Thursday, August 7, 2014

Picture Book Review - The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall

Quick: name for me one book about where babies come from that is equal parts informative and funny. Can't do it, can you? That's because most of those books fall into one category or another: seriously dry yet factual, or silly and completely untrue. And no matter which camp they fall into, none of these books are the kind you really want to put on the regular bedtime reading rotation.

So let me first say that Sprout has not yet asked us THE question, but I know it's just a matter of time. And once he does, I finally, finally know how we're going to respond -- by reaching over to the bookshelf and grabbing Sophie Blackall's excellent picture book The Baby Tree, which is top of my list for books on the subject of babies and all that jazz. It's not just helpful, it's also a fun one to read (whew!).

With Blackall's trademark whimsical illustrations, The Baby Tree starts out to be a crowdpleaser right from the first page. Our hero gets up one morning and discovers that his parents have some news for him. You can guess what it is, of course, but our guy's more interested at first in having more cocopops. Soon, though, he gets to thinking about this baby's arrival and just where the kid is coming from. And he begins asking all the significant grownups, each of whom have an answer that ends up to be part of the truth (except Grandpa). The boy puts it all together at the end, when his parents finally tell him the whole story. Now all our boy needs to do is straighten out Grandpa. . . .

Let me reassure you here that Blackall handles this all in a sensitive, age-appropriate fashion. In fact, it's so tactful that your little one might have any followup questions the first time you read it -- but just in case they do, Blackall has a nice Q&A at the end of the book. (It even addresses topics like same-sex parents and adoption.) So when reading this with the littlest ones, the text may be enough, while for older kiddos you may decide to consult the talking points - you know, if you're not sure just what to say.

That said, I also appreciate that The Baby Tree not only deals honestly with a sensitive topic, but does it by incorporating some diversity into the mix. Sure, the main character and his family are white, but there's plenty of other hues in the babies and in our little boy's classmates. Score one for Blackall for recognizing that even topics like this need to be inclusive -- it's definitely a step in the right direction, in my view. Now, if we could just get diverse books about toothbrushing or potty training. . .

UPDATE: I'd written this post but not published it when Sprout came home from preschool and announced that one of the teachers has a baby in her tummy. Woot woot! I was ready! We read The Baby Tree last night and I'm pleased to say that Sprout thought the narrative answered his questions. So at least for now, we're out of the woods on that topic. Ms. Blackall, you have our many thanks. :)

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall, published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Ages 5-8
Source: Library

1 comment:

Jen Robinson said...

I really like this one, too! My daughter has been asking, and this works pretty well. While being, as you say, fun, too.