Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartfelt, but never humdrum, these picture books are just right for siblings anticipating or adjusting to a new member of the household, kids with big questions, or youngsters who yearn to revisit the simple pleasures of babyhood.
The Baby Tree. by Sophie Blackall. illus. by author. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399257186; ebk $17.99. ISBN 9780698158108.
K-Gr 2–When a boy discovers that a new sibling is on the way, he naturally begins to wonder where babies come from. The roundabout answers he receives from his teenage babysitter (you plant a seed that grows into a Baby Tree), his teacher (from the hospital), Grandpa (a stork), and the mailman (eggs, he thinks) generate some playfully inventive images in the child’s mind, along with lots of confusion. However, an honest and more-accurate conversation with Mom and Dad results in enlightenment and an eager big-brother-to-be. Gentle humor, warmhearted watercolor paintings, and age-appropriate facts combine in this perfectly pulled-off charmer.
Baby’s Got the Blues. by Carol Diggory Shields. illus. by Lauren Tobia. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763632601.
K-Gr 2–“You think babies have it easy?/Let me tell you, that’s a lie./Sometimes being a baby/Is enough to make you cry.” So laments a round-cheeked narrator, who details the (until now) unsung woes of infantdom—waking up with a stinky, soggy diaper; having to eat pea-green goo; forced confinement behind (crib) bars; and other indignities. However, sadness turns to smiles when the tyke is cuddled in mother’s arms for hugs, kisses, and “I love yous.” Shields’s tongue-in-cheek blues ballad never misses a beat, and Tobia’s exuberant illustrations—featuring an adorable protagonist, caring big sister, and hip-looking mom—delightfully expand the humor. A giggle-inducing treat for older siblings and kids who like to remember the good old days.
Bye-Bye Baby Brother! by Sheena Dempsey. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763662417.
PreS-Gr 1–Ruby and her pooch Rory have run out of things to do, but Mom is too occupied with little Oliver to play. Frustrated, the girl contemplates ways to make her brother disappear, including zapping him with a baby-vanishing magic wand, before settling on a plan—sending Oliver to the moon (one way, of course). However, when Mom convinces her to take everyone along on her cool cardboard box rocket, a fabulous space adventure ensues, and Captain Ruby realizes that she likes having a little astronaut on the crew. Soft-hued paintings depict the endearing characters, pleasantly messy scenes of family life, and honest emotions.
Maple. by Lori Nichols. illus. by author. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399160851; ebk $16.99. ISBN 9780698149212.
PreS-Gr 1–Sharing much more than her name with the sapling her parents planted “when she was still a whisper,” a youngster finds comfort, companionship, and a place for dreaming beneath the branches of her favorite tree. One day she discovers a new seedling in the backyard (along with news about a new baby) and resolves to be a good big sister. Later on, when she brings the fussy infant outdoors, something magical happens—the leaves of her beloved tree dance for both Maple and little Willow, prompting sisterly smiles. This sweet tale features a winsome protagonist, lovely leaf-printed artwork, and abundant affection.
One Special Day. by Lola M. Schaefer. illus. by Jessica Meserve. Hyperion. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423137603.
PreS-Gr 1–As he plays outdoors, an energetic youngster imagines that he is as strong as a bear, as funny as a monkey, as wild as a tiger. But one special day, Spencer demonstrates that he can be tender too, as he carefully cradles his newborn sibling. Color-saturated artwork depicts the free-spirited youngster and his menagerie of fanciful friends along with his love for his baby sister. Spencer and Mia’s story—and their close-knit relationship—continues in One Busy Day (Hyperion, 2014).
Pecan Pie Baby. by Jacqueline Woodson. illus. by Sophie Blackall. Penguin. 2010. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399239878; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780147511287; ebk $7.99. ISBN 9781101587683.
K-Gr 2–Gia’s mother is pregnant, and the fiery girl is less than thrilled about “the ding-dang baby.” At home, during family gatherings, even at school, it’s all anyone seems to talk about. The youngster’s resentment continues to simmer, until an outburst leads to a heart-to-heart with Mama, who gently acknowledges Gia’s feelings and provides loving reassurance. Gia’s first-person narrative incorporates candidly expressed emotions and older-siblings concerns, while the warm-toned artwork emphasizes the familial affection that wraps around her like a comfy blanket. The ending is upbeat, as she concedes that she already has something in common with her expected sibling—an appetite for pecan pie.
Phoebe & Digger. by Tricia Springstubb. illus. by Jeff Newman. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763652814.
PreS-Gr 2–“When Mama got a new baby…Phoebe got a new digger.” While her mother caters to the infant’s needs, the girl keeps equally busy with her amusingly personified backhoe, knocking over the garbage can, chasing the cat, and causing general mayhem. A much-needed trip to the park provides access to real dirt and allows her to stretch her imagination, until a bully snatches the treasured toy. Phoebe feels helpless and frightened, but Mama soon intervenes and rescues Digger. Heartfelt hugs set everything right (even the baby stops crying) and remind Phoebe that she is still safe, happy, and loved. Stylized cotton-candy-colored illustrations and a child-oriented text convey a range of emotions and spot-on humor.
Ruby’s Baby Brother. by Kathryn White. illus. by Miriam Latimer. Barefoot Bks. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781846868641; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781846869501.
PreS-Gr 1–On the day her parents bring her newborn brother home, Ruby feels anxious and left out, concocting creative ways to be rid of the smelly, noisy, toy-snatching interloper, but as soon as Dad places the baby into her lap—and he takes hold of her finger—she turns her formidable imagination to becoming the best big sister ever. Ruby’s first-person narration percolates with breezy rhymes and lively personality, and the vibrant illustrations depict her adventures—both real and imaginary. Also available in a Spanish language edition.
The Very Tiny Baby. by Sylvie Kantorvitz. illus. by author. Charlesbridge. 2014. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781580894456.
PreS-Gr 1–Jacob has mixed emotions about “the baby growing in…mommy’s belly.” When the infant is born prematurely, everyone is so worried about its survival that the youngster is left feeling abandoned and resentful. However, as the baby improves and eventually comes home, Jacob’s parents reassure him that he is special and loved. The simple first-person text and crayon-touched childlike artwork powerfully convey unadulterated emotions as Jacob begins to comprehend the gravity of the situation (“Grown-ups can be scared”), wrestles with intense emotions (a small close-up of Jacob is set against a page-size black rectangle as he rashly wishes for the very worst), and ultimately reasserts his place in the family (the final image shows a smiling big brother gently cradling the tiny baby on his lap). A candid and comforting discussion starter.
What’s in There?: All About Before You Were Born. by Robie H. Harris. illus. by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Candlewick. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763636302.
PreS-Gr 1–As the household prepares to welcome a new addition, Nellie and her little brother Gus bubble with excitement and curiosity. Harris provides facts about the developing baby in a straightforward text that smoothly incorporates both correct anatomical terms and kid-accessible similes. Set against a backdrop of the passing seasons, Westcott’s engaging illustrations highlight day-to-day family scenes, while cut-away images show the changing fetus cozily tucked away inside Mommy’s uterus. A reassuring, affectionate, and elucidating first intro for expectant siblings and inquisitive youngsters.
You Were the First. by Patricia MacLachlan. illus. by Stephanie Graegin. Little, Brown. 2013. Tr $17. ISBN 9780316185332; ebk $9.99. ISBN 9780316401043.
K-Gr 1–Lilting language and charmingly detailed artwork showcase the wondrous milestones shared by devoted parents and their much-cherished baby. “You were the first…to sleep in the basket with the yellow ribbon wound round…the first to cry…the first to smile.” As the infant grows, more amazing achievements abound—walking, catching falling leaves, throwing a ball, running from ocean waves. And though other babies may one day come along, this child “will always be the first.” This touching tale for firstborns is perfect for snuggle-together family sharing or smoothing the way for a new sibling.