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Readers’ Reference: Merbaby’s Lullaby

By July 26, 2019May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

Merbaby’s Lullaby


Merbaby’s Lullaby by Jane Yolen, illustrated by.    Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Board books don’t get a lot of love in the review media. Yet what could be more important to a child’s development as a reader? Recently I saw a neighbor who I hadn’t seen in a long time and not in context and imagine my surprise that the toddler that I had played with on many of my walks was now a fully-formed five-year-old who I did not recognize. I said, Hi I’m Lisa” to the child and the mom laughed and said “you know Lisa, she is the one who gave us those books when you were little.” She turned to me and said, “We did it, 1,000 books before kindergarten.”

Reading Magic by Mem Fox

Reading Magic By Mem Fox

That often quoted figure comes from Mem Fox’s Reading Magic. She wrote, (and this is a paraphrase) to raise a reader, the child should hear 1,000 books read before they start school. That isn’t really a daunting number- that is three books a day since birth. And they can be the same book read three times.

Back to Board Books

Board books should have the same high expectations of literary quality that we want from any book that we read and share.

  • Appealing pictures for the intended audience.
  • I’m looking for rhythm, rhyme, and repetition to cement aural literacy.
  • A specificity of language and format for the intended audience.

Mentor Text

Jane Yolen’s Merbaby’s Lullaby is the perfect mentor text for anyone looking to write in this deceptively simple genre.

Jane Yolen, photo credit Jason Stemple

This Jane Yolen. She has written over 379 books. Novels, fiction, non-fiction, graphic format, poetry, poetry collections etc. etc.. Go to her website for her books and more information about her and her creative family. Here

as I said, this book is the perfect mentor text.

Some words:

Hush, foam rocker,
sleep, wave breaker.
Close your eyes and dream,
tide breaker.

One can hear the Mermom, rocking her baby gently in the sea.

Rhythm, rhyme, and repetition. Yolen paints a picture with the words. Economy and specificity of language.





About the Illustrations.

In eleven spreads, Elizabeth Dulemba creates a whole world for the bedtime reader perfectly matching Yolen’s lulling tones. Dulemba populates this watery paradise with friendly sea creatures who guide the journey to sleep. We say “go to sleep” as this is a journey, sometimes a scary one. We see that she moves the story through the page turns welcoming the reader to take this path together.

On her blog she describes the medium,

“My media was pencil, digital, and watercolor. I drew very small, then scanned my sketches at a very high resolution to create the compositions in Photoshop.”

And displays her artistic process on her blog. Go to her website for a closer look.

Here are her thumbnails showing the preliminary layout.

This is:

  • the perfect read-aloud;
  • the perfect bedtime book,
  • the perfect mentor text

What more do you want?

Another Great List of Baby Books

From Rachel Payne, early childhood specialist at the Brooklyn Public Library created this one for New York Magazine.

Best Books For Babies


Baby Reading

Want to know more about The Kerlan Collection?

Cover of The ABC of It

The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter by Leonard S. Marcus

“The ABC of It is a visual treat, anchored by Leonard S. Marcus’s entertaining text. His brief

explanations of milestones and other important aspects of (primarily) literature for children in

the English-speaking world are followed by gorgeous reproductions of illustrative material from

the University of Minnesota ‘s Kerlan Collection. Informed and imaginative, this is a terrific

addition to the scholarship of literature for young people.” Lee Galda, PhD, Marguerite Henry

Chair of Children’s Literature Emerita, University of Minnesota

Available at University of Minnesota Press

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