reviews and stories about parenting with picture books

Babies HAPPY: In the Car


Today’s award for BEST BOARD BOOK FOR THE CAR goes to…Baby Happy Baby Sad by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick, 2008).

The story of this book’s beginning at our house is a familiar one: saw it on a display at B&N, found it impossible to pass by baby with his single curly-q of hair, lip-licking tongue and towering triple scoop of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. I knew my daughter would just eat him, and his ice cream, right up (I’m not kidding. She licks the cover).

She was only about 10 months old when we first started reading Baby Happy Baby Sad, and like many books, at first it wasn’t much more than “cute.” For anybody who takes children’s literature seriously, “cute” is about the least flattering adjective that can be used to describe a book. Picture books can be cute, but they also have to be much more.

As it turns out, there is so much more to Baby Happy Baby Sad.

The first two pages explain the context of the book with a picture of “Baby HAPPY” followed by a picture of “Baby SAD.” Each of the following spreads shows baby happy because he is holding a cat, an ice cream cone, a balloon, etc., followed by an accompanying picture of baby sad because the cat has run away, the triple scoop of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla has splattered and the balloon is floating away. Sometimes baby is sad first (baby falls, sister won’t share) and then happy (mommy picks baby up, sister shares).

The spread my daughter liked best, first, was the one with baby and cat.

At about a year she would point when the cat jumped out of baby’s arms and say “uh-oh!” This is also one of the first pictures in a book that she found the words to describe. Around 18-20 months she said something like, “cat bye bye.” What a triumph of comprehension and language development. That’s right, honey, “Cat bye bye.”

My daughter, the ecdysiast, also loves the picture of baby’s bare buns. And you can’t deny the truth of the the unhappy, bundled up baby on the next page.

My daughter understands why baby is happy to be playing in the mud, but is not so sure why he doesn’t like the bath–she would be happy on both of these pages.

And as a mother of a child who is impossible to put to bed, I could do without the unhappy-baby-because-daddy-walked-out-leaving-him-in-his-crib page, although my angst over it is exactly why Patricelli included it I’m sure–it’s real.


Because now that my daughter, almost three, can “read” this book, using my inflections, raising her voice up, up, up on Baby HAPPY pages and down, down, down, going slower, slower, slower on Baby SAD pages, she reads it to me, in the car. It goes something like this:

Daughter: Baby HAPPY

Me: Why is the baby happy?

Daughter: He has a kitty!

Me: What about on the next page?

Daughter: Baby Sad

Me:  Oh no….WHY!? WHY is baby sad?

Daughter: The kitty ran away!

And so on, and so forth, and before we know it we are at the grocery store, my daughter has just read me a book, my son loved it too, and instead of crying or whining or kicking my seat or throwing things (as if these things would ever happen in my car), we are all quite HAPPY.

Picture Book House Rating: Read it Again, Mommy!

7 Responses to “Babies HAPPY: In the Car”

  1. Papa J Funk (@papajfunk)

    All those Leslie Patricelli books were great for the 1-2 year olds. I’m pretty sure we chewed through five or six of them (literally)… Binky and her opposites books were classics!

  2. Renee@MD BookReviews (@MDBookReviews)

    Great review of this book. Sometimes it’s the books with the bold black outlines and bright colours that go over the best. I also like how actions are tied to emotions but I agree about the “Daddy leaving the baby in the crib” page. Oh well, overall, it sounds like a great book for little ones. Thanks for sharing it in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. 🙂


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