There are many beautiful picture books being released that offer affirmations to young children as they make their way into the world. These two focus on diverse cultures, offering hopes and wishes that will resonate.
When you open “I Sang You Down from the Stars” (2021, Little Brown and Company, written by Tasha Spillett-Sumner, illustrated by Michaela Goade, ages 2-7), you are greeted by luminous watercolor mixed-media paintings and swooshes of tiny bright white stars. A young
- Native mother speaks to her unborn child, saying “I loved you before I met you. Before I held you in my arms, I sang you down from the stars.”
The mother walks through the hills and fields, moon lighting the night. Her eyes follow a shooting star to an eagle plume. “The first gift in a bundle that will be yours,” she tells her child.
Seasons progress, summer to fall, and the mother adds cedar and sage to the bundle to keep their spirits strong. When winter comes, she sews the baby’s first star blanket. “With each stitch, I whispered a prayer for you and thought about wrapping you up warm and safe, just like you are now in my belly.”
Spring begins, and she adds a small stone by the river so the child will remember belonging to this place where their people travel the waterways. When the baby arrives, the mother finds stars in its eyes and honors the baby’s journey from the sky by passing along the gifts, a “sacred medicine bundle.”
Wrapping the child in the star blanket, pages follow as the mother goes through each item in the bundle, the fluffy plume reminding them there is beauty all around, the stone reminding “the Land carries stories, and so do you.” The flowing illustrations show eagles, leaves and native ceremonies with the bright-eyed baby.
The book ends with the thought that the baby itself is a sacred bundle. Notes from the Native author and illustrator round out this stunning book.
- “Dreams for a Daughter” (2021, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, ages 2-7) offers another mother’s wishes.
Brian Pinkney’s bold paint-and-ink illustrations show a Black mother peering into her young daughter’s eyes. “As I cradle you, look in your eyes, the ancestors peer back at me,” she says. The daughter’s gaze seems to respond, “I want to know everything,” so the mother answers, “I promise to show you all that I can.”
Each spread offers a new scene and wish for the growing child. As the daughter towers on her mother’s shoulders, Mother prays that “nothing and no one will ever break your spirit.”
The child zooms on a bike as Mother watches her confidence and courage soar. Mother kindles her daughter’s curiosity and “never-ending whys and hows,” and though Mother is wary as her daughter begins school, she knows new friends and challenges are in store. As her daughter learns to read, Mother tells her, “Books will carry you far as you author your own story.”
When her daughter becomes an adult, Mother wishes for her “to open closed doors and then pass through as if you were long overdue,” and to speak out, never make excuses for her ideas and speak truth. Even when Mother is no longer around, she wants her daughter to explore and “Cross borders and bridge boundaries.”
With the mother’s face beaming from a large yellow sun streaming down the page and encircling the child, the book ends, “I will be here, watching from afar, trusting God to keep Her eyes on you.”