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The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives

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The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield's poetry and Daniel Minter's art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield's poetry and Daniel Minter's art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America" begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women" both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.


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The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield's poetry and Daniel Minter's art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield's poetry and Daniel Minter's art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America" begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women" both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.

30 review for The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marisa

    Stunning, blue-toned illustrations grace the pages of this. The brief, but informative history listed in the introduction was quite interesting and gave useful context to the rest of the book. I enjoyed that the author’s poems were all from different time periods, which communicated the timelessness of the midwives’ work.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    Once again, Eloise Greenfield demonstrates why she is one of the best children's authors of all time. This is an absolutely fascinating mix of history, photographs, poetry, art, and the author's own life. I highly recommend it to anybody - ages 6 through adult - who wants to be swept up in a unique reading experience while learning about an important part of African American history. Once again, Eloise Greenfield demonstrates why she is one of the best children's authors of all time. This is an absolutely fascinating mix of history, photographs, poetry, art, and the author's own life. I highly recommend it to anybody - ages 6 through adult - who wants to be swept up in a unique reading experience while learning about an important part of African American history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Gray

    So beautifully written with amazing illustrations.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bettina

    Marvelous book that follows the story of Midwives through the ages. Gorgeous illustrations will keep you spellbound through the entire book. Keep your eye on this book, I think it's going to win a few awards next year! Marvelous book that follows the story of Midwives through the ages. Gorgeous illustrations will keep you spellbound through the entire book. Keep your eye on this book, I think it's going to win a few awards next year!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lara Lleverino

    I'm not sure I can put into words what was so moving about this book. I think at first it was the combination of the words and the illustrations that conveyed that emotional depth of new life. Then to follow the link on the back of the book and hear the author read her own poetry added to the nostalgia. This juxtaposed with the historical introduction outlining the conditions in which African American midwives came to find themselves "catching" babies in America, instead of in Africa, speaks to I'm not sure I can put into words what was so moving about this book. I think at first it was the combination of the words and the illustrations that conveyed that emotional depth of new life. Then to follow the link on the back of the book and hear the author read her own poetry added to the nostalgia. This juxtaposed with the historical introduction outlining the conditions in which African American midwives came to find themselves "catching" babies in America, instead of in Africa, speaks to the triumph of the human spirit in these women and the families they attended. The illustrations are gorgeous and makes me want to start a Daniel Minter collection!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sandra The Old Woman in a Van

    Beautifully illustrated, both the artwork and the photographs. The text is iffy as a picture book, but for older kids or anyone interested in birth and midwifery it is a must-have for the collection.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Captmashpea

    Fascinating story with beautiful poetry and those paintings were glorious. I don't know how often I will read it to my preschool classes because it's poetry, but I would highly recommend to anyone read it it's a short picture book but let you into a world you might not be familiar with. (ebook) Fascinating story with beautiful poetry and those paintings were glorious. I don't know how often I will read it to my preschool classes because it's poetry, but I would highly recommend to anyone read it it's a short picture book but let you into a world you might not be familiar with. (ebook)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    A lovely, lovely book. Thank you.!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dierric

    Such a beautiful book about the history of African American female/male midwives, from it's start in Africa to today. Wonderful images! Such a beautiful book about the history of African American female/male midwives, from it's start in Africa to today. Wonderful images!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jasmine

    Beautiful illustrations and poems dealing with some very tough subjects in an age-appropriate way.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Meghannf

    Simply stunning!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Frida

    A tender, loving book full of gratitude and appreciation. Although short, it does a marvellous job of story-telling. The beautiful illustrations complement and follow the poems perfectly.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    Beautifully illustrated and beautifully told.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    The art is incredible! Then you read the text and the two together create something beautiful and wondrous

  15. 4 out of 5

    MaryLibrarianOH

    Stunning art and great historical information.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    Live the illustrations! This story is told in a series of poems and it’s beautiful! There is a brief introduction about the history of African midwives. The story ends with the author’s own birth. Great read-aloud for 5-8 y/o.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    In years past, I've read Karen Cushman's middle-grade Newbery-winning novel titled The Midwife's Apprentice and the wonderful The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas, among others. This picture/poetry book for middle grade/young adult readers by Eloise Greenfield brings readers a brief history of African-American midwives with praise and gratitude for their work. There is an introduction sharing the details of a midwives' work, not just to "catch the babies", but ensure that germs do not get near, al In years past, I've read Karen Cushman's middle-grade Newbery-winning novel titled The Midwife's Apprentice and the wonderful The Midwife's Tale by Sam Thomas, among others. This picture/poetry book for middle grade/young adult readers by Eloise Greenfield brings readers a brief history of African-American midwives with praise and gratitude for their work. There is an introduction sharing the details of a midwives' work, not just to "catch the babies", but ensure that germs do not get near, along with weighing the babies and recording names, birth date and weight. They also gave advice to the mothers whose baby has just been born. In slavery, these women were those who were too old for fieldwork, "called 'grannies' and addressed as Granny. Today most prefer to be addressed as 'Mrs. or Miss'." In the past they educated each other, passing down the knowledge from Granny to child to grandchild. It wasn't until 1941 that the first midwifery program was opened for black public health nurses, at Tuskegee Institute. That is a brief part of the introduction, yet the remainder of the book fills with Eloise Greenfield's poetry in praise of those women, illustrated in fabulous, colorful paintings by Daniel Minter. She writes of the "welcome into the world. . .for loving" while Minter draws babies in the womb swirling around one woman. She writes that even those women were caught and shackled, but brought their knowledge with them across the sea as the younger ones watched and learned: "And so, too, the next generation, and the next, and the next. . ." A favorite of mine is the poem/story of a baby born to freedom in 1863, "think about this new thing circling around them." The thought that this baby has been born in this new time of freedom is to be celebrated, and they do! There, Minter shows a woman surrounded by an ocean with circles widening and a slave ship far in the distance. A favorite page is Minter's wonderfully intricate and symbolic art of a midwife's thoughts written by Greenfield: a midwife knowing she might be called soon; "the sky was light enough for her to see the trees at the end of the road." Greenfield adds more stories, one in the 2000s, but the final story is a tribute to "Miss Rovenia Mayo. She lives over yonder." That Miss Rovenia is the midwife who "caught" baby Eloise. At the end is a bit more to Eloise's story, with photos of her and her brother and her parents. Credits for photographs and a bibliography are added.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annelisa

    Excellent, but this is Eloise Greenfield, so of course it would be excellent. The book does an excellent job of weaving the past with the present, and capturing the love and joy that comes with welcoming new life into the world. The dreamy pictures match the atmosphere perfectly, and helps to evoke the sensitivity and positive emotions that the book evokes. This seems like it would work best as a quiet read-aloud (oxymoronic, I know) between an adult and a slightly older child (possibly to provi Excellent, but this is Eloise Greenfield, so of course it would be excellent. The book does an excellent job of weaving the past with the present, and capturing the love and joy that comes with welcoming new life into the world. The dreamy pictures match the atmosphere perfectly, and helps to evoke the sensitivity and positive emotions that the book evokes. This seems like it would work best as a quiet read-aloud (oxymoronic, I know) between an adult and a slightly older child (possibly to provide some context, too,) then transition into a solo reading. Highly recommended all around.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Gorgeous illustrations, lovely non-fiction text, and period photographs.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Bange

    A poetic tribute to the many African American midwives who have helped "catch" babies through in the New World Greenfield's magical words calmly and confidently wash over the reader as she delivers an overview of the history of African American midwifery in seven poems: from delivery in pre-slavery times in Africa to modern-day catching. She caps it off with a nod to the woman who caught her oh so many years ago and uses primary source photographs to illustrate these two pages. Minter's artwork i A poetic tribute to the many African American midwives who have helped "catch" babies through in the New World Greenfield's magical words calmly and confidently wash over the reader as she delivers an overview of the history of African American midwifery in seven poems: from delivery in pre-slavery times in Africa to modern-day catching. She caps it off with a nod to the woman who caught her oh so many years ago and uses primary source photographs to illustrate these two pages. Minter's artwork is exquisite. They are colorful and full of life. His use of repeating patterns, particularly circles and ovals is intriguing. Greenfield includes a five page introduction, with b&w period photos, into the history of African American midwives. This is helpful for younger readers who may not be familiar with this concept. The bibliography in the back is full of sources used by the author. Highly Recommended. for K-grade 3.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Absolutely gorgeous illustrations. I loved the intricate geometric patterns that surrounded the women and babies on each page. The writing is informative, tender/soft, and proud with loving poetry spanning generations to tell the story of these important women. Highly recommend. I appreciated the context at the beginning to frame the poems. This provides caregivers with knowledge and further resources with the bibliography to answer any kid's questions. I could totally envision this as a favorit Absolutely gorgeous illustrations. I loved the intricate geometric patterns that surrounded the women and babies on each page. The writing is informative, tender/soft, and proud with loving poetry spanning generations to tell the story of these important women. Highly recommend. I appreciated the context at the beginning to frame the poems. This provides caregivers with knowledge and further resources with the bibliography to answer any kid's questions. I could totally envision this as a favorite book for kids interested in history, how the world works, and science. The photographs included also reinforce the reality of this magical book. These women exist, they look like women today, they mattered, and they were pivotal in many still-alive people today (starting with the author!!) Just lovely all around.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    3.5 stars Okay, first of all, this is technically a children's book, but I love reading about midwifery and was sure I would enjoy it. It's a nice book, but a little heavy on the trauma of slavery. African-American midwifery started in Africa, and it would have been nice to hear a bit about the origins of some of the practices midwives used in America that were brought over. I have honestly been exhausted by African-American stories starting with the trauma of slavery as that's not our story of o 3.5 stars Okay, first of all, this is technically a children's book, but I love reading about midwifery and was sure I would enjoy it. It's a nice book, but a little heavy on the trauma of slavery. African-American midwifery started in Africa, and it would have been nice to hear a bit about the origins of some of the practices midwives used in America that were brought over. I have honestly been exhausted by African-American stories starting with the trauma of slavery as that's not our story of origin. Traditions were modified and passed down to what is practiced today, and those origins, long before the transatlantic slave trade, are what interest me the most.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle Stoller

    This book needs to win something at the YMA Awards at ALA Midwinter. Holy cow. I sent it to my midwife friend. It's a beautiful homage to midwifery. Told in poetry form, it follows African American midwives from slavery to now. It's the author's tribute to the woman who "caught" her. The illustrations were not my favorite. I think I will need to do a reread so I can capture the story they are trying to tell. However, the words are what I love most. It's raw in its storytelling. It is lovely at t This book needs to win something at the YMA Awards at ALA Midwinter. Holy cow. I sent it to my midwife friend. It's a beautiful homage to midwifery. Told in poetry form, it follows African American midwives from slavery to now. It's the author's tribute to the woman who "caught" her. The illustrations were not my favorite. I think I will need to do a reread so I can capture the story they are trying to tell. However, the words are what I love most. It's raw in its storytelling. It is lovely at the same time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Coons

    Every birth worker should have a copy to keep and a copy to lend out. Such a gorgeous book full of breathtaking illustrations and poetry that speaks to the heart of “granny” midwifery. As we still fight for the rights of unlicensed midwives to practice, I hope we realize that this country’s birth work was built on the backs of these incredible women who had very little at their disposal but whose love and patience welcomed in babies more safely and with better outcomes than we have in hospitals Every birth worker should have a copy to keep and a copy to lend out. Such a gorgeous book full of breathtaking illustrations and poetry that speaks to the heart of “granny” midwifery. As we still fight for the rights of unlicensed midwives to practice, I hope we realize that this country’s birth work was built on the backs of these incredible women who had very little at their disposal but whose love and patience welcomed in babies more safely and with better outcomes than we have in hospitals today.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Vicki

    I finished the poems and had to start over to re-read. The structure was obvious once I noticed it, but you aren’t sure at first what’s happening (which is poems written about midwifery throughout history in chronological order). Once that’s clear, it’s awesome to re-read for the word choices and and the larger message. How have Black women persisted in caring for each other, despite so many obvious road blocks? The writing is so stunning, and this would be good for honestly all grade levels for I finished the poems and had to start over to re-read. The structure was obvious once I noticed it, but you aren’t sure at first what’s happening (which is poems written about midwifery throughout history in chronological order). Once that’s clear, it’s awesome to re-read for the word choices and and the larger message. How have Black women persisted in caring for each other, despite so many obvious road blocks? The writing is so stunning, and this would be good for honestly all grade levels for discussion.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    The illustrations alone just shine. But the complementary poems remind the reader that regardless of time, place, or circumstances, babies are born and midwives have been there to help them into the world. Although this title focuses specifically on African American midwives, and addresses their particular role and its challenges, this truly is an ode to any person who catches babies. A celebration of love and life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cara Byrne

    "They caught the babies, and catch them still, welcome them into the world, for loving." This is a stunning book that honors a long history of strong, wise women who helped bring the next generation into the world. This is a book that needs a slow, close reading. It's not geared towards a young readership, and is more appropriate for young adult or adult readers. "They caught the babies, and catch them still, welcome them into the world, for loving." This is a stunning book that honors a long history of strong, wise women who helped bring the next generation into the world. This is a book that needs a slow, close reading. It's not geared towards a young readership, and is more appropriate for young adult or adult readers.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mama's Got a Plan

    The perfect gift for a child soon to be an older brother or sister, this depiction of African American midwives is deeply moving. Daniel Minter's illustrations blend textiles, portraiture, and the natural world to complement Eloise Greenfield's gorgeous poetry. "They caught the babies,/and catch them still,/welcome them into the world,/for loving." The perfect gift for a child soon to be an older brother or sister, this depiction of African American midwives is deeply moving. Daniel Minter's illustrations blend textiles, portraiture, and the natural world to complement Eloise Greenfield's gorgeous poetry. "They caught the babies,/and catch them still,/welcome them into the world,/for loving."

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Bardon

    Very disappointed. I really thought this would be a book about the early Midwives and their stories but, instead it was mostly a book to showcase Danielle Minter’s artwork ( as beautiful as they are) and a selection of poems with a very brief introduction by Eloise Greenfield...Not what I was expecting at all.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gps

    What a fantastic story, and so well told, with beautiful illustrations, and sparkling poetry throughout. I had never thought about mid-wives, and their role in the birth process, or in the Black community as experienced by the author. a very thoughtful book, and lends itself to some personal reflection about birthing through the centuries.

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