Waiting for a baby to be born is more agonizing than waiting for Christmas, as any sibling-to-be knows. When young Iris asks about the impending arrival of her cousin, grownups give her a variety of frustrating answers.
Her father tells her soon, but not too soon, and not too long. Her grandfather advises her to be on the lookout for a giant stork. Grandma tells Iris that she must wait for the right moment in the cabbage patch. Iris' friend tells her that her aunt's belly will first grow as big as a pumpkin, and that her aunt needs to eat 1,000 ice cream sundaes with pickles on top.
Despite these typical but confusing words of wisdom, Iris waits patiently, looking forward to teaching her cousin to make snow angels, to wish on dandelions and to learn how to swim. Finally, of course, Cousin Gregory does arrive.
National Book Award Winner Kimberly Willis Holt has written a sweet text filled with humor, anticipation and love, perfect for any child waiting for a baby. Greatly adding to the pleasure of the story are the exceptional illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska. In an era when minimalist, almost childlike drawings seem to be the standard, here is a book filled with exquisite paintings and detail reminiscent of the great masters. Swiatkowska has drawings on every page that could have come from Da Vinci's invention sketchbooks. In her intricate illustrations we see a helmeted stork arriving on an elaborate pulley and a ladder reaching to the heavens.
Iris finally decides that Waiting for a baby is like waiting for a show to begin. The characters here all wear old-fashioned, costume-like clothes, as though they might be getting ready for a play or circus. Indeed, Waiting for Gregory is a lovely show guaranteed to enthrall young readers.
Alice Cary is a writer in Groton, Massachusetts.