Book Review: The Night Before My Birthday, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Amy Wummer
Grosset & Dunlap, www.penguin.com/youngreaders, $3.99
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Review by Katherine Valdez
When I was a kid, the best birthday cake I had was in the shape of a doll’s dress.
A brunette, Barbie-like doll was encased from the waist down in a rose-colored ball gown. She was so pretty. My mom set her on the dining room table hours before my birthday party, giving me time to admire her before the festivities began. My friends and I would liberate the doll later, piece by piece with scoops of ice cream.
Other images of that day flash through my brain like a movie reel: the blurred colors of a piñata swinging up and down in a smile-shaped path through the air; a friend playing “Happy Birthday” on our antique piano; elementary school friends singing to me as I make a wish and blow out the candles; my parents and sister – and everyone – smiling.
After recalling these memories, I began reading Natasha Wing’s new book The Night Before My Birthday, the 17th in her The Night Before series. It’s a fun, joyful account of a youngster’s upcoming birthday celebration.
‘Twas the night before my birthday.
Hooray! It’s almost here!
It may not be a holiday,
but it’s the best day of the year.
Wing describes the excitement with glee: “In the morning I woke / from a deep, sleepy slumber. / Yay! Today is the day / I turn a new number!” Amy Wummer’s bold illustrations are full of energy and movement. On one page, the birthday kid and family cat play with a balloon. On another, Mom’s cheeks puff out as she blows a noisemaker.
The party preparations don’t go smoothly, of course. “The invitations have been sent, the decorations have been hung, and the cake is ready. But what happens when there is an ice cream emergency on the big day?”
Each scene is from the point of view of the young narrator, whose face we never see, so the book is easy for any young reader, boy or girl, to identify with. The Night Before My Birthday brought back happy childhood memories for me. I recommend it as a great gift for that special child in your life.
Katherine Valdez is the author of “Close Encounters with David Sedaris” and “Little Red Riding Hood Seeks Vengeance.” Subscribe to her blog at www.KatValdezWriter.wordpress.com/blog and like her page at www.facebook.com/AuthorKatherineValdez.