New Baby

101 Things to do with a Baby

Jan Ormerod
Hardie Grant: 2012
ISBN: 9781921894114
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Note: out of print but due to many reprints second hand copies are often available.

One hundred and one numbered scenes (and a few more) simultaneously walk the reader through the day of a young girl and her baby brother, while detailing the fun they have together, from breakfast to bedtime.

The sibling and parent relationships presented in this book are heart-warming and realistic. The older child is full of beans and a loving sister, but also gets angry with her baby brother. Both mum and dad are involved in baby’s care and the author-illustrator has taken pains to show the parenting of the older sibling as well as the baby. The first image depicts the young girl in bed reading with breastfeeding mum and the last shows her reading with dad in an armchair (no baby present). This is a comforting read for siblings expecting a baby or coming to terms with their changing position in the family. The images are a treat with subtle jokes (watch dad in the exercise routine!) and expressive faces to analyse and discuss.

Brand new Baby

Bob Graham
Walker Books: 1998
ISBN: 0744561418
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Note: out of print but due to the popularity of this picture book creator second hand copies are often available.

The Arnolds—mum, dad, and siblings Wendy and Edward—are expecting a new baby. From Wendy and Edward’s perspectives the reader hears about some of the details—the pregnancy, visiting the hospital, baby’s arrival home, and the process of settling in.

This down-to-earth story derives its humour and emotional complexity from the skill with which Bob Graham explores a familiar theme (new baby) through the children’s eyes. From the outfits Wendy and Edward wear to the hospital to their observations about the baby’s appearance and capacity, Bob Graham captures the excitement of a baby and the banality of it for the little people involved.

While Brand New Baby encourages siblings to look at the positives, it also commiserates about some of the more trying aspects of babies, such as their tendency to absorb parental attention. It hints that the baby stage won’t last too long too.

Sadly this title is out of print but thanks to the enduring popularity of much-loved picture book creator Bob Graham there are lots of second hand copies available.

Brand-New Baby Blues

Kathi Appelt (author) and Kelly Murphy (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780060532338
Harper Collins Publishers: 2010
Age: 4+

Reviewed by Cath Young

Brand-New Baby Blues  is the story of a young girl whose place in her family is usurped by her new baby brother. It follows her emotional journey from disappointment at this situation, through anger and resentment to eventual acceptance and fondness for the new baby.  It is told from the young girl’s point of view in a four-line rhyming verse. It is full of humour and hits a few home truths about how life has changed for the girl, such as Mum having no time for playing anymore, and Dad’s attention being captured by the new baby. As the girl points out, ‘My whole life’s rearranged’.

There are lots of opportunities to engage children in comparing their own experiences to those of the girl in this story. The story seeks to affirm that a range of emotional responses are understandable and acceptable for a child dealing with the arrival of a new baby.  The full-page illustrations are rendered in a muted but colourful palette, with a subtle canvas like texture and a soft rounded quality to the characters, who are of Caucasian appearance.  There are some humorous representations of the parents, such as one drawing of the father sticking crayons in his ears and making a goofy face for the baby.  The emotional responses to each situation are clearly depicted on the face of the young girl, which again could make some interesting talking points for parent and child. 

Bye-Bye Baby Brother

Sheena Dempsey
Walker Books: 2013
ISBN: 9781406333404
AGE: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Ruby is playing with her dog Rory but cannot think of any more games. She asks her mum to play but she is busy changing baby Oliver. Ruby and Rory amuse themselves, each time returning to mum, but she is still too busy with baby Oliver. Ruby decides that she’d like Oliver to disappear and thinks up some inventive ways to achieve her aim. Eventually, Ruby decides to send him to the moon! But after Mum and Oliver come along for the ride, perhaps he won’t need to stay there.

This tale of sibling rivalry and new baby blues is sweet—but not too sweet! Ruby’s slightly wicked plans for her brother’s disappearance are very funny and the resolution of the story allows Ruby to reach acceptance of her brother through play and some connection time with her mum, who is a model of gentle and supportive parenting. The illustrations are a delight—they deftly transition between Ruby’s real and imaginative spaces. And the expressions on Ruby and Rory’s faces are priceless—subtle yet cheeky, especially when Oliver is about to join in the play!

Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus!

Atinuke (author) Lauren Tobia (illustrator)
Walker Books: London 2015
ISBN: 9781406347012
AGE: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

‘Come see,’ says Dad to Anna Hibiscus. Anna finds her mum and two baby brothers! She tells her cousins about the brothers and one cousin exclaims, ‘Big Trouble!’. When Anna finds she cannot cuddle with mum or eat breakfast with her Grandmother like she used to the baby brothers do indeed seem to be trouble, even double trouble! Anna becomes angry, hides, and cries. When she explains to her dad about ‘Double trouble,’ he gives her a big hug. Then all her relatives are gradually ready to be part of her day as usual and Anna is able to welcome her new brothers.

Anna Hibiscus, who ‘lives in Amazing Africa….and is amazing’ is the protagonist in a long running series. Double Trouble is a great stand-alone book for conversations about new babies, but its tender dialogue and stunning illustrations might just get you hooked on the whole series. Double trouble portrays the mixed experience babies can represent for small children convincingly and with empathy. It balances ideas about change and transition with an account of Anna’s daily routine and in so doing provides a subtle and comforting message that while some things change, lots of things, such as mum’s cuddles, stay the same.   

Hello Baby

Jenni Overend (author) and Julie Vivas (illustrator)
ABC books: 1999
ISBN: 9780733306853
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Cath Young

Hello Baby tells the story of one family’s preparation for a home birth. It is told through the eyes of the youngest child, Jack.  The story begins with Jack witnessing the initial stages of his mother’s labour and helping her lay out clothes for the new baby.  It goes on to describe the preparations that the whole family are making for the birth, such as getting a bed ready by the fire, contacting family members and welcoming the midwife.  The whole family witnesses the birth of the baby. The story finishes with the birth of the new baby and the family cuddled up together, sleeping by the fire.  

The tone of the book is one of mild excitement as Jack makes sense of this new experience, hearing his mother’s moans and cries, playing with the ‘special microphone for listening to the baby’s heart’, and seeing his father support his mother.  The book covers details of the birthing experience such as the mother making a lot of noise, the baby’s head appearing between the mother’s legs, the delivery of the placenta and cutting of the umbilical cord.

The colours used in the whole page illustrations are rich and warm. The coloured pencil drawings have a soft, scribbly texture to them and are naturalistic. The characters are of Caucasian appearance. They show both mother and baby fully undressed at the birth, from a side vantage point.

This story provides many opportunities to talk about the intricate details of a birth and the welcoming of a new baby into a household. It is obviously written with an emphasis on familiarising children with what may happen during a home birth, but could also be very useful to parents who want to introduce their children to a gentle and honest discussion about birth in general.

Plenty of Love to Go Round

Emma Chichester-Clark
Penguin: 2016
ISBN: 9780857551238
AGE: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Plum is a little black dog and his human mummy and daddy’s Special One. He is equally adored by his young neighbours, Gracie and Sam. When Gracie and Sam adopt a cat called Binky, Plum is both jealous and also unhappy about Binky’s persistent interest in him. Plum complains to his dog friends and is even a teensy bit mean to Binky the cat, but his human mum Emma responds with understanding (Yes—there is a connection with the author. See the back cover for an adorable picture of the real-life Plum). She assures Plum that he is her Special One and that there’s plenty of love to go round. Plum soon feels his heart growing bigger and bigger.

This is a funny and heart-warming tale of a dog adjusting to the introduction of a rival and may be a good conversation starter for siblings adjusting to a new baby, especially if parents are looking for something subtle and not too focused on human babies! The illustrations are full of expressive canine, feline, and human faces which parents can use to discuss feelings. And then there’s the story’s beautiful key theme and recurring refrain—plenty of love—which provides not only the idea but also the words to discuss how we can all manage to love more than one person (or indeed pet).

Waiting for Baby

Rachel Fuller (illustrator)
Child’s Play: 2009
ISBN: 9781846432750
Age: 0+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Waiting for Baby depicts a mum and a young child getting ready to welcome a new baby—they pick out toys and clothes, paint the baby’s room, go to the doctors. Each single page includes two simple sentences—usually a question from the young child and sometimes a statement as well (e.g. ‘I felt it move! Is it a boy or girl?’). Some questions show excitement (e.g. ‘Was this mine? Will it still fit me?’). Other questions demonstrate concern (e.g. ‘What’s the doctor doing? Does it hurt?’). Towards the end mum and dad are off to the hospital and then the baby has arrived.

This is a superb first book for toddlers expecting a sibling. The text encourages dialogue between parents and child and touches on some of the key concerns and interests young children may have (e.g. ‘How long will they [mum and dad] be [at the hospital]?’). It is also full of excitement and this is conveyed beautifully in the bright illustrations that focus on the child’s view of the world and frequently on times of connection with pregnant mum.

When I first met you blue kangaroo

Emma Chichester Clark
Harper Collins, London 2015
ISBN: 9780007425105
Age: 3+

Reviewed by Viv Young

Lily tells her blue kangaroo toy the story of how they first met: Lily was excitedly awaiting the arrival of her baby brother when mum came home from the hospital and everything went a little wrong. Lily spilled water over the baby, read too loud, bounced him too high in his pram. Then Grandma arrived with a blue kangaroo for Lily to look after. At first things didn’t go smoothly when Lilly tried to look after blue kangaroo. But when mum explained that taking care of someone involves making mistakes, Lily and her blue kangaroo settled in to their special friendship.

One of a series of books detailing Lily and blue kangaroo’s often poignant adventures, this particular title is a great narrative choice for pre-schoolers expecting a baby sibling. The story’s focus on Lily’s desire to help with the baby, her inability to do what parents desire, and her engagement with a new toy (often given around the time of a new baby’s birth) may well resonate with many kids’ experiences of new siblings.  There’s a bit of magic with the Kangaroo’s moments of surprising animation and these are brought out wonderfully in the artwork. Emma Chichester Clark uses patterns throughout and these add interest and the cosy feel of home and everyday things, adding to the comforting tone of the story as a whole.