Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 14 Feb 2020

WAAAAAA! by Vanessa Horn, illustrated by Alex Willmore

Waiting for a new sibling to be born can be very exciting for young children, but the reality can be something of a shock. This engaging story uses simple text and beautifully drawn illustrations which take the reader through the stages of anticipation by showing Millie McBean playing happily in her rather lovely bedroom which looks calm and cosy with the night lights sparkling around the window. The next double page spread shows her running into the next room where her smiling parents tell her ‘It’s time’.  As with many picture books, an awful lot happens between the pages which need to be filled in by the reader. Is the baby born at home or in hospital and who is looking after Millie in the meantime? In this case we turn the page to be introduced to the newly arrived baby, Rudy who is lying expectantly in his cot waiting to meet his big sister.

But he doesn’t seem to be impressed with her, the teddy or the several books that she offers to him. His only response is ‘ WAAAAAAA’, so she needs to persevere.

I liked the way that she is shown sorting through all her many interesting looking toys in the quest to find something that he will like. Despite her persistence, he just looks even more incensed with every offering and the increasingly large font indicates that his screams are getting louder as well. She tries singing a lullaby but he isn’t impressed and his cries seem to be in competition with her voice. Both of them are getting louder and louder and the poor baby looks absolutely furious. Then Millie tries the trick that many parents take a long time to find out – she makes her voice quieter as she sings and he does the same in response!   At last he can focus on listening, looking and responding to her with a smile – phew!

One of the reasons that this book works so well is the way in which the star motif is repeated throughout the story. We see them twinkling through the window, on the bunting inside the room and on the brightly patterned clothes of both children as they forge their important relationship. Once the crying has finally stopped   - we see sister and brother holding onto one another as they travel through the starry night sky.  This is a perfect happy ending to a charming story which will be a firm favourite with young children and parents, particularly those who are trying to get used to having a new baby in the family.


Karen Argent

February 2020