Phillis Gershator







About me




This Is the Day!

illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Houghton Mifflin, 2007

* * * * *

From the book jacket:

Do you want a baby?
Step right up!
Pick one out!

They’re waiting for you to
kiss their toes,
sing lullabies,
and rock them to sleep.

All you have to do is make room
on your bike, or your ship, or your hot air balloon!

Sing along, because this is the day we give babies away—
tra la and fiddle de dee.

A little about the book:
   I first heard “This is the day we give babies away” in the 1960’s, and given its catchy tune and unusual lyrics, the song stuck with me for all these years. After expanding it into a tale of happy adoptions, I learned more about the song’s origins, thanks to Mark D. Moss of Sing Out! and Joe “The Songfinder” Hickerson.
    Since the beginning of the 1900’s, and possibly before, “This is the day” was sung in various parts of the U.S.
The original verse goes like this:
This is the day we give babies away
with a half a pound of tea.
If you know any ladies who want any babies
just send them around to me.
It may have originally come to these shores from England. Sung by folks in the Ozarks, westerners, and soldiers during World War II, it was recorded first by singer Rosalie Sorrels in “Rosalie’s Songbag” and then in a 1990 release “Be Careful There’s A Baby in the House.” In “Be Careful” Rosalie Sorrels sings her own humorous version written with Olive Wooly Burt titled “The Baby Tree.”
     When I saw Marjorie Priceman’s artwork for This Is the Day! I was estatic. She’s brilliant (artistically, of course, and now we know she’s brilliant mathematically, too!). And, oh my, those babies are so cute, I wish I could be the lady in the jacket illustration.
     You can hear Yonah sing This Is the day! --and sing along with her on this song, and many other songs, too, on our CD, "This Is the Day! Storysongs and Singalongs."

From the reviews:

"Counting, adding, and the days of the week are introduced in this quirky traditional song about babies and adoption.... The mildly nonsensical rhyming text curls around the swirling illustrations as ladies of various races (some seemingly single and some not) visit a Bemelmans-inspired home for infants and adopt consecutively growing numbers of babies. When the final prospective mother declares, “Seven is heaven,” the ladies relax in a circle, lovingly playing with all of their tots. Priceman’s dreamlike watercolors are a joy to behold, and Gershator’s adaptation of the song retains a buoyant musical quality. While adoption itself receives a relatively light treatment here—each set of babies is accompanied by a whimsical gift such as milk and cookies or a bear and a honeybee—young listeners will come away with the idea that each child is very much wanted and all of the new families are filled with warmth and love." Kirkus

"Gershator’s cheery adaptation of a traditional song from the 1900s is perfectly complemented by Priceman’s breezy watercolor illustrations. A multitude of babies clad in hooded pink or blue pj’s and tended by loving caretakers is waiting to be taken home.... Two splashy spreads illustrate each verse, first by introducing the day of the week and then concluding with the mother departing with her adopted young. The text swoops through the idyllic indoor and outdoor scenes to create a lyrical, joyous, and somewhat silly mood. The characters represent a variety of races and nationalities, and blended families are the norm. Sharp-eyed readers will observe that the picture for each day includes an animal that has the same number of offspring as those taken by the human mother. This pleasant romp is a natural for baby sing-along programs (sheet music is included), one-on-one sharing, and lullaby time." School Library Journal

"Adapted from a folk song called “This Is the Day We Give Babies Away,” Gershator’s latest picture book describes how 28 babies at an orphanage find homes with adoring mommies. The fanciful verses roll along, moving through days of the week and numbers, with the first eager parent choosing a single baby on Monday and the final, Sunday visitor whisking away no fewer than seven. The poem’s glib first line (“Monday’s the day we give babies away with a half a pound of tea”) is a bit jarring, but even very young children will quickly grasp its fanciful, nursery-rhyme spirit, especially in light of Caldecott Honor Book artist Priceman’s effervescent paintings--which show mixed-race families throughout and house the infants in a Madeline-style mansion teeming with starched servants. Babies small enough to be dandled to the verses’ lilting rhythms will particularly enjoy this reassuring confection, although it’s odd that the text almost exclusively focuses on moms. Gershator includes a brief note but, infortunately, doesn’t include the song’s original lyrics." Booklist

And a note from Phillis:

I've included the entire Booklist review here. Thanks to internet magic, I have the luxury of responding!

The reviewer is right. I'd use as my excuse the idea that familiarity breeds forgetfulness, and it does seem I forgot to include the original four lines of the song in my note at the back of the book. So here they are:

This is the day we give babies away
with a half a pound of tea.
If you know any ladies who want any babies
just send them around to me.

Art by Marjorie Priceman