July 24, 2008


Welcome to Your World, Baby. By Brooke Shields. Illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. HarperCollins. $16.99.

The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share. By Mike Reiss. Illustrated by David Catrow. HarperCollins. $16.99.

Mother, You’re the Best! (But Sister, You’re a Pest!) By Diane deGroat. HarperCollins. $16.99.

Papá and Me. By Arthur Dorros. Pictures by Rudy Gutierrez. Rayo/HarperCollins. $16.99.

The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas. By Sally Lloyd-Jones. Illustrated by Michael Emberley. HarperCollins. $14.99.

I Already Know I Love You. By Billy Crystal. Illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles. Byron Preiss/HarperFestival. $7.99.

      From babies to grandparents, families are held together by their own special bonds – and sometimes by a quirk or two, as these books for ages 3-8 show well. Welcome to Your World, Baby is about a girl with a new baby sister, looking forward to all the things they will do together when the baby gets bigger. They will have “super secret sleepovers” and “play beauty parlor” and catch snow on their tongues together – but for now, big sister will let the baby borrow her teddy bear “until you are bigger and aren’t scared at night.” Brooke Shields, in her first picture book, tells the story in simple, straightforward language, without a hint of “celebrity-fication” anywhere, and Cori Doerrfeld’s warm and lovely pictures create a feeling of calm and happiness throughout.

      But of course, siblings don’t always get along quite so perfectly. The Boy Who Wouldn’t Share is about sour-faced little Edward – David Catrow does a marvelous job with his expressions – who is unendingly mean to his little sister, Claire: “She could not hug his teddy bear./ ‘IT’S MINE!’ he said. ‘Why should I share?’” Well, as Mike Reiss’ verse makes clear, selfish Edward is heading for a fall – or rather for entrapment in a mound of toys so huge that he can barely be seen “somewhere deep inside the pile.” What happens? “When Edward’s mom came in with fudge,/ Edward found he couldn’t budge./ His mother didn’t see him there,/ and so she gave it all to Claire.” But big-eyed Claire is as good-hearted as Edward is mean-spirited, and the non-sharing boy comes to realize “that he’d been crabby,/ grouchy, grumbly, greedy, grabby,” and everything turns out just fine after all. Very amusingly, too.

      And what of parents? Diane deGroat’s Gilbert the possum wants to do something special for his mom on Mother’s Day, but little sister Lola spoils everything – first taking Mother’s attention away from Gilbert, then making a mess of everything Gilbert tries to do. Gilbert takes her to the store so he can buy something for Mother, but Lola eats the gift – an ice-cream cone. She gets messy, so Gilbert has to give her a bath. And so the day goes. But while Gilbert gets frustrated, Lola gets happier all the time – Gilbert never took her to the store before, never gave her a bath, never read to her at her nap time, and so on. And it turns out that what Mother wanted most was for Gilbert to take care of Lola during the day, which is just what Gilbert ended up doing. The result is a warm-hearted look at the positive side of unintended consequences.

      As for fathers, Papá and Me shows a day of great but simple fun for a boy and his Papá, and includes some Spanish phrases (clearly understandable in context) in its English-language story. Arthur Dorros’ tale follows the boy and his father as they have breakfast, go to the park, draw, race, and the boy learns that “I can do some things better than Papá, he can do some better than me.” Rudy Gutierrez’ pictures, which are all swirls and color blends, give the book a unique appearance and help propel it to a final hug that also includes the boy’s grandparents.

      Ah yes, grandparents. The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas & Grandpas tells kids everything they need to know about them. Sally Lloyd-Jones explains the grandparent-managing guidelines, which are made super-clear by Michael Emberley’s highly amusing illustrations of all sorts of animal families. “You need to scream and run away when they pretend to be a monster,” for example. And “it’s important to let your grandpa have some of your ice cream, and let him build you big sand castles like when he was a boy.” And “you need to make sure your grandma and grandpa have their naps when they’re tired.” Add all this good-hearted advice to pictures of (for example) goats playing checkers and giraffes reading newspapers, and you have a thoroughly engaging guide to staying engaged with the older generation.

      And how do grandparents feel about grandkids? Billy Crystal makes that abundantly clear in the board book, I Already Know I Love You. Crystal puts aside his usual comedic style for the dreams of a grandparent-to-be: “I’m waiting to show you oceans and explain why the sky is blue./ I want to show you that lying is never as good as true.” The sentimentalism of the thoughts is nicely complemented by Elizabeth Sayles’ attractive illustrations in a book that shows – as all these books do – that what binds the many members of a family together is their many kinds of love.

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