Samuel’s Baby, by Mark Elkin, illustrated by Amy Wummer
(2010, Tricycle Press, ISBN 978-1-58246-349-0)
Samuel announces to his kindergarten class that he is going to have a baby! Soon, all his classmates are joining in with expectations of their own—from triplet baby dolls to a dump truck—and Samuel teaches them a thing or two about baby care from what his mom’s been teaching him at home. He wonders about the baby’s favorite color and keeps discovering new worries about what a new baby is like, but Samuel’s biggest concern might just be whether his baby will like him. When the time comes, he finds out that, despite the diapers and crying, his new baby is just perfect.
This super sweet book about a little boy preparing to meet his new baby is a great way to introduce young children to the idea of a sibling joining the family. Unlike many books for older brothers and sisters, this book tells the story of the emotional build up before a baby is born instead focusing on what happens afterwards and can help a child understand that they’re not the only ones with concerns about being a big sibling. Most of the story is told through dialogue heavily supported by the illustrations, and minimal narration keeps the pace and makes the action flow well. The characters are realistic in their actions and speech, and the silly events of the story are sure to make young children giggle. Along with showing the ways a sibling can prepare for a new baby’s arrival, the book brings up some of the major worries a big brother or big sister might have, like dirty diapers and crying. It doesn’t attempt to solve or minimize the issues as they arise, however; instead, the resolution comes when Samuel brings his baby sister to show-and-tell and reveals that, although she cries and is sometimes stinky, he thinks she’s perfect, just like a good big brother should.
If the art looks familiar to you, you’re probably not imagining things. Artist Amy Wummer has illustrated several popular titles (including the Marvin Redpost series and some of the Horrible Harry titles) and is illustrator for the monthly “Tex and Indi” feature story in High Five Magazine (Highlights Magazine for younger kids—that’s where GirlChild and I have met her characters before). Her soft pencil and watercolor illustrations are a perfect complement to the story, and the facial expressions help convey many emotions that are not explicitly stated in the narration. The focus of both the story and the illustrations is on the characters, and the setting (a kindergarten classroom) is conveyed mostly through occasional furniture with plain backgrounds of white or pale blue walls; more detail would likely detract from the story since so much of the plot is expressed visually through the characters’ actions and expressions. The pictures are such an integral part of the storytelling experience in this title (because of the use of mainly dialogue to move the action) that some of the story wouldn’t make any sense without the accompanying artwork.
GirlChild’s Reactions: We first checked out this book about a year ago on the recommendation of GirlChild’s story time librarian when she found out we were expecting BoyChild. It was brand new to the library then and was fresh on her mind I guess, but they’re up to four copies now, so it must be popular! I can understand why, though. GirlChild wanted us to read this one over and over, and we have a picture of her holding her baby doll all wrapped up like a burrito, just like Samuel shows his friends to do to help a baby who’s crying. (She liked holding BoyChild like that, too, when he was still small enough to like being swaddled!) She liked it again this time, but I expect that books like Kevin Henkes’ Julius, the Baby of the World and Joanna Cole’s I’m a Big Sister (both more recent favorites) are more relevant to her now that BoyChild is here in the flesh. I would definitely recommend this book for preschool to early elementary aged children whose families are expecting a new addition!