Books that bolster children’s self-esteem are in hot demand, and the environmental ”green” theme is enjoying runaway success. Now, in one original stroke, Minneapolis artist Debra Frasier has melded the two concerns in On the Day You Were Born (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, $12.95, all ages), a picture book that will make each child feel linked to planet Earth in a thrillingly personal way.
”On the day you were born/the round planet Earth/turned toward your morning sky,/whirling past darkness,/spinning the night into light,” Frasier writes.
Unlike many books that address children directly, On the Day You Were Born doesn’t stress parental love. Rather, it puts each child right into the center of creation. Instead of a rapturous family welcoming the new baby, it’s the animals who pass ”word of your coming”; the moon that promises to bring a full, bright face to the window each month; and the ocean waves that wash the sands clean to welcome the newborn’s fresh footprints on earth.
The idea of a child being greeted with excited anticipation by the entire universe may seem uncomfortably egocentric at first, but as Frasier elaborates her theme of connectedness, you begin to appreciate the wisdom of encouraging children to see the world as a wonderful gift to each one of them.
Adults, too, may be struck anew by the awesome forces that make human life possible. In the simplest language, Frasier invokes the pull of gravity that ensures ”you will never float away,” the sun’s towering flames, the cycle of rainfall, and the way ”a forest of tall trees/collected the Sun’s light/in their leaves,/where, in silent mystery,/they made oxygen for you to breathe …”
Frasier’s Matisse-like paper cutouts in brilliant primary colors recall the voluptuous sinuousness of cave paintings. Her animals flow and swirl across the pages in migrating herds, the light of the North Star showers down over the planet like shards of glittering ice, and her small child-figures, in every human color, prance and spring across her earthscapes with elemental glee.
On the Day You Were Born is elegantly produced, with semiabstract motifs running in vivid banners down the sides of the text pages. And in a five-page appendix, under headings that refer back to the text (”Flaming Sun,” ”Spinning Earth”), Frasier provides brief, tantalizing summaries of scientific information that read as freshly as poetry.
Frasier’s book is sure to find a special niche in the hearts of many readers, if only because its celebration of life is so infectious. Reading this picture book aloud to a child, even the most jaded among us may feel again the sheer miracle of our human existence. A+