Archive for October 3rd, 2010

October 3, 2010

Welcoming a new BABY

Before I click “purchase” on an online site, I like to read the reviews.  But not all the reviews, only some of them.  I am very picky about what I read.  I read one or two 5-star reviews, and then I read all of the lowest reviews—the 1- or 2-star ones.

Why am I so focused on the negative?  Well, I believe you can learn more from those people.  Sometimes, the 1-star reviews are written by raving lunatics and you can tell by their first three words that they’ve never liked anything in their lives, so you can write that one off.  Sometimes, they are the most well-written and well-thought-out reviews of the bunch and you have to listen to them, grudgingly if it’s something you thought you really wanted.

And sometimes (and this is what I’m looking for) they are well-written, but their reasons for not liking them have nothing to do with you—and that’s when I really seal the deal on a purchase.  If it has some good reviews and some bad reviews, but the bad reviews are reasons that don’t apply to me, I’m done.  So there you go.  And that’s the way it was with this book.

I found this book while looking for books to read to my toddler about becoming a big brother—something that would give him a slightly understanding of what might befall him should a baby enter his world.  This one had both very positive and very negative reviews, but I was hooked when I read my first negative review, about how the book mentions a sperm and an egg, and how that was wholly inappropriate for children.  Well, I didn’t read further.  I put it in my shopping cart.

Title: Hello Baby!
Author: Lizzy Rockwell
: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 5

Summary and Review:

This is a great, straightforward book.  It is factual without being boring.  It speaks to the kids about what is happening within the context of a story.  I like that the boy visits the doctor with his mother and hears the heartbeat–just like my son does with me, so he could relate and even knew what the machine was in the picture.  I like that the doctor is a woman (so sue me, I’m slightly sexist).  I love the pictures of the little boy as a baby, toddler, and “grown up” on his trike…the pictures so perfectly capture the first few years of childhood that they could have been my son.  I like that the boy and his grandmother bake cookies and build a fort while they are waiting for the new baby (instead of, I don’t know, watching cartoons or something sacrilegious like that).  I like that there is breastfeeding in the book, so my son knows what to expect.  I like how the daddy is just as present in the parenting as the mommy and that the older boy is encouraged to be involved.  Some of the vocab does seem a little much–I mean, he doesn’t know what a womb is.  Seriously, the baby is in my tummy.  But how else is he going to learn?  A great book, especially alongside some other, less serious ones.

But lest I give you a negative vibe here—it isn’t serious at the risk of being boring.  It’s a grown-up book about a grown-up topic with a kids’ storyline and kids’ pictures.  And I like that, too.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

Every page of this book is a conversation waiting to happen, and most of the good ones relate the baby back to your own toddler.  Examples:

Did you ever go to the doctor’s with mommy and hear the heartbeat?
Did you ever live inside mommy’s tummy?
Do you have a bellybutton?
Did you ever wear really tiny shirts and socks?
Were you ever that small?
Did you ever crawl on the ground?
Did you learn how to walk?

You get the picture.  But probably the greatest thing about this book is that it invites activities and then gives a child a context in which to understand them and feel that this is not just something happening to him alone. So, take him to your OB or midwife and let him hear the heartbeat.  Let him help assemble the crib (or if you have more commonsense and caution than I, let him play with his own toolbox next to you while you do it).  Let him help sort the clothes.  Let him pick out some baby toys.  Get him involved.  Of course, I’m still in the book-buying part of the sibling-addition process, so I’ll let you know how all my highfalutin ideas really do any good come screaming-baby-in-MY-mother’s-lap time.  (Although I do have a book about mother’s laps to talk about.  Perhaps next time.)

Okay, now for those online reviewers concerned about sperm, let’s talk about that.  There is one page with illustrations of a developing fetus.  The text doesn’t mention sperm, although the picture caption says “a tiny egg cell from the mother is fertilized by a time sperm cell from the father”.  I actually haven’t even read this part to my son yet, mostly because it’s way too abstract for him to understand.  But I do point to the pictures and show him how the baby started out really, really small—too small to see!—and then grows and grows and grows until it’s ready to come out!

When your children are too young to read, it really doesn’t matter too much what the words say.  Of course, if you always made up your own words, it would be hard for them to learn to read by following along with you.  But I doubt you always do this.  And here, you aren’t making up your own words, you are just choosing whether or not to read all of the captions.  Seriously.

(I have a potty-training book that uses words like “pee-pee” and as specific instructions on the bottom of the page that parents should feel free to substitute their own terminology.  Really?  I mean, thanks for your permission, but hopefully parents already know that this is true with all of their books!)  I’ve always felt strongly that a reader is not merely a passive instrument soaking up information, but a vital character interacting with the book.  This has taken on a whole new meaning since I’ve become a parent reading picture books every night.  I mean really, some are seriously boring.  I make up better stories to go along with the pictures.  Or there are the times my toddler requests a rewrite, as during a recent reading of “The Three Little Pigs”.  He didn’t want the wolf to blow the house down, so instead the wolf just invited himself in for a playdate.  He was happy with that version.  The next time we read it, I took a page (pun intended) from Scieskza’s True Story of the Three Little Pigs, and had the wolf sneeze during the playdates, accidentally blowing the houses down and ending with all three pigs and the wolf playing together in the sensibly built house.  I guess what I’m trying to say here is that a book is whatever you want it to be.