Written by Jamie Lee Curtis, Illustrated by Laura Cornell
Joanna Cotler Books, 1996
Tell me again about the night I was born.
What made this author famous? Jamie Lee Curtis made her film debut in 1978’s Halloween and is still acting in movies and on television.
The little girl asking to hear the story of her birth asks for each of the details specifically. She reminds them to include the fact that they were asleep when the phone rang to tell them she had been born. She asks to hear about how they tried calling the grandparents, but they slept too heavily to hear the phone and how they flew on an airplane to pick her up. She tells them what she knows about the fact that they couldn’t have a baby of their own, so they adopted from a woman who was having a baby she couldn’t keep. She asks them to tell her about how it felt to walk into the hospital and see her for the first time, and held her and cried tears of joy. She reminds them of other details of the story, such as her first bottle, first diaper change and all the special things that make them a family.
Author Jamie Lee Curtis and her husband (actor/comedian Christopher Guest) adopted both of their children so the themes of this story are very personal and meaningful for her, as they are likely to be for anyone else in an adoptive family. The narrator’s voice is perfectly captured here, although we are really hearing her echo the story as it’s been told. The inference is that her parents have always conveyed so much love and joy in telling the story of how she joined the family that it’s become something very special to her as well. You can tell it in the way that she repeats back little details that she’s heard and committed to memory.
Laura Connell’s watercolor artwork adds a lot of comical details to this story, which keeps it from becoming overly sentimental. Most of those details are aimed at the adults reading the story, who will get the little jokes that are sprinkled around the pages, such as the Bionic Diapers or the expression on the face of the woman reading the ‘If We Crash’ pamphlet on the airplane. Ms. Connell’s illustrations are a little too cartoonish for my personal taste, but it didn’t really diminish my enjoyment of the book, since the warmth of the subject matter came through very genuinely on every page. I particularly liked the family tree, as drawn by our narrator, showing how her family came together and including spaces for her unknown birth father and birth mother. It encapsulates the book’s celebration of family, however it happens.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that a personal story well told is something you remember forever.