I have a very clear memory of how almost every book in our house got here, expect this one. If the bearer of such a great gift happens to read this blog, please remind me who you are. We owe you.
Years from now, when I think back to The Beginning, Baby Danced the Polka (Dial, 2004) by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas, will be a significant part of the memory. With its cracked binding, taped pages and chewed up corners you’d think we had owned this book for more than two and a half years. But what’s really happened is that we’ve read it a lot. I have it just about memorized, and so did my daughter, before she turned two.
Written in verse that works, perfect for baby ears that prefer the rhythm and tone of language over plot, I started reading this tale that all parents can relate to, a tale of a baby who won’t nap, to my colicky infant when I could still fit her completely, facing me, on my up-angled thighs (me sitting on couch with feet resting on table).
The repetition of ma and pa putting baby down and saying, “You better stay in bed,” grew familiar fast. Did baby stay in bed? Of course not! (What baby does?) “But instead” Beaumont writes, baby dances the polka with a host of farm animals, a pig, goat, cow and sheep. Each one is revealed by a perfectly placed page break AND a lift-the-flap (fun, fun, fun for baby fingers).
My baby girl started lifting/ripping (although this book is sturdier than many lift-the-flaps we’ve read) when she was about 9-months-old. A 16-17 months we were using Baby Danced the Polka to practice animal identification and animal sounds. Now age 3, we play around reciting the rhymes and relishing the artwork (she is especially fond of the finale–(spoiler alert)–a two-page spread she calls the “blue page” that shows ma and pa and baby (who they finally realized will “never stay in bed!”) having the “…best ol’ polka-fest/In all of Arkansas!” in their yard at night, beneath the warm glow of a full moon.
<Sigh>. I. Love. This. Book.
Picture Book House Rating: READ IT AGAIN, MOMMY! (and AGAIN, and AGAIN, and AGAIN!)