Great Illustrated Books

Granite Baby

By Lynne Bertrand, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), 2005
Pages : 40
Suggested Ages: 5-9
ISBN: 0374327610

Five giant sisters from the Granite State of New Hampshire each have a special talent: Jade can twist a river in her hands, Em whittles wood, Golda is handy with string, Ruby is as strong as a bear, and Beryl is the finest stonecutter. After Beryl carves a whole new town out of a mountain, she takes a bit of pink granite and carves a real live baby. The sisters name him Lil Fella, and he fits on the end of Beryl's finger. They all love him right away, but within a minute, it becomes clear that they have no experience with babies. "From afternoon till midnight, and midnight till dawn, Lil Fella cried, wailed, screamed, and hollered till you could actually see his yellin' in the crisp New Hampshire air." Folks across the river in Vermont call out, "Why don't you do something for that poor little baby" but the sisters don't know how to get Lil Fella to stop his infernal hollering. It takes a backwoods little girl named Nellie, herself a sister to two dozen or so siblings, to give those sisters some useful advice. "Pardon me. But I wonder if maybe that baby's cryin' because he's cold," Nellie calls. "Well," says Beryl, "I'll warm him up." She carves him a fine set of clothes out of granite, heavier than a ship's anchor, but that doesn't help a bit. The sisters listen to each of Nellie's practical suggestions, but none of their outsized solutions are what you'd call practical. It's not till Nellie shows them firsthand how to care for a baby that they understand what they should be doing.

Hawkes' larger than life, double-page, full bleed acrylic paintings are grand in the tall tale tradition. Readers and listeners will go wild over that teeny tiny baby confounding those gargantuan girls. The story is so comical in its exaggerations, but there's such a sweetness and tenderness about it, too. Meet other larger than life females in Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Crockett by Steven Kellogg, and Doña Flor by Pat Mora.

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If you love this book, then try:

Andersen, Hans Christian. Thumbelina. Retold and illus. by Lauren Mills. Little, Brown, 2005.

Dadey, Debbie. Shooting Star: Annie Oakley, the Legend. Walker, 1997.

DePaola, Tomie. Tomie dePaola's Front Porch Tales & North Country Whoppers. Putnam, 2007.

Gerstein, Mordicai. Carolinda Clatter. Roaring Brook, 2005.

Isaacs, Anne. Pancakes for Supper. Scholastic, 2006.

Isaacs, Anne. Swamp Angel. Dutton, 1994.

Kellogg, Steven. Sally Ann Thunder Ann Crockett. Morrow, 1995.

Mayer, Marianna. The Adventures of Tom Thumb. SeaStar, 2001.

Melmed, Laura Krauss. Little Oh. Lothrop, 1997.

Melmed, Laura Krauss. The Rainbabies. Lothrop, 1992.

Mora, Pat. Do�a Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Knopf, 2005.

Osborne, Mary Pope. American Tall Tales. Knopf, 1991.

Pinkney, Andrea Davis. Peggony Po: A Whale of a Tale. Hyperion, 2006.

San Souci, Robert D. Larger Than Life: The Adventures of American Legendary Heroes. Doubleday, 1991.

Schanzer, Rosalyn. Davy Crockett Saves the World. HarperCollins, 2001.

Walker, Paul Robert. Big Men, Big Country: A Collection of American Tall Tales. Harcourt, 1993.

Wood, Audrey. The Bunyans. Scholastic, 1996.

Critics have said

The story is well told, the setting is clearly described, and the vocabulary has a down-home flavor that adds to its comforting tone. Hawkes's brightly colored acrylic paintings are filled with interesting details, his landscape is decidedly New England, and his characters' emotions are plainly visible in their facial expressions and trademark big eyes. This rock-solid tall tale will quickly become a favorite.
School Library Journal