Book Review: The Women Who Caught the Babies

Book: The Women Who Caught the Babies: A story of African American midwives

Author: Eloise Greenfield.

Artist: Daniel Minter.

Overview and format: This book contains a brief overview of the history of African American midwives followed by several poems about chronological periods in that history, the last of which is an autobiographical poem about the author herself.

Age range: (according to Amazon) 9-12 years. According to me: 9+ years.
The book is definitely accessible to children, and the artwork alone will draw them in. But I think many of the poems will hold even greater significance for adults.

Visual/reading ease: high, for the age range.
The typeface is large, making the book easy to read despite the fact that most of the text is italicized. And, because of the poem format, it’s easy to share the reading amongst people. I’ll get into the visuals in a second here.

Biggest pro: how beautiful the illustrations are (especially in the context of the text).
I have to say, the artwork is what moves me most in this book. The text does as well, but the text complements the artwork and contextualizes it (as opposed to the artwork describing the text). The way that the creators have portrayed such beauty in telling a story filled with so much pain emphasizes joy and resilience in a way that I deeply appreciate, and in a way that makes me pause and think each time I read the book.

Biggest con: it’s really short.
The whole book is only 32 pages long, which was much shorter than I was expecting even as I started reading it. There’s a lot to the story of African American midwives that has to be left out of such a short book. But I think its shortness would have bothered me less if I had known about it ahead of time (which, friend, is why I’m telling you!).

Fun factor: low.
There are joyful moments in this book, but I wouldn’t describe them as fun. They’re moments of honor and appreciation of beauty – the exclamation of a formerly enslaved father when his child is born into freedom, for example. But reading this book means engaging with the story of women who have welcomed babies “into the world for loving” in a context of so much hate and discrimination. You shouldn’t expect a fun factor. That said, the beauty factor is definitely there.

How much heart: SO much.
This book is heartwrenching and heartwarming. I really encourage you to read it and to share it with your loved ones, for the heart factor alone.

Re-readability: medium.
I think you have to sit with this book, to read it slowly, to marinate in it, especially if you A) love artwork or B) have not yet learned much about the rich history of African American midwives. So, if you fit into either of those categories, I definitely suggest reading it repeatedly but giving yourself some time between readings.

Buy it on Amazon (maybe even with my affiliate link here?), Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere!

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