I put a new book in the mail to Catie one day last week, then had to run back a day later when John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury’s There’s Going to Be a Baby (Candlewick, ages 2-4) arrived. Why did I dash to the post office? Catie’s little brother could be born any day now!
The book begins as a conversation between a mother and child. The child asks typical questions like: “When is the baby going to come?” and “What will we call the baby?” The mother responds to each question as the book follows the two of them through months of ordinary activities. Burningham and Oxenbury capture exactly the way I remember my 2nd pregnancy. There was no navel gazing as I’d experienced the first time around. Life felt busy and snatches of thoughts and conversation about the new baby came in odd moments.
The conversations between this mother and child in the book prompt dreams and imaginings about what the baby might become. “Perhaps the baby will become a chef,” suggests the mother as they sit in a restaurant. The sibling responds “I don’t think I’d eat anything that was made by the baby.” And if the baby is an artist, the older sibling suspects, “it will make a terrible mess everywhere.” These illustrations are old-fashioned, subdued in color and sweet.
Interspersed are comically drawn wordless spreads that are totally different in tone showing a dramatic view of what the sibling REALLY thinks. They illustrate the wild antics or a bald-headed baby who becomes a gardener, playmate, zookeeper, sailor, banker, gardener, and doctor.
There are moments of anticipation, wonder and just a little bit of worry. It’s that little bit of worry that concerns me. My concern is prompted by a conversation I brought up with Allie. It was something I never thought about when Ben waited for his sister to be born. But now I wonder about introducing negative feelings when Catie has none. Is this because Catie’s so young, or is this one of the many times that I find the distance of a grandmother makes me see things with a very different perspective?
I sent the book because it ends so beautifully as the child and grandfather have a last conversation while en route to visit the hospital “Granddad, the baby will be our baby. We’re going to love the baby, aren’t we?” I loved that last opportunity for a parent to reassure a child. And I wonder if they’ll be able to use it when the baby does come, just in case Catie has the typical mix of sibling feelings. I added a warning that, for now, Ben and Allie skip the page with the less positive feelings on it.
The book arrived before the baby came. We’re still waiting for him. And as so often happens, Catie’s response was not what I had expected. There’s going to be a baby became the first book she chose to “read” aloud. Ben sent a video he’d taken of this first. Catie’s words weren’t always clear as she made her way through the pages and the pictures definitely directed her “reading.” But after every page turn, she began the next page, “So….” and then continued to “read.” I thought of my own mother’s read-aloud talents and wondered if Catie carries that genetic gift!