A Little Stranger: There's Going to Be a Baby by John Burningham
"THERE'S GOING TO BE A BABY."
"WHEN IS THE BABY GOING TO COME?"
"THE BABY WILL ARRIVE WHEN IT'S READY IN THE FALL, WHEN THE LEAVES ARE TURNING BROWN AND FALLING."
It is that poignant, momentous, life-changing moment when a parent tells the firstborn that a new baby is going to come into the family. The young child has many questions, many conflicting thoughts, as, of course, do the prospective parents as well. What will the baby's name be? What will be baby do? Will there be messes and problems? Will the baby play with me? What will the baby do when he or she is grown up? Do we really NEED a baby?
In a marriage made in picture-book heaven, veteran author John Burningham joins his wife, Helen Oxenbury, long a noted illustrator, in their beautiful collaboration, There's Going to Be a Baby (Candlewick Press, 2010) to recreate the crucial period in which the as yet unborn child gradually becomes part of the family. We see mother and firstborn going about their daily lives, through the end of winter, the spring, and a long summer, as the baby slowly becomes more and more real to the child.
"I HOPE IT'S A BOY SO WE CAN PLAY BOY GAMES TOGETHER, AND I THINK HE SHOULD BE CALLED PETER--OR SPIDER-MAN."
In Oxenbury's evocative double-page panelled spreads, the child imagines the baby, clad in a pastel onesie and boots, as he flips pancakes which stick to the ceiling and fall on his head, helping in the garden as mom plants spring flowers, and working in a zoo, feeding a bottle of milk to a baby monkey--and possibly being eaten by a tiger.
Doubts and fears also surface.
"MOM, CAN'T YOU TELL THE BABY TO GO AWAY? WE DON'T REALLY NEED A BABY, DO WE?"
And when at last we see the child on the bus with his grandfather and walking into the hospital to meet the new baby, we know that the family is going to open up to enfold both the newcomer and the firstborn in his new role as big brother.
"GRANDAD... THE BABY WILL BE OUR BABY."
There's Going to Be a Baby combines picturesque, slightly old-fashioned illustrations of mother and child as the mom's tummy increases and the child's understanding of the meaning of a new sibling in his family also grows. Burningham and Oxenbury create a simple but realistic account of this process in a way that will facilitate authentic discussions between parent and child among their readers. This one is sure to become a classic must-have for expanding families.