Where Could My Baby Be

3 April 2024

Where Could My Baby Be?
by Ashley Vercammen, Illustrated by P Aplinder Kaur
Published by Home Style Teachers
Review by Shelley A. Leedahl
$20.00 ISBN 9781778152962

Of the several books I’ve read by Saskatoon writer, publisher and teacher, Ashley Vercammen, Where Could My Baby Be? is among the best. Vercammen’s selected motherhood—in its myriad incarnations—as the subject of a children’s book, and she’s done so with both a generous and a gentle eye.

The illustrated softcover opens with the suggestion that the book “is perfect for sparking conversations about motherhood with your little one,” and I agree. I’ve been reading and reviewing children’s books for decades, and this is the first I’ve read that presents such a wide lens re: mothering, and how “there are a lot of ways to do it!”. P Aplinder Kaur’s initial illustrations show a woman breastfeeding (age-appropriate depiction for young readers); a woman changing the diaper of an active baby; an expectant mother having an ultrasound; and an anguished-looking doctor giving a seated woman—face in hands, supportive partner standing behind with his hands on her shoulders—the news she does not want.

This introductory page pulls no punches: “Being a mom is hard work!” In the following pages we’re introduced to a variety of women, some visibly pregnant, like red-dressed Verda, who is “so excited to be pregnant,” and some not, like mauve-clothed Muriel, who’s attending her surrogate’s ultrasound appointment. Muriel explains surrogacy in child-speak: “That means the doctors help my baby grow inside a different person”.

Adoption’s addressed from the perspective of both an adoptive parent, Laural (“I found my baby all the way across the world!”) and from a woman who gives her child up for adoption because—as the illustrations suggest—studies and low finances would make parenting too difficult.

We also meet Gabriella, a stepmom who moved into that role “when [her] babies weren’t really babies anymore,” and whose “kids live with … their biological mom sometimes”. There’s also a foster mom, and here the text and illustration work especially well together. The foster mom says: “Sometimes I see my babies again, and sometimes I don’t. We draw a picture together to make saying goodbye a little easier”. The block of text is superimposed over a living room setting, where the foster mom’s looking through an album of painted handprints. This scene has personal meaning for this reviewer; my parents fostered twenty-five children while I was growing up, and mostly, we never saw them again.

I’m guessing that most mothers and would-be mothers should be able to relate to this book. There’s a grandmother included, too, and Melody, a dog mom. “I have some similar responsibilities to a mom,” she says, but her baby’s kisses “are a little wet”.

As with other of Vercammen’s books, she leaves space at the end for children and parents to include their own writing and art. Here two pages are dedicated to anyone who wants to “Write a letter to [their] child about how [they] became their mom,” and another two blank pages to “Draw a picture with your child of things that make you both happy”. Delightful!

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

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