Tuesday, August 9, 2022

My Life Begins! by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrations by Daniel Miyares

My Life Begins! by Patricia MacLachlan,
illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, 2022, 128 pages

Jacob, 9, is an only child, and while he thinks his picture hanging on the living room wall by itself looks lonely, he's pretty sure that loneliness could be cured with a litter of puppies. Instead, he is reminded that soon there will be new babies in the house - three little ones named Charlotte called Char, Katherine called Kath, and Elizabeth called Lizzie, or the Trips as Jacob refers to them. 

At school, his teacher announces that Jacob's class will be learning to do research and that each student should choose something that interests them, which could even be "a subject that is surprising and new." Since the finished project isn't due until two weeks before school ends, Jacob decides his topic will be "A Litter of Trips - From Birth On," diligently observing and recording how the triplets change and grow over the school year. 

Seeing how tired caring for his sisters has made his parents, Jacob becomes not just an observer but a real helper, quickly learning how to change diapers, warm bottles, and can even pick up and comfort a crying Lizzie. Eventually, Jacob's parents hire a nanny, a French woman named Mimi who brings experience, peace and order to the chaos of having triplets. And it is Mimi who helps Jacob understand the importance of names, calling him dear Jacob, which he loves. The triplets calls their mother Mama, their father Da, but what will they call Jacob? What will be the forever name they give him, and what will be the forever name he calls them? This turns out to be the most important part of his research project and it is Lizzie who gives him the answer.
What is interesting about this small chapter book is not so much how the triplets change and grow, but how the experience of observing and recording their first year changes Jacob as he goes from being an only child to being a big brother. MacLachlan has poignantly captured the way Jacob's sibling relationships form and grow depending on the personality of each of his sister's, inviting readers into Jacobs thoughts and feelings to show how all this all unfolds. 

However, the first year of the triplets lives may feel somewhat unrealistic at times. The babies are unusually happy, Jacob has no sibling jealousy, although he continues to hope for at least one puppy, if not a litter, and those sweet little girls never get sick, throw up, or produce one of those unforgettable poopy diapers. But young readers won't care about these things. The story uses simple language age appropriate for Jacob, the chapters are short yet full of information told from Jacob's point of view, and it is all complemented with Daniel Miyares rough sketches in black and white ink.  

My Life Begins! is a very sweet, very tender story about family and sibling relationships and is sure to bring on more than one smile and perhaps a tear or two. It is an excellent choice for a read aloud, at school or as a family book, and will definitely appeal to fans of Kevin Henkes' Billy Miller series. 

 Sadly, Patricia MacLachlan passed away on March 31, 2022 at age 84 a few months before the release of My Life Begins!

1 comment:

  1. I am so saddened to hear that Patricia MacLachlan passed away! However, she definitely made an impact as an author—I know I once adored a book by her called Fly Away, and I am writing down this one as well, because it sounds simply beautiful. Thanks so much for the thoughtful review, Alex!


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