Inspiring Young Readers
Babies, Babies Everywhere by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Ros Asquith
This author/ illustrator dream team have established a reputation for conveying the importance of inclusive representation of people from all walks of life. I always recommend The Great Big Green Book which is one of their many excellent non-fiction books that need to be in every classroom.
Anyone who has had close contact with very young babies knows that they come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments – even within the same family, every child will demonstrate their individuality from day one. I like the way in which this is emphasised by tracking six very different babies through their first year. It focuses on a range of traditional milestones like sitting up independently and eating solids, but along the way there is so much to look at, be fascinated by and laugh at.
I love the way in which we encounter all the babies with their families on the first pages. Here we can see that there are disabled, same sex parents, working and lone parents without any need for explanation. This is important as a way in for children whose own family will have particular features and characteristics. Then we see how despite some differences, they all have things in common using a more comic book format where there is exquisite detail in very little frames ( this rather reminded me of illustrations by Janet Ahlberg).
After just a few weeks we can see that the babies are responding much more and moving on to recognising people. One of my favourite pages shows them all joining in at a playgroup which is dense with toys and other activities – you can almost hear the noise! Another feature of this page, and most others is the joy on the adult’s faces as they gaze in wonder at their babies – something that reflects the experience of most parents.
But the big focus is on the emerging characters of the six babies that are tracked through the book. Once they reach the six month stage we don’t see so much of the adults because each baby is learning to explore and navigate the exciting world, covering themselves in food and pulling themselves up onto furniture. Once they can stand alone they are shown being celebrated in every family because this is an important day for everyone concerned:
‘What a lot of things happen
In a baby’s first year!
They start as sleepy, cuddly bundles
And soon they are walking,
Talking little people.’
This delightful picture book is aimed at younger readers but could be used for thoughtful discussion about different kinds of families and child development with any age group. The simple, straightforward text and beautifully drawn characters convey messages about valuing individual differences in children. No matter what kind of family is bringing up a young child, each is conveyed in a positive way with plenty of laugh out loud moments. I can see this being used with childcare students and expectant parents in ante natal classes as a way of reassuring them that under ones are always a challenge but mostly a joy to live with, and never ever boring.