Boardwalk Babies

(Author) (Illustrator)
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Product Details
$18.99  $17.66
Creston Books
Publish Date
11.9 X 9.7 X 0.4 inches | 1.1 pounds

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About the Author
Marissa Moss is the award-winning author-illustrator of more than 75 books, from picture books to middle-grade to graphic novels. She is best known for the Amelia's Notebook series, which has sold millions of copies. She lives in California.
April Chu is an architect and an illustrator of children's books, including Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine and In a Village by the Sea. She lives in Oakland, California.

"In the late 19th century, hospitals didn't know how to care for premature babies and believed they were 'doomed to die.' However, one young doctor believed he had the answer. Dr. Martin Couney of Germany asked Empress Augusta Victoria to allow him to care for babies from her hospital in his newly invented baby incubators. Empress Victoria approved his request. Couney created a traveling showcase of the world's tiniest babies, first in exhibition halls and world fairs, then finally settling into a permanent spot on Coney Island in 1903. Babies received the best care from a dedicated and trained nursing staff, paid for by the entrance fees to see the exhibit. Babies of all races, religions, and backgrounds were accepted. Couney generated as much publicity as he could. He hired carnival barkers to advertise the exhibit and emphasized the small size of the babies by dressing them in oversized clothes and bows. The public loved watching the tiny tots grow and thrive, but it was the hospitals that Couney hoped to convince--he wanted incubators in every hospital. Over the years, Couney saved 6,500 babies, many of whom came back to thank him when they grew up. Moss turns a little-known historical subject into a poignant and readable picture book. In particular, the direct and clear approach to explaining the needs and the care of premature babies is handled well. The soft illustrations and the heartwarming approach make this story beautiful and relevant to all families.

A moving must-have for every nonfiction collection."--starred, School Library Journal

-- (3/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)

"At the 1896 Great Industrial Exposition of Berlin, Dr. Martin Couney demonstrated the use of incubators in saving the lives of premature babies. Soon afterward, he immigrated to America and, from 1903 to 1943, staffed and ran an infant-care facility on the boardwalk on Coney Island, complete with a barker to bring in viewers to see the babies in their incubators. Although the location was unconventional, Couney was serious about his mission to give these preemies the best possible care and to show that incubators provided the healthiest environment for them. Statistics backed up his belief, and, gradually, incubators became standard equipment in American hospitals. Moss, whose previous picture-book biographies include Kate Warne, Pinkerton Detective (2017) and Sky High: The True story of Maggie Gee (2009), tells a story grounded in facts and full of human interest. Who could have predicted that Couney's own child, born prematurely, would begin life in one of Couney's incubators? With curving lines and warm colors, the illustrations create a genial tone while transporting viewers to a bygone era. An intriguing picture book."--Booklist Online

-- (7/30/2021 12:00:00 AM)

"We open on a carnival barker ushering turn-of-the-twentieth-century crowds into a room whose walls are lined with metal and glass boxes. A farmer pulls a tiny baby out of a hatbox and asks for help saving his newborn child. In a remarkable true story, Moss introduces Dr. Martin Couney, a doctor with a flair for showmanship who used expositions and eventually the Coney Island Boardwalk to build public trust for a new idea that could save 'doomed to die' premature babies: 'warming boxes, ' or incubators. Moss's text depicts a deeply empathetic man who uses his flair for the dramatic to give babies from all kinds of backgrounds a fighting chance, and who eventually uses the skills he learned to care for his own premature infant. Chu's cartoony illustrations, sketched in muted browns and greens with an occasional carnival pop of color, have an old-timey charm full of detailed period dress and very appealing itty-bitty babies. (Unfortunately, the endpapers show sideshow performers without any context, treating them as something to gawk it in the same way these sideshow circuses did.) An author's note offers additional information about Dr. Couney and a list of suggested readings."--Horn Book Magazine

-- (6/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)

"Moss (the Amelia's Notebook series) surveys the use of premature infants as sideshow entertainment in this informative overview of pioneering pediatric history, which occurred on the Coney Island boardwalk from 1903 to 1943. To convince a highly skeptical medical establishment of incubators' lifesaving value, neonatal technology advocate Martin Couney ran the Baby Incubator exhibit each summer. Staffed by medical professionals--including Couney's wife and, later, daughter (born prematurely)--the exhibit saved 6,500 babies: 'It didn't matter what religion they were, the color of their skin, or how poor the parents were. Families weren't charged anything... entrance fees paid for everything.' Chu's (In a Village by the Sea) realistic illustrations in muted hues set a gentle tone, albeit one incongruous with colorful endpapers depicting other human boardwalk acts, whose cheerful portraits belie the topic's ethical complexities. Despite the absence of historical context for sideshow entertainment, this narrative nonfiction account will prove absorbing."--Publisher's Weekly

-- (2/19/2021 12:00:00 AM)

"Premature babies as a sideshow attraction?

Kids will be amazed to learn that a 'Baby Incubator' exhibit opened at Coney Island in 1903, attracting huge crowds. Spectators flocked to ogle tiny newborns and the groundbreaking technology--the 'warming boxes' themselves--designed to keep premature babies alive. Back then, medical wisdom held that tiny, fragile newborns couldn't survive, and hospitals, skeptical of newfangled machines, wouldn't use them. German-born Dr. Martin Couney believed otherwise. His own mentor in Paris had suggested using incubators for preemies, and Couney at first demonstrated the machines without babies at the Berlin Exposition of 1896. In order to help the public better understand that they really worked effectively, Couney then placed infants in them. This enhanced exhibit succeeded wildly, and the babies survived. In 1903, Couney established what became a permanent preemie hospital display, complete with incubators, on Coney Island's boardwalk. The newborns received round-the-clock nursing care, with admission fees paying for food, treatment, equipment, and medical personnel; it closed in 1943. This smoothly written account of little-known events results in a heartwarming story that will help develop audience empathy. Appealing illustrations capture the period and ambiance nicely and depict winsome infants of different races and ethnicities. Dr. Couney, his family, and medical professionals present White; spectators throughout are racially diverse. Questionable, startling endpaper art depicts 'weird folks' once placed on public display as sideshow attractions.

A thought-provoking telling of an unusual historical episode."--Kirkus Reviews

-- (2/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)