February 28, 2008


Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here! A Word from Your Baby-in-Waiting. By Barbara Park. Illustrated by Viviana Carofoli. Random House. $15.99.

I Lost My Kisses. By Trudie Trewin. Illustrated by Nick Bland. Orchard Books/Scholastic. $14.99.

      As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about when their kids get upset about things in their everyday life, now Barbara Parks has an unborn baby complaining about things! But don’t be too concerned – this isn’t an expansion-of-worries book but a very amusingly written and illustrated sendup showing all the things an unborn child might worry about if the child happened to be fully self-aware and highly familiar with activities in the world “out there.” Park, best known for her Junie B. Jones books, here envisions a baby in “a womb with no view” complaining about the absence of trees, puppies, toys, swings, parks and much more. The adorably huge-headed baby drawn by Viviana Carofoli imagines swinging on monkey bars, canoeing, even driving a truck. But instead, as we are told in a page whose type curls in on itself in a spiral, “I’m all in a heap here. My feet are asleep here. I’m flat out of space. I’ve got knees in my face.” And so on. Oh, the baby does try to keep busy: the mother-to-be holds her belly as the baby explains, “I slosh till I’m dizzy. I practice my kicking. And hiccup-cup-hicking.” Moms will certainly remember all that! Eventually, the baby – looking forward to a life of “Snooze, eat…repeat,” even if “nights might get bumpy. I’ll wake, full of grumpy” – sends love to mom and dad and decides to settle down and wait, getting bigger and stronger…for the time being. The unusual perspective and amusing story, coupled with delightful illustrations, add up to a heartwarmingly unconventional baby book.

      I Lost My Kisses is cute, too, but also rather ordinary in plot; it gets a (+++) rating, mostly on the strength of its illustrations. It’s the story of Matilda Rose, a little cowgirl – that is, a little cow drawn by Nick Bland to look like a little girl – who loves kissing hello and good-bye, kissing morning and night and especially kissing Daddy when he comes home. But one morning she discovers that she has lost her kisses – and even though her mother assures her that “they’ll be there when you need them,” Matilda Rose spends the whole day searching for them. From the breakfast table to beneath her bed to the well to the grocery store, Matilda Rose searches without success. She asks her friend, Lambkins, and her dog, Cuddles, for help, but they don’t know what kisses look like – and Matilda Rose realizes that neither does she. In fact, no one can tell her what kisses look like or where to find them; but of course, when Daddy does come home, Matilda Rose is right there, ready with a “big smoocheroo” for him. Trudie Trewin’s story is a little thin, although very young children will enjoy it. Bland’s illustrations are more special: they are mainly black-and-white (which works well for cows), but they have splashes of color to lend extra interest (a yellow chick, a red dog collar, etc.). The most amusing part of the book is an airport scene in which different anthropomorphic animals are kissing in a variety of ways – including giraffes, ostriches and others. Bland also has fun with labels, from a cereal box of “Moosli” to an “I (heart) Moo York” bumper sticker. Trewin’s story, though, is blander than Bland’s peppy pictures.

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