Review of Mama Baby

Mama Baby
by Chris Raschka; illus. by the author
Preschool    Candlewick    32 pp.    g
3/20    978-0-7636-9060-1    $14.99

In this artfully composed picture book, Raschka gets to the emotional core of the relationship between a young child and a trusted adult. Mama, on the verso, looks adoringly at her child, a blond, rosy-cheeked baby on the recto. On most of the double-page spreads, the characters and one or two words of text are oriented horizontally, facing and focused on each other across the gutter, which is emphasized with a thick blue line. From their respective pages, the pair claps and plays peek-a-boo and
pat-a-cake. Very young children (and their caregivers) will recognize the mother and baby’s familiar games as well as the obvious delight each takes in the other. The small book’s square shape and Raschka’s up-close watercolor portraits on plain white backgrounds bring the pair’s actions and feelings to the fore. When Mama is suddenly distracted by something off-stage, the playtime connection spell is (briefly) broken. Over the next three spreads, blank left-hand pages — signaling Mama’s absence — starkly confront an increasingly distraught Baby. Of course, Mama rushes back to comfort her upset child; the crisis is over, and relief is palpable. This everyday drama should resonate with the intended audience, who will likely find comfort in watching the events from the distance a book offers. Both characters satisfyingly acknowledge their audience in the end, where Baby — now reunited on the same page as Mama — waves safely from her arms. Be prepared for pleas of “Again, again!”

From the March/April 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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