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Micro-Book Review: Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a

Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a
By Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Vera Rosenberry
Atheneum, 2003
32 pages

Set in India, amidst the monsoon rains, not so unlike Tucson, Baya, Baya, Lulla-by-a is a beautifully poetic and rhythmic lullaby. The language is meant to be sung, to lull youngins to bed. I couldn’t help thinking, in a sentimental way, that this is the kind of story that I’d love to read to my own kids one day. The story is full of onomatopoeia, with the sounds of a wise man saying, “pani, pani,” the sounds of the sun-yellow baby bird singing, “Chiri-ya! Chiri-ya!” and the sounds of a mother rocking her choti ladki to sleep with “Baya, baby, lulla-by-a.” The story is also filled with great similes and metaphors: “She sings to you morning after morning, like a sleepy cricket. Kira, kira. Your heart answers, a small drum. Dholak, dholak.” One page dazzles in alliteration: “Baya bird flits, flutters, flies among leafy shadows. Collects green grasses, weaves a nest swishhh swishhh, strand by strand by willowy strand.”

The book presents a parallel “building a nest” metaphor. The baya bird builds an actual nest for herself, and the human mother builds a metaphorical nest, a blanket, a home for her baby girl. The story shines with beautiful language: “Baya bird winds yellow flowers in out over under up down around its vining, twining nest—acacia petals laced in a golden crown.” There is also a strong emphasis on color in this book: “She eyes the bright-colored spools—river green, sun red, sky blue, saffron for sand, indigo for night—all the colors of your safekeeping blanket.” The lives of the baya bird and the mother and child become more and more parallel, even intertwined with: “Ree! Ree! Ree! Ree! Baya Bird calls a warning mother to mother. Cobra curls in crook of tree naga, naga, snakes its way along leafy limb, slither slither slide, slither slither slide." The story ends beautifully, poetically: “When that garland of flowers fades, Mata will pull down the moon for you.”

Allie Leach is the Poetry Center's Education Programs Assistant and co-editor of the Wordplay blog.

Created on: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Arizona Board of Regents