Book Review: On the Night you were Born by Nancy Tillman

Title: On the Night you were Born

Author: Nancy Tillman

Feiwel & Friends; First Edition edition (Oct 17 2006)

Intended Audience: Babies, toddlers, anyone that loves reading children's books

Genre: Children/Baby/Toddler

One sentence that particularly stands out: "On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, "Life will never be the same.""

What I loved: The beautiful sentiment expressed throughout the story. Tillman is also the illustrator of the book. She provides illustrations layered with both visual and textual trinkets that are simply breath-taking.

What made me want to cry into my burpee cloth: The last page that utilizes "heaven's trumpets" to further signify the special nature of the child's birth.

How many M's?: MMMMm (4.5/5)

Nancy Tillman is perhaps (if I were forced to choose because there are so many) one of my favourite children's authors. She has authored and illustrated books including Wherever You are My Love Will Find You, Tumford the Terrible and her most recent book: The Crown on Your Head. One of the reasons I love her books so much, is that they encapsulate and translate a very important message to children: that they are loved. Sure we hope that all children are getting this message from a stable source in their lives, but unfortunately this is not always the case. For those children and parents that want to convey in picture and story form just how special their children are, Tillman offers a neat oeuvre of books to do it with. On the Night You Were Born is one of those books.

I must confess, I have an undying love for children's books. Not just those with lovely rich story lines, but ones that have beautifully rendered illustrations. No one needs me to get into how important children's literacy is, so I will save that schpeal for another post . Due to the cost associated with children's books, I'm not always able to just go out and buy them new. So I generally troll community book sales, garage sales, or go to the community library - choosing the ones carefully that I purchase brand new. That being said, after sitting on my book wish list for a few months, I went out and bought On the Night You Were Born. And it was worth every penny.

Although On the Night You Were Born is available for sale and purchase to many readers, it reads as if it was specifically written for each individual child. It tells the story of the night when everything changed in the world, the night that particular child (the reader) was born. Birth, perhaps one of my favourite (or over-discussed) topics, is a special, emotional, raw experience for birth and adoptive parents alike. This book is successful in capturing not only how special and unique each individual child is, but also the sentiments of new parenthood and the emotions and joy that is associated with the moment that you see your child for the first time. All while remaining relatable for children.

The reader gets to read how, upon the birth of the child, the whole world changed. The whole world was joyous:

"So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name."

and the animal kingdom came out to partake in the celebrations:

"When the polar bears heard, they danced until dawn."

While the book maintains a continuous story line, it also has an interactive component that encourages the reader at certain points to take part in the narrative, for example, by "wiggling their toes."

It also comes in a sturdy, durable, board book version! Which is another one of my favourite aspects this book.

Now on to the not-so-favourite parts of the book.

First off, let me start off by saying that I think this book should be read by everyone, adults and children. However, in terms of reading practicality, this book is great for reading to a baby, or a child who is around 5 and up. It had a bit of a lengthy storyline for- say- a 14 month old who is on the go. P absolutely LOVES books, of all sorts, and is very patient to sit down and read through several of them at a time, but I find for us, this narrative is a bit long for him to sit through the whole thing without wanting to move on to other shorter books. For this particular case, there is a recordable story version of the book, or you can also get it on CD.

My only other quam with the book, is the last page. It states that "heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born." Why would I have an issue with that? You might be asking. Well, its simple really - I'm not a fan of religious indoctrination, especially not at such a young impressionable age. That's not to say I have anything against people who are religious, or practicing religions - I feel that ones spirituality is a personal and private thing that should come about when they are old enough to make their own decisions about which religion they want to subscribe to (if any at all).

I think that the narrative of this book does a fabulous job of conveying how special, unique and loved the reader of the book is, without having to bring religion into the mix. I would not however, let this aspect of the book, especially since its only the last page really, discourage me (or anyone else) from reading the book. In our house, we just simply change the line to say "the universe" rather than the heavens - problem solved.

So, go on, go out if you don't already own a copy and pick up On the Night You Were Born - because lets face it - you know you want to.....


  1. I was unsure about this book because I saw the "heaven" quote you mentioned as well as a quote from a psalm (not sure if that's really in the book or not). But if that's all, I can just swap the word "heaven" out for something else. Thanks!

  2. This is the first book I received after my daughter was born and we both love it (she's two now). Thanks for sharing!