Inspiring Young Readers
The New Baby and Me! by Christine Kidney, illustrated by Hoda Haddadi
What could be more exciting than the imminent arrival of a new baby in a family? This is the positive message from the very first page of this delightful new picture book published by Tiny Owl. The cover shows a sleeping baby at the centre and in the foreground of the picture surrounded by five smiling brothers. Even the word order of the title signals that the latest member of this family is the most important character, which is unusual for picture books on this subject that usually frame older siblings as coming to terms with the implications of a younger, very dependent and often demanding baby.
After the introductory pages that show everyone happily enjoying a fruit feast spread across a deep blue spotted table cloth, the simple poetic text is minimal with a repetitive refrain: ‘just like me’ inserted, using a consistent pattern, into the white space between the colourful illustrations on each double page spread:
My baby brother will
Be an explorer,
Just like me.
We will find new lands
and rare beasts.
The lavish collage style pictures by Hoda Haddadi are very effective, rather reminiscent of those by Ezra Jack Keats and Eric Carle. They help to convey the very different personalities of the five siblings who each think about how they can make the new baby feel included and hope that he will share their particular interests. I also liked the way that the ginger cat features on every page, as it is obviously an important part of the family. One boy is an intrepid explorer, always appropriately dressed for travel, who is shown sitting on a bed and imagining swinging through the trees across crocodile infested waters. The second child is a keen scientist who loves to experiment and invent (making plenty of mess in the process). Next is the artist who is shown busily creating drawings that are displayed on the wall of the house on the left hand page and then facing curious onlookers from the outside world, looking at some framed paintings on the right hand page. I also warmed to the adventurous pirate sibling who seems to be having a jolly good time playing in the bath and beyond on a pirate ship on the high seas, pursued by a sharp toothed sea creature. But then we meet the boy described as a dreamer who spends time gazing out of the window and wondering about the strange world outside, this one is probably my favourite as is closest to my own interests.
Towards the end of the story, the five brothers face away from the reader towards a door, eagerly awaiting the appearance of the baby, having prepared a delicious looking cake and a beautifully wrapped present. On the turn of the page we share their surprise as the baby is not quite what any of them were expecting. The final double page spread implies that no one really knows what the future holds for the new member of the family. But I would confidently guess that it will be encouraged to blossom and be curious about the world in exactly the same way as the others.
I really liked this picture book that emphasises the importance of imagination as well as how children can enjoy very different interests, be supportive of one another and happily co–exist. Although there are no adult family members visible anywhere in this story, they have all clearly been raised to be assertive and creative children. I think that all this would stimulate lots of interesting discussion with young readers.
(Click on any image below to view them in a slide show format)