Friday, 6 January 2012

Back to the beginning

Books for babies... I'm not sure there was such a thing when I was a baby (my memory is hazy on the subject). I guess there were the fabric sort, perhaps minus the modern day excitements of crinkly patches, beepers, bells and zips, but I'm not sure the board book had been invented way back then. Babies ate their parents' newspaper and waited to grow into the proper stuff.

Now of course there is a whole section of any self respecting bookshop specifically catering for the needs of the under 2s. This is of course a Good Thing but the proliferation of texts for older children being turned into miniaturised board books for the very very young I find somewhat mystifying. I just don't think an under 2 needs a copy of 'The Snail and the Whale' yet and the 3 year old who does would prefer the illustrations BIG please, no matter that the corners get ratty with use. A board book 'Flat Stanley' is probably already in production.

Both Bill and Eddie enjoyed a good selection of chewable  interactive baby books from the beginning. We had the full set; fabric books (with ALL 21st century's finest squeaky bits and rattly bits), wipeable sponge bath books, 'feely' page books, books with just mesmerising high contrast black and white images in them, books with peekaboo flaps, books with spinning wheels, books with photos of other babies faces. All were appreciated to the point of disintegration. I can still recite the whole of Bill's particular favourite 'Baby Boo':

'wakey wakey sleepy baby, kiss kiss I love you, tickle tickle smiley baby, do you want to play? baby knows just what to do. baby baby where are you? peekaboo it's you! (obligatory mirror on last page)

We read it A Lot.

The 'That's Not My (insert whatever you like eg. pony, robot, monster, kitten etc.) series by Usborne are pretty fine examples of the genre...and must do well as I chuckled at the adult parodies this Christmas: 'OMG- That's Not My Child' and 'OMG- That's Not My Husband'.

But the first 'proper' text or story that I can remember being conscious had gripped Bill was Jez Alborough's lovely 'Hug'...which we did have in board book format as it happens.

'Hug' tells the story of a lost baby chimp Bobo who wanders through the jungle spotting other baby animals snuggling their mums (or perhaps dads) and saying the single word 'hug' as he see them. The realisation slowly dawns on him that he hasn't got anyone to cuddle him and the word hug becomes first a question and then a cry for his own parent. An elephant helps him and his mum is found who obviously has been searching anxiously for him too and the book ends with a great collective relieved hug from assembled company. 'Hug', 'Bobo' and 'Mum' are the only three words in the book but the nuances distilled from them are skillfully extracted.

I remember reading it to Bill before he could talk and not being sure whether he really 'got' it only to have him burst into tears at the moment of peril when Bobo realises he's lost, followed by spontaneous laughter when his mother reappeared. Yay. He did 'get it'. It was great to share his first proper immersion into a story. Thanks Jez.

'Hug', Jez Alborough pub.Walker books isbn 0-7636-1576-5

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