Book Review: When We Became Three

When We Became Three: A Memory Book For the Modern Family
by Jill Caryl Weiner

My mom kept a baby book. It was an album with photographs and notes, and in it she recorded my first steps and my first words. She pieced it together by hand, and included photographic prints, my birth announcement in the newspaper, and more. I also know when I walked, what I ate, and when I talked, so I have a rough idea of what’s “normal” for a baby. Well… I know what I did. What no doubt started life as a sturdy, hardbound volume is falling apart from being perused by family members.

When We Became Three is a charming take on the idea of a baby book. I’ve had a lot of fun reading it and filling out its pages. Rather than simply provide a template for recording facts, it asks questions for parents to answer. In the words of the author:

I wanted to create a fun and whimsical, easy to fill out, yet meaningful memory book for new parents, so I thought question and answer format would spark the parents imagination and their memories, while being easy and fun. I know people sometimes look at open ended questions on a page and don’t know what to do with them, but a checklist or thoughtful prompt can pull them right in.

She was successful in her goal to make recording facts fun. Some of her questions are fairly straightforward, like where mom gave birth and who the baby looks like. (When my daughter was born earlier this year, she looked just like my wife; but photographs pasted into my mom’s yellow scrapbook show me that B.T. and I are clearly daughter and father.)

Some require a little thought: Our first fears, and feelings upon seeing baby for the first time. And a few questions are just weird: “If you were a baby animal, you would be” comes to mind. (The choices include piranha, koala, and howler monkey.) But even these are fun and spark discussion.

But the book isn’t just about the baby and their achievements. I appreciated the book’s focus on the parents and their needs and lives outside of the home.

There are some assumptions in the book that could be improved on: The title itself, When We Became Three: A Memory Book For the Modern Family, invites discussion of what a “modern family” is. Unfortunately, the book is restricted to couples having their first child (as opposed to a single parent or a triad or a larger immediate family group). The book also assumes a mommy and a daddy–i.e., a heterosexual couple. But none of this stops other books from being written, and the book’s playful tone easily overcomes this.

The question-and-answer format makes the book feel like a game you can play during stolen moments. I’ll pick up the book every so often and open it to a random page, answering whichever questions speak to me. When my daughter is older, she’ll be able to read a history of our fears and dreams, of our travails and loves.

Neil Fein is a freelance editor who specializes in novels. If you’ve written a manuscript or are getting close to finishing, you can get in touch with him here. He rides his bicycle as much as he can, and he paints and draws when he can. He’s also a musician who plays in a Celtic fusion band.


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