This Is Our Baby, Born Today, by Varsha Bajaj; illustrated by Eliza Wheeler; Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 1-4.
What do you get for the newborns who, unbeknownst to them, have everything awaiting their arrival? Rather than saddle expectant parents with another swaddling blanket or fancy doodad, consider a charming picture book like This Is Our Baby, Born Today. Varsha Bajaj’s poetic ode to new beginnings chronicles the arrival of a baby elephant while celebrating the joy of life and the importance of family and friends. This pint-sized pachyderm is cuddled and caressed by its doting mama and a menagerie of exotic visitors. (The baby’s gender isn’t offered, and it doesn’t matter whether we’re reading about a boy or a girl, the point is the same–babies are gifts, to be treasured and nurtured and loved.) Older readers may recognize Bajaj’s name; her debut effort was the critically-acclaimed middle-grade novel Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood. Lush, full watercolors by New York Times bestselling illustrator Eliza Wheeler bathe the characters in a warm jungle glow, no doubt infused with the love that surrounds and embraces this happy elephant family.
(images copyright 2016 Eliza Wheeler, text copyright 2016 Varsha Bajaj. Reproduced with permission from Nancy Paulsen Books.)
Vincent and the Night, by Adele Enersen; Dial Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 2-5.
Finnish copywriter-turned author Adele Enersen gained global attention with her blog, Mila’s Daydreams, thrilling readers with photos of her baby in various imaginary situations. Now, pen and ink line drawings surround her youngest child in this latest installment. Here, little Vincent shows no interest in falling asleep, and is imagined as a swashbuckling pirate, zookeeper, and even a violinist. Despite the artistic whimsy, the text doesn’t sing like it ought to, and the images just aren’t strong enough to carry the story on their own. Even though Amazon lists Vincent as one of it’s best books for 2015, I have to respectfully demur. It’s cute, but geared more towards cooing adults than young readers. That said, I think it would be excellent refashioned as a board book – gather the black and white images closer together, and put the thing right into children’s hands so that they might gaze into the eyes of Vincent, marvel at his antics, and perhaps engage in a few adventures of their own.
Lullaby & Kisses Sweet: Poems to Love with Your Baby, by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Alyssa Nassner; Abrams Appleseed, $15.95, 44 pages, ages 0-3.
Babies love being read to, and they will adore listening to this lyrical collection of original poetry curated by poet Lee Bennett Hopkins. The anthology’s thirty selections are divided into five topics, ranging from food to bedtime. Parents will notice some A-list authors among the group, including Marilyn Singer, (the Tallulah series) Jane Yolen (How Do Dinosaurs….? series) and J. Patrick Lewis (World Rat Day: Poems About Holidays You’ve Never Heard Of.). The sturdy, casebound board book is perfect for exploring little hands, and artist Alyssa Nassner’s bright and engaging illustrations make this a delightful introduction to all the sensory joys of poetry.
Wish, by Matthew Cordell; Disney-Hyperion, $16.99, 48 pages, ages 3-6.
Sometimes parents wait a long time before children come along. They plan, live, cope with disappointment, until one day their wish comes true. Matthew Cordell’s charming elephant couple explores what it means to begin a family, and how adults deal with unexpected challenges. “We listen…. And we wait… but you never come. And everything stops.” will no doubt resonate with some families more than others. One day, while the patient pachyderms stroll along the beach, a crack of lightning splits the ocean apart, and a baby arrives on a small sailboat. There’s nothing preachy or overly saccharine here – Wish is a wonderful, simple and totally heartfelt way for parents to remind their children how much they are loved.