When the Babies Came to Stay

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday! Here’s an irresistible new fiction picture book that will dig deeper into your heart every time you read it. 


Title: When the Babies Came to Stay

Written by: Christine McDonnell

Illustrated by: Jeanette Bradley

Viking, PRH 2020, fiction

Suitable for ages: 2-5

Themes/topics: adoption, acceptance, community


The first arrived on the mail plane.
The harbormaster opened the canvas bag.
Inside was a squalling red-faced baby.

The first baby arrived on the mail plane, the second two on the ferry, the fourth asleep on a pile of nets, smelling of mackerel. Who were the babies? Where did they come from? The notes left with them said “Please keep this baby safe” and “Please give my child shelter.” Only the librarian can take them home, and the library is where they grow up. The whole island helps to raise them. The fisherman teaches them to cast from the pier, the ferryman shows them charts of the sea, and from the harbormaster they learn to recognize birds.
“Who are you?” other children ask. “Why don’t you look alike?” The librarian gathers them in her arms. “Families don’t always look alike,” she says. “And where we’re going is more important than where we came from.”
This charming, lighthearted fairytale contains a message of acceptance that is particularly significant for our time.

Activities and Resources:
The librarian named the babies based on her experience in the library. Do you have a hobby or special interest that you might tap into to name the babies? What names would you choose? Why?

Imagine you are asked to help care for the babies for an hour. What activities would you do? What problems do you think you might have? How would you solve them?

Why I like this book:
Heart-warming illustrations and tender text tell the story of a welcoming community, an unexpected family, acceptance, and unconditional love. We’re all truly one family, and each of us has something to offer others, if only we have the will. In this story of adoption, the babies transform the people around them. Though the tale may appear simple due to the sparse text, it has meanings that run deep and powerful. Perfectly told, gorgeously illustrated.


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.


7 thoughts on “When the Babies Came to Stay

  1. Oh, I am in love with this sweet modern fairytale that focuses on diversity and acceptance. Very clever idea for a story and makes me think of the “stork” dropping babies. And leaving them to a librariar is fun! Thanks for sharing!


  2. I love the beginning – coming in the mail! what fun! For those who thought babies came by stork, this will set the story straight!


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