On Saturday, September 29, 2012, an audience of 50-75 attentive listeners, from young readers to older adults, were present on the second floor of Prairie Lights bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa to hear the first public reading of Room for the Baby by Michelle Edwards. The delightful story centers on a young family: Mom, Dad, and young son, who find that a new baby is to join their family. But where will the baby sleep? The sewing room is filled with scraps of cloth, thread, and other unwanted items that neighbors and friends have given the mom. They knew she would make good use of the unwanted items. But now the sewing room was needed for the baby. As the family waits from Passover to Hanukkah, the room slowly empties. Jana Christy's pastel drawings amplify the book's themes of recycle, reuse, reduce; a timeline of Jewish holidays; and love and friendship within a family and within the neighborhood.
Yetta lived on Mermaid Avenue because that is the avenue her own Grandmother Yetta lived on. The black and white sketches show a busy streetscape and a grandmother who saved scraps given her by her Brooklyn neighbors as they knew she would put them to good use.
When Edwards returned to the story, the location had moved to 18th Avenue, the scrap saver had become much younger and more modern, and so Room for the Baby emerged.
In the story the family moves through the year marked by Jewish holidays all the while mother takes the bits of fabric, bolts of flannel, and other stashes of cloth and makes diapers, and sleepers, and little shirts for the baby and for children of her neighbors. She unraveled mismatched mittens and used the yarn to create new warm ones with stripes. And when the neighbors came by for "free stuff" they transformed their found treasures into gifts for the baby. There was a soft animal made from the socks, a mobile created from the wooden spools, many knitted items, and a name collage created from the magazines.
At the end of the reading, Michelle answered questions, signed books (both new and old), and those who were in attendance enjoyed cake sent by Michelle Edwards' writing pals - The Tallgrass Writers.
A lovely day in celebration of a book that is sure to delight many readers - young and old.
Thanks to Flory Gessner for the photos from the reading. smc
McBookwords has a dozen or more authors that speak with young readers. If you would like to investigate having an author visit your school or library -- for an author appearance please contact us at McBookwords. Each of these authors often speak in schools with young readers, and at all types of groups that are interested in literacy and books.