, one of the best picture books to be written in years fits perfectly. That would be Blueberry Girl, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Charles Vess.

A book that is essentially a mother's prayer for her child might step on a few toes. Gaiman neatly sidesteps this issue with the refrain “Lady of Darkness, Lady of Light and Lady of Never-You-Mind, This is a prayer for a Blueberry Girl.” Specifying that the 'prayer' goes out to the maiden-matron-crone archetype instead of letting the reader assume that it's directed to a god turns what would be an overtly religious book into an appeal to the spirits.

Beyond that, though, it's simply a recitation of what a mother would wish for her daughter. I'm sure that every mother wants to protect her daughter from “heartbreak and 16, bad husbands and 30,” but not many but Gaiman would put that as a verse in a children's book.

The verses could end up coming across as somewhat silly if it weren't for Charles Vess' amazing watercolor illustrations. Throughout the pages, the 'Blueberry Girl' changes in both age and race, making her an everygirl that anyone can relate to. Vess also masterfully keeps the magic of good storybook art throughout without crossing the line into true fantasy, keeping the book more-or-less grounded in reality.

This book is a wonderful present for both daughter and mother-to-be. It is inspirational to the mother when she's worried about what a child might bring, and most importantly, will help teach the girl to be bold, have adventures, and, most importantly, to trust in herself.

Highs: Gaiman's verse sums up a parents' wishes for their child perfectly

Lows: Sadly, not appropriate for a baby shower for a boy

Verdict: An amazing book for children of all ages

Further Reading: Instructions, Coraline

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