It was an emotional day.
My baby went in to get a haircut and came out a little boy…
and Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury (Harcourt, 2008) moved. Just across the hallway, from my daughter’s bedtime book basket to my son’s, but I…almost…couldn’t…do it.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes begins: “There was one little baby who was born far away. And another who was born on the very next day. And both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”
It continues with a baby who was “born in a town,” one “who was wrapped in an eiderdown,” one “born in the hills,” one “who suffered from “sneezes and chills” and “[all] of these babies, as every knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”
It’s a lullaby, really. Best read at bedtime. Twice. At least one bedtime every week, for as long as your child fits in your lap.
By the end of this book there are eight beautiful babies (we count them, and their fingers and toes, regularly), “But the next baby born was truly divine, a sweet little child who was mine, all mine.” In the illustration that goes with this text we see the top of a young mother’s bent head from our view behind a red sitting chair, as she looks down and cradles her baby.
But I am not the only one in my house who loves this book.
It was this book that first inspired my daughter to “push” pictures of children on swings.
It was this book that prompted her to say “Uh oh!” and later, “Where’s his hat?” while looking at the hat-less baby “who was born on the ice.”
It was this book that taught her about hot water bottles. The baby “who was born with the chills” has one, and given that there is no physical counterpart to it in my daughter’s world, she has probably asked me “what is that?” over fifty times.
Tonight we read this book in its new home with my daughter who had come in “to hear the story.”
When she saw what we were reading she said, “This was my favorite book when I was a baby.” (No, I wasn’t dangling a quarter over her piggy bank).
Proof? When we got the swinging spread she said, “Mommy, look!” She closed the book to show me that the illustration on the back is the same illustration of the baby on the right side of the swinging spread. “But, look!” she said, “this one is not the same.” She was right. The baby swinging on the front cover is not the same as the baby on the left side of the swinging spread.
Even after reading this book/lullaby at bedtime, twice, at least once a week for the last two years…I hadn’t noticed…this.
It was this book that tonight made my son laugh and point at baby belly buttons.
It was this book that ends with “…three little kisses on the tip of its nose” that prompted six kisses on the tips of two noses, and made my son say, “gain” (or…Read it Again, Mommy!)
Look carefully at your bookshelf. I bet you will find a book by Mem Fox or illustrations by Helen Oxenbury, and if you don’t, you’re missing out.