B is for babies

Babies need good books, and so do their big siblings! Together, these warm and reassuring new picture books for preschool and primary-age children celebrate a baby's growth from in utero to first birthday. See also our Five Questions interview with Kyle Lukoff, author of When Aidan Became a Brother, in this issue.

In lighthearted rhyme, the direct-address text of Lucy Knisley's You Are New describes the things a new baby can do. Colorful digital collage illustrations show cute blob-shaped babies with a variety of skin tones against clean white backgrounds, their actions and emotions easy to read as they grow and learn. Their accomplishments may seem small, but they're monumental for young ones (and their grownups) and reassuringly portrayed for all: "You might not know just what to do… / That's okay when you are new." (Chronicle, 2–5 years)  

With B Is for Baby, author Atinuke and illustrator Angela Brooksbank (Baby Goes to Market) reunite for another tenderly funny story set in an unspecified African village and starring a winsome baby girl. B is not only for baby but also an intriguing basket with a lid; when the little girl peeks inside, a sequence of pictures shows her overbalancing into the basket and then settling in happily. Brooksbank's mixed-media illustrations use warm colors, from the bright beads in Baby's hair to the green-striped shirt that Baba (grandfather) is wearing when big Brother delivers the basket — with a surprise inside. (Candlewick, 2–5 years)

Baby Day by Jane Godwin and Davina Bell begins by setting the scene: "There's going to be a party" for a baby's first birthday. A spare, lilting text introduces the guests — "Shy baby. / Friendly baby. / Sunny baby. / Hat on, baby!" — with humor and warmth. As the party progresses, cheerful (and realistic) baby-sized mayhem ensues. The day ends with a bath, bedtime, and "sweet dreams" for the birthday baby. Freya Blackwood's inviting, scribbly pencil-and-watercolor-wash illustrations on generous white space allow for lots of audience engagement. (Atheneum, 2–5 years)

Nine pithy, five-line stanzas trace a fetus's development in utero in author Miranda Paul and illustrator Jason Chin's 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Nonfiction Honor Book Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born. As the watercolor and gouache illustrations' left-hand pages track the fetus's transformation, right-hand pages show slice-of-life scenes of a mom, dad, and soon-to-be big sister excitedly awaiting the new arrival. A clever, joyful celebration of the time leading up to a baby's birth, appended with further details about gestational development. (Holiday/Porter, 4–7 years)

From the July 2019 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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