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Download Curriculum Guide

978-1-939547-66-8

Hardcover
40pp, color

11 3/4in x 9 1/2in
Juvenile Fiction: Biography & Autobiography
5 to 10
March 2021

$18.99

“This magical, heartwarming, and true story reminds us of the joys and unexpected rewards of doing the right thing in any way and any place you can. A must-read, seamlessly matched with April Chu's exuberant illustrations.”

— Nancy Churnin, award-winning author of Manjhi Moves a Mountain

“This man’s determination should serve to inspire usall not to give up, not to worry about being judgedor defined.”

— Beth Needel, Lafayette Library

“It brought happy tears to my eyes to read thatDr. Martin Couney saved 6,500 premature babies! Myfavorite part was the quote at the end 'Once seen, never forgotten. All the world loves a baby!' How preciousa sentiment.”

— Erin Rich, Vero Beach Book Center

Boardwalk Babies

By Marissa Moss

Illustrated by April Chu

In the late 19th century, there wasn't much hope for premature babies — until Dr. Couney developed the incubator. The device was so new and strange, hospitals rejected it. So Dr. Couney set up a sideshow at Coney Island, taking care of the tiniest newborns as part of a display to convince the public that incubators worked. Thousands of babies grew into healthy children as Boardwalk Babies, including Dr. Couney's own premature daughter. Many of those babies came back as adults to thank the doctor for his miracle cures. Science meets magic show in this fascinating true story.

“A thought-provoking telling of an unusual historical episode.”

— Kirkus Reviews

"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. VERDICT A moving must-have for every nonfiction collection."

Starred Review, School Library Journal

"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.. . this narrative nonfiction account will prove absorbing. Ages 8–9. (Mar.)"

— Publishers Weekly

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