Review: The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall

baby tree

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall

A young boy is told at breakfast that a new baby is coming.  He has a lot of questions, but the biggest one is “Where are we going to get the baby?”  So he starts asking different people.  His babysitter Olive who walks him to school in the morning says that you plant a seed and it grows into a baby tree.  At school, he asks his teacher where babies come from and she says “from the hospital” but he can’t ask any more questions because it’s time to clean up.  That afternoon he asks his grandpa about babies, because he is the only person that the boy knows who has been to the hospital, and Grandpa says that a stork brings the baby in the night and leaves it on your doorstep.  The mailman says that babies come from eggs.  The boy is very confused, so that night he asks his parents and they explain about babies growing inside their mom, about seeds and eggs and the hospital.  Now all the boy has to do is explain it to Grandpa who is clearly uninformed!

Blackall weaves an age-appropriate look at reproduction in this picture book.  I particularly appreciated that when the older characters explained it to the boy, there were touches of honesty in each of their answers that come together cleverly in the end, except for Grandpa’s of course!  It is a book that explains just enough of the details to answer preschool questions, without going into details that they are not interested in at that age. 

As always, Blackall’s illustrations are fresh and unique.  Her illustrations are friendly and lovely, focusing on the relationships in this boy’s life beyond his parents.  They demonstrate a richness of connections that is a delight.

A great addition to library collections, this is an ideal level of information for preschoolers expecting a new sibling soon.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Nancy Paulsen Books.

Review: I Am Otter by Sam Garton

i am otter

I Am Otter by Sam Garton

Based off of characters from the blog: I Am Otter: The Unheard Ramblings of a Modern Day Otter, this picture book oozes with good natured humor.  It tells the story of an otter who lives with a person that she calls Otter Keeper.  Otter Keeper had to go to work on Monday, so Otter and Teddy (her teddy bear) tried to stop him by doing things like hiding his keys and his lunch.  But Otter Keeper left for work anyway.  So Otter decided to have her own job and chose to open a toast restaurant.  But there were problems from the start.  Teddy had forgotten to take reservations, so the line was very long.  Teddy forgot to tell the customers the prices of the items.  And finally, Teddy got the orders wrong.  It all ended in a horrible mess, just as Otter Keeper returned home.  Quickly, Otter hid as much as she could of the mess, but in the process Teddy disappeared!  Can Otter find her best friend?

Garton cleverly tells two stories in this picture book.  First is the written story in Otter’s voice that explains exactly what is happening from her perspective.  That is that Teddy makes poor choices, Teddy makes messes, and Teddy forgets things.  The rest of the story, the true version, is told in the pictures where even the youngest readers will understand that it is Otter who is creating all of the ruckus and mess as well as the drama. 

Garton’s art is just as clear as his dual story.  Done in full-color, the illustrations have a quiet and homey feel to them that contrasts delightfully with the messes that Otter creates.  The illustrations are busy with small objects, showing a real home filled with toys, plants, pencils, and more.

Funny, smart and a pleasure to share aloud, this British picture book is “otterly” incredible.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Balzer + Bray.