Title: This is Our Baby Born Today
Author: Varsha Bajaj
Illustrator: Eliza Wheeler
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Audience: 3 – 5 years
Summary: A small grey elephant is born and a host of family members and even the earth, moon and stars share in the joyful welcome of this baby.
Literary elements at work in the story: The free verses that tell of a young elephant’s welcome into the world follow a similar pattern: someone or thing is named and described, then an action is performed on behalf of “…the baby born today”. (“This is the Herd, united and strong, who trumpet the Baby born today.”) Each verse is accompanied by a two page spread rendered in shades of yellow, teal, green, orange and brown. The first pages show the sun rising and the last pages show the sun setting with the mother and baby asleep and through these lush images, the reader has experienced the baby’s first full day in the world. The illustrations are really beautiful and contribute to the feeling of joy that is exuded by family, friends and nature towards this charming new baby. (In a good picture book, words and images have to work together. The illustrator has shared her experience of trying to get the colors exactly right in this book and it makes for fascinating reading if you’re interested in the experience of creating a book from the illustrator’s viewpoint.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The relationships that have a gender identification are all female. There are other relationships (friends, cousins, the earth) that have no gender identity. One grandparent I know says that while she loved the book, she chose not to give this book to a grandchild because there is no named male relationships present and her son was very present in his son’s life. (It is important to note, however, that elephants live in matriarchal societies and the core herds consists of mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts. Males leave a herd around adolescence. So the absence of a male in the book reflects the society in which this baby elephant would be born and could certainly open up a conversation about how many different kinds of families we know.) There is no question, however, that the joy of welcoming a child is universal. The author was born and raised in India and the end notes share her concern about the demise of the Asian and African elephants and illustrations are designed to reflect the colors of the Indian jungle in which these elephants are born.
Theological Conversation Partners: In baptism, we are welcomed into God’s family by a community. As members of the family of faith, our community includes not just family members – cousins, aunts, parents – but also friends, the neighbors, even the earth itself. Scripture is filled with descriptions of this community grounded in God’s love that that provides different gifts for growth in faith.(Ephesians 2:19-22, Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12). Conversation around who is a part of our faith family and how babies and children are welcomed might be appropriate for younger children. Older children will be able to consider the idea that the earth itself is an essential part of God’s created order and supports life. The Psalms are full of this understanding that God’s created world and created beings are intertwined. (Psalm 8, Psalm 24, Psalm 104) The author’s concern regarding the endangered African and Asian elephants also points to a concern about the world God has given us. The celebration of new life in community is front and center here and this story offers a way to see God’s creation as part of our supportive ‘community’ as well.
Faith Talk Questions:
- What is your favorite thing that is done for the baby born today in this book and why?
- If your church baptizes children, do members of the community make promises about doing things for the child? What kinds of things do they promise to do? Why do you think those promsies are important? (Leaders or parents may need to share something about the baptismal liturgy here if appropriate.)
- What is something you might do to welcome a new baby in your community? Try to write a verse similar to one in this story about how you might welcome a baby in your church community?
- Why do you think the author included the banyon tree, the moon and the sun and other elements of nature in welcoming this baby?
- The author shares some information at the end of the book about her concern about the endangered African and Asian elephants. How can you and your family care for God’s world?
This review is written by alumna Ann Thomas Knox who directs the Instructional Resource Center at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, VA.
This is Our Baby Born Today by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.