The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014) is my new favorite “expecting a baby” book for kids. Although it is full of nonsense as a a soon-to-be-big brother is told all sorts of whoppers about where a baby comes from, it is in fact a no-nonsense book for parents interested in opening a practical dialogue with children.
I am a big fan of keeping things factual when it comes to the baby front. In this clever story about a young boy seeking the truth about his expected sibling, his grandpa, teacher, and other associates are not so frank with him, leaving him scratching his head. I love how when he finally has a conversation with his parents and gets the truth, he is satisfied that everyone is a little bit right. And I love the kicker at the very end. (I won’t spoil it for you.)
Ms. Blackall watercolor and ink illustrations are whimsical and fun. She perfectly captures a child’s confusion when people answer with fake answers: “babies come from a seed that grows into a tree” and “babies come from a hospital.” What is the child thinking when we give such confusing answers? The illustrations are the hilarious results. I also loved how the illustrations of each person gave some personality to the person the boy was asking: his pigeon-raising grandfather answered with “the stork” for example.
Ultimately, The Baby Tree did everything just right. It gave the responsibility to the parents to respond to their child’s question. Personally, I don’t blame the mailman, babysitter, and teacher for giving a vague non-answer: this is a parent’s responsibility. And I love how his parent answer. There is no reason to be vague or false about simple things. For kids, there is no reason to be embarrassed. For adults, I’d imagine a frank discussion about sex is much easier with a 5 and 6 year old than with an older child!
The amusing story is followed by tips for how parents can answer questions for slightly older kids who have more questions. I am so pleased to see such a fantastic book to guide those parents who are a bit squeamish about talking about sex quite so matter-of-factually. I highly recommend this book to the parents of siblings-to-be that have questions.