reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

Waking Up is Hard to Do: Part II: Baby Talk: A Book of First Words and Phrases


I’ve turned on a lamp, clicked the thermostat up a few degrees, powered on the Keurig and found a comfy spot on the floor in front of the bookshelf. It’s too early to be up, baby boy, but here we are. So let’s read.

I found Baby Talk: A Book of First Words and Phrases by Judy Hindley, with illustrations by Brita Granstrom, (Candlewick, 2006) on the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC’s) website when I searched for “best baby books”  back when my daughter was a newborn. The CCBC at UW-Madison is an important resource in the world of children’s literature. Now I turn to them as a parent, but for years I requested their help as a teacher.

If you need multicultural titles, ask the CCBC. When I taught at an alternative school for pregnant and parenting teen moms in Minneapolis a CCBC librarian helped me find a list of books for really, really resistant readers that became the foundation of my curriculum. The same librarian helped me again when I was looking to infuse multicultural titles into a world literature class at a high school in Wisconsin. I encourage you to visit the CCBC website and check out their annual publication, CCBC Choices. 2013’s edition comes out March 2nd. Good stuff.

But back to Baby Talk. It’s a staple at our house. As the title foreshadows, the text is written in short, simple, often rhyming phrases explaining the most familiar objects and events of a baby’s day: “Baby in a diaper, Baby with a brush. What’s the baby saying, up, up, up!” Baby has a blanket, a bear, plays hide-and-seek, goes out with his mom to the park, swings, slides, plays in the sandbox, goes home, eats dinner and snuggles up in his crib at the end of the day and the end of the book. “Night-night, Baby. Baby’s gone to bed.”

Over time, I have watched my babies’ comprehension develop through the reading of this book. At first they just loved seeing a baby. Then they could point to baby. And give baby kisses. One day they started to say, “Baby!” and now, my son’s comprehension of the book has come so far, he sees the cover and yells “slide! slide!” and we are forced to skip the first few pages and go straight to the park. My daughter, more of a swing girl, prefers to find the swinging spread and give the babies big imaginary pushes. There are amazing opportunities for kids to interact with this book that so closely mirrors the world unfolding around them, and whenever we read it I hear:

“Read it Again, Mommy!” And so I do.

In my next post I’m going to talk Knuffle Bunny. Until I read Sunday’s New York Times children’s book review by Michael Agger, I didn’t realize that it was even possible to have any sort of problem with…Knuffle Bunny?! At this picture book house, Knuffle Bunny is one we absolutely can’t live without. Tune in next time for my reasons why, as well as other musings on Mo Willems.

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