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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that love, loss, friendship, and grieving are all themes here, and the way these people, especially Larkin and Lalo, treat each other is a model for human relations. Children may also want to discuss the mother who abandons her baby, whether she did the right thing, and whether she deserves to have her back.
What's the story?
A family, living on a Nantucket-like island, grieving over the recent loss of an infant, has another infant left at their doorstep, with a note asking them to care for her until the mother can return. The family, a mother and father, grandmother named Byrd, daughter named Larkin, and boy next door named Lalo, are leery of allowing themselves to love this child, Sophie, whom they know they must one day lose too, but of course they do come to love her.
Is it any good?
Patricia MacLachlan is passed off by her publishers as a children's novelist, but she is really a poet, possibly one of our greatest. She writes books of stunning, haunting, aching beauty, of great gentleness and understanding and simplicity. She is an observer of the smallest details, and she uses them to devastating effect. She has that rarest of writing talents, the ability to make her readers cry when nothing sad is happening, simply with the power and beauty of her language and the loveliness of her images. MacLachlan can make her readers love her characters more than almost any other author, and when you read this book, you will love Sophie.
It is a shame that publishers don't often market a book on the children's and adult shelves simultaneously, for adults who don't read children's books really miss out on books like this. It is easy enough to read, and it is short, but only the most sensitive and intelligent children will love Baby. Children who need action and adventure will find it dull; children with a capacity for gentleness and kindness and empathy will be entranced, especially if it is shared in quiet, private moments with an adult whom they love. But even if you don't have a child in your life, or if your children are not the kind who will enjoy this book, don't miss it yourself.