Book: The Baby Tree
Author: Sophie Blackall
Age Range: 4-8
The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall is a very well-done picture book about a boy's quest to understand where babies come from. After a boy's parents tell him that a new baby will be joining their family, he asks various people in his life if they can tell him where babies come from. They give him answers like "you plant a seed and it grows into a baby tree" and "a stork brings your baby in the night." Finally, when the boy is thoroughly confused, his parents explain it to him properly. The explanation is age appropriate in level of detail and content, I thought: "a seed from their dad ... planted in an egg inside their mom", etc. An afterword suggests sample text for answering other questions that kids may have. That text mentions body parts by name, but this terminology is not in the main text.
This book does so many things right. First of all, the illustrations are hilarious. The "baby tree" is shown on the cover. Even better is a picture of a hospital chock-full of babies, with a line of swaddled babies (basically heads atop blankets) somehow upright and making their way out the front door. Other aspects of the illustrations are more subtle, but also pleasing. The babies are a multi-cultural rainbow, also bearing a diverse assortment of blankets. The expressions on the faces of the people the boy asks about babies are priceless. The mailman looks positively sheepish as he scratches his head and says something about eggs. (And oh, the baby face peeking out of a bird's egg is adorable.)
The other thing that I like about this book is that even though it's about something (where babies come from), there are lots of other details that are simply true to the life of a preschooler. I know that my daughter is going to laugh when she reads about the boy waking up Dad, then eventually waking up Dad again. And she'll relate to when the boy uses his parents' excitement about the baby to finagle a second bowl of cocopops. Kids have priorities, you know. There are a few tidbits in here for parents, too, as when the teacher gives the briefest possible answer to the boy's question, and then immediately says: "Boys and girls, it's time to wash our brushes." The adult reader can practically hear her thinking: "Because I don't want to get into this discussion here at school."
The fact that the boy's parents tell him their news at a time when they have to rush off, leaving him to ask all of these other people, is a tiny bit contrived. But I will cheerfully forgive Sophie Blackall for that. Because this book is wonderful. In the end, it answers children's questions about where babies come from, simply and honestly. But along the way, it provides delightful, whimsical pictures set against realistic depictions of the life of a preschooler. This is a must-purchase for parents expecting another baby, and for libraries. Highly recommended.
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books (@PenguinKids)
Publication Date: May 1, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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