Friday, May 16, 2008

Baby Talk

Here at Playdate, we are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our editor's new bundle of joy. HBM has been working on through it, and is counting the minutes at this point, if she hasn't already delivered by the time I hit publish. She's not alone, either. There are plenty of other bloggers out there who, right this very moment are gestating siblings or settling in with their new additions, and that's just among the ones I know.

Well, I can't offer these wonderful mamas much personal help, but I can offer them the help I know how best to give - suggestions for books about new babies to share with the older siblings. Books that can help explain what's happening or about to, books that share the joy of a new baby, but also books that acknowledge the many and varied feelings a sibling is bound to have. There will no doubt be a lot of talking about these things ahead, and sometimes, a book can be a useful tool to help guide the discussion, start the discussion, or anticipate questions to come.

So in honour of all these spring babies, here are a whole flock of books, both story and informational, to help the ball roll smoothly. Best of luck, ladies!

The Answer Books

The New Baby At Your House, by Joanna Cole, ill. Margaret Miller

This book starts with an extensive note to parents about this big change in their older child's life, before it goes on to speak directly to the child. It adresses a whole host of topics from discovering that a mother is pregnant to her hospital stay, and what a newborn looks like, umbilical stump included (blech!). It talks about what a baby can do (including a breastfeeding mom - yay!), how a sibling can help out, and how it might make the sibling feel to see the baby getting so much attention. It also talks about the joys of being bigger, about how families need to teach babies, and about how someday, the baby can become a playmate. This book is thorough, speaks in language that is accessible but not patronizing, and asks occasional questions, while stressing how much parents love their big children, too. Miller's photographs are simple and plentiful, showing lots of different families, so that most children will see themselves somewhere in here. This may be one of my favourites, although it seems like it would work best once the baby arrives, or at least is pretty darn close to joining the family.

A Baby's Coming to Your House!, by Shelley Moore Thomas, ill. Eric Futran

This book talks about different ways that babies come, all the stuff that they come with, and the way the relatives and parents might act. It talks about how to hold the baby, how the baby will act, what it will eat, and how the sibling can help. Thomas acknowledges that siblings will get less attention, but stresses that parents will still have time for them, and that brothers and sisters will help teach the baby everything it will know. It ends on a note of teaching the baby about family and love, and suggests that this will make the sibling happy to have the new baby. While this isn't my very favourite, to be honest, it does cover a lot of the things a sibling needs to know, with nice photographic accompaniment, so I would still say it is a useful one and include it.

What to Expect When Mommy's Having a Baby, by Heidi Murkoff, ill. Laura Rader

Angus the answer dog gives answers to a lot of the basic questions that kids will have, in terms that even young ones will understand. Questions include where the baby is, how it gets there, how it grows and eats, what it does in there, why mommy might not feel well and visits the doctor so much, and how the baby gets out. Much as I was prepared not to love a book that starts out with a little mascot, I found it very accessible and straightforward. It uses language like "uterus," "sperm," and "vagina," while not going into graphic detail, which makes for a nice balance of proper but appropriate information. The illustrations are also fun, with a picture book feel, but not too cute. The only things I didn't love were the absence of information on c-sections for those who have them, and the fact that the book ends at birth. Luckily, there is a followup: What to Expect when the New Baby Comes Home, by the same team.

The Story Books

Mothers Are Like That, by Carol Carrick, ill. Paul Carrick

While this book ostensibly talks about what mothers are like and what they do, it also serves to show the ways in which new babies need to be cared for and will grow. The illustrations show animal mothers caring for their young - including nursing them - and ends on an image of a human mother tucking her baby into bed, making the connection between mothers of all species. It's sweet and gentle without straying into the icky or saccharine, and a nice way to start to talk with children about what it's like to have a baby.

Where Did That Baby Come From?, by Debi Gliori

A bewildered sibling ponders whence the new baby, complete with editorials about how weird it is, and about not getting another, or perhaps returning it. It's kind of funny, or at least a light way to acknowledge that a new baby might not be an immediate hit. In the end, though, the baby's cry arouses a different instinct, and the sibling wants to help. Following that, a magical baby laugh makes the sibling want to repeat whatever created it, and suddenly, the wonder of babies starts to sink in. Cute, but not sappy.

Julius, Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes

Before Julius was born, Lilly was the best big sister in the world. But after he actually appeared, things changed. She was not pleased with the new interloper who had her parents so captivated, and she showed it in unpleasant ways. No matter how hard her parents tried to make her feel special, she behaved terribly towards the new baby, and ultimately, spent quite some time in time out. It didn't help when relatives showered him with attention at his party - until one cousin says disparaging things about him, and rouses Lilly to his defense. And she finds that when she points out all his good features, she actually means it. It goes without saying that I would love this book, because, well, Kevin Henkes, but I also love the brutal honesty about Lilly's behaviour and reactions. This is no sweet, glossing-it-over version of a child's reaction, but that is Lilly - outrageous, over the top, and totally putting it all out on the table. Ya gotta love that, even while you're horrified.

Baby Talk, by Fred Hiatt, ill. Mark Graham

The new baby's crying seems to be telling Joey's mother what the baby wants, but not Joey. His mother offers him chances to help out, but he is not interested. His family suggests that he try to talk back to the baby when it babbles, and he does, earning himself a smile. After that, he talk with the new baby often, and even ends up "translating" for his family. Helping out brings him into contact with the little one, and they form a bond by the end of this simple, sweet picture book.

It's All About Me!, by Nancy Cote

A very simple rhyming book about a young boy who is "the best," according to his parents. When he hears a baby boy is on the way, though, he is not so thrilled at losing his centre-of-the-universe status. He is not thrilled with the baby - I cry /I'm sad /I get so mad /I wish he'd go away - until the smiling baby starts to grow on him and he starts to take on his role of big brother. When a third is on the way, then, he anticipates how that little brother will feel, and what he will tell him. It is a nice one for a younger child in both its simplicity and in the way it shows how the boy grew from a baby, and then how the new baby behaves once it arrives.

Oonga Boonga, by Frieda Wishinsky, ill. see below

This book is available in two different editions, with different illustrators: Carol Thompson for one, Michael Martchenko for the other. In it, the new baby is disconsolate. The parents and relatives and neighbours have tried everything. And then the big brother comes home and say, simply, "Oonga boonga, Louise." Smiles break out, and he goes out to play until the next crisis. It's a simple story, but one aimed at making the big sibling feel invaluable and helpful, and kids love it. It's not a unique story, of course - Phyllis Root's fantastic What Baby Wants (ill. Jill Barton) uses much the same theme, but allows kids to chime in - it's a favourite of mine, in fact, but it's a less direct telling of the same sort of tale.

Other Great Baby Books

Want some more images of babies and what they do? Maybe in a nice sturdy format for a young one? Penny Gentieu has a number of books (both picture and board) of babies filled with cute photographs of babies doing baby things. Margaret Miller has a similar set of board books about babies. These are great both for siblings and for babies, who love to look at other babies. Also look for Helen Oxenbury's books (also soem in picture, some in board) about what babies do, illustrated in her cute, simple style.

Find these and a stroller-full of other great baby books at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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