Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 4 to 7
- Grade: k to 3
Perfect for Mother’s Day or a baby shower gift, a celebration of a family’s anticipation of a new baby
“Before…You were a song in our hearts, a star in our eyes.”
Told from the perspective of new parents welcoming their baby to the world, this touching love letter to young children by Governor General’s Literary Award–nominated author Deborah Kerbel describes with lyrical grace all of the promise held by new life. As the seasons change from fall through winter and into spring, the expectant parents’ anticipation over the baby’s arrival is mirrored in the animals around the family’s seaside home, marrying the natural world to the family’s experience.
Suzanne Del Rizzo, author-illustrator of My Beautiful Birds — a New York Times Notable Children’s Books selection and winner of the 2018 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award — adds an intricately tactile element with her lush illustrations rendered in polymer clay and acrylic wash, depicting the animals in scenes at times playful and other times serene.
About the authors
Deborah Kerbel is the author of several picture books, including Before You Were Born, When Molly Drew Dogs, and the award-winning Sun Dog, as well as novels for middle grade and young adult readers. Born in London, England, she moved to Canada at the age of two and went on to attend the University of Western Ontario. Her novels have been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Canadian Library Association YA Book of the Year, and the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award. Deborah lives in Thornhill, Ontario, with her husband, two book-loving children, and a schnoodle named Alfredo.
Suzanne Del Rizzo has always loved getting her hands messy. She traded her job in scientific research for a career in children’s illustration with her first picture book, Skink on the Brink, which won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and was a finalist for the Rainforest of Reading Award. Suzanne’s dimensional illustrations use Plasticine, polymer clay, and other mixed media to bring rich texture and imagination to her books. In 2015, looking for resources to explain the Syrian Civil War to her own children, Suzanne came across an article of a boy who took solace in a connection with wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp. Struck by the universality of a child’s relationship to animals, she began writing My Beautiful Birds. Her distinctive illustrations also grace Sun Dog, a winner of the IODE Jean Throop Book Award, and Before You Were Born, an acclaimed and touching celebration of new life. Suzanne lives in Oakville, Ontario.
- Commended, School Library Journal “It’s Toddler Time | 35 New Titles To Recharge Lapsit and Storytime Programs” roundup selection
- Winner, Northern Lights Book Award: Best Illustrator
Praise for Before You Were Born
2019 Northern Lights Book Award: Best Illustrator Winner
2019 School Library Journal “It’s Toddler Time | 35 New Titles To Recharge Lapsit and Storytime Programs” roundup selection
"Kerbel's lullabylike verses draw allusions between moments in nature and a family's anticipation of a new baby...Del Rizzo brings eye-catching allure to Kerbel's wistful welcome."—Publishers Weekly
"A gorgeous, captivating, and moving story, this book will touch the hearts and mesmerize the eyes of readers both young and old. VERDICT New parents will love reading this book as they prepare for and welcome new additions to their home. Additionally, art students will relish the complexity and unique nature of the presentation."—School Library Journal
"[D]istinctive...The depth and intricate detail of the pictures invite a second look, especially when watching the seasons change from fall to winter to summer...A sweet addition to the genre."—Booklist
"[T]he metaphors will surely strike a chord...And the ending is both beautifully illustrated and poignant....Del Rizzo's polymer clay–and–acrylic wash artwork is the star here, adding texture and depth to the scenes, which show animals, many with babies, in their natural habitats."—Kirkus Reviews
"A unique and charmingly presented picture book story for children ages 4-7, Before You Were Born will prove to be an enduringly popular and appreciated addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collections."—Midwest Book Review
"Del Rizzo's polymer clay and acrylic paint illustrations look beautiful and realistic on the double page spreads throughout the book. The ground, the skies, the shadows, and the closeups of the animals on the land and in the sea are mesmerizing in their attention to detail....This would make a fantastic baby shower gift or a good choice to read to a child to remind them about how much they are loved."—Resource Links
"This breathtaking weave of prose and stunning artwork pulls at the heartstrings from start to finish....Suzanne Del Rizzo illustrates each animal with immaculate detail and grace....Overall, an expectant couple will relate to the many feelings of anticipation and love as they read the velvety prose and feast upon the artwork....Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine
“Kerbel’s poetic text is lyrical and rhythmic, at times lifting us up and carrying us along with its joy and grace, and then settling us down in quiet reflection and love. Del Rizzo’s gorgeous illustrations…perfectly embody the tone of the text and double-page spreads embrace us with beauty, texture and depth.”—Canadian Children’s Book News
“We rated this book: [5/5] Before You Were Born is the sweetest book I have ever read....A beautiful, lovely, gorgeous, elaborate tale of the life of nature, the glory of seasons, and the beauty of human beings."—Alexandria, Age 7, Kids' BookBuzz
"Books are wildly popular baby shower gifts and Before You Were Born will be a hit with parents and children alike so consider it your future go-to book for celebrating an upcoming birth."—CanLit for LittleCanadians
"Absolutely breathtaking, stunning, gorgeous, and brought tears to my eyes....Once you see the descriptive language with the beautiful illustrations, you will be hooked and understand why I think this book is the most beautiful thing I have seen."—Mrs. Book Dragon
"This is a beautiful book for new parents, that will make an excellent baby shower gift for first and second time parents. It will be a gift to treasure for years to come."—Working Mommy Journal
"A poetic, poignant, and harmonious ode to new life and family...Deborah Kerbel's lyrical text reads as so very sweet and sincere while still feeling soft, gentle, and controlled...in other words, just right. The rhyming and appealingly melodic text reads effortlessly and allows Before You Were Born to work as a read aloud, gentle nighttime story, or as a lullaby."—Fab Book Reviews
"In this welcome lullaby for a new baby, Ms. Kerbel links nature with the patience needed for parents anticipating its arrival....The artwork is created in polymer clay, acrylic paint, and other media with the same skill that Ms. Del Rizzo has shown in her previous works. They are exceptional in color, texture and design."—Sal's Fiction Addiction
"This lovely book is a perfect gift for a new mother or father, and a perfect bedtime read for a little one, sending them to sleep with lovely images and the comfort of knowing how much they are loved....The lyricism of Kerbel's words is beautiful, each phrase of anticipation leading you on to the next page. It just flows and the words are full of love....Del Rizzo's 3D illustrations using polymer clay bring everything to life."—Canadian Bookworm