Babies and Birthdays — 2011 Fiction Picture Books (Cybils Nominees)

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Today is the last day to nominate your favorite picture books, middle grade fiction and nonfiction, and Young Adult books for the 2011 Cybils awards! Make sure you get your votes in.

Because I have the wonderful honor of being a Round 1 Judge for the Fiction Picture Books, I get to read about 200 books (so far, at least) published in the last year that have been nominated. To help me keep track of my thoughts on the books I’ve read and in order to share the love of books with each of you, I’m going to try to post on a few of the fun books each week.

This week, since my own baby girl, Monkey (to be born sometime near the end of February), is on my mind and my son, Raisin, just had his fourth birthday, I thought it might be fun to look at some books somehow related to babies and birthdays.

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark and illustrated by Patrice Barton (Knopf, November 2010) tells a magical version of an adoption of a baby girl from China. In China, the family knows they cannot provide for their newborn. They say wistfully, “She should have pretty things. She should learn to read.” They send the baby on a journey down a river, where the animals protect the child from the elements and keep the baby safe. Meanwhile, in America, a couple longs for a baby of their own, preparing a home and getting the “pretty things” and the books they hope the child to come would love. In wistful language and with absolutely stunning soft illustrations, Sweet Moon Baby brings the two stories together. I loved the sense of magic given to the entire process, I loved the parallel thoughts of the parents, and I think this may be a good introduction to the concept of adoption for the parent and child alike, whether or not an adoption has happened in one’s own family. (Nominated by John Hanson)

Baby Says “Moo” by JoAnn Early Macken and illustrated by David Walker (Hyperion, March 2011) is a humorous story of a young baby who cannot yet distinguish between the different animal sounds, but rather insists that each animal says “Moo.” As a family drives toward their picnic destination, they see different animals from the car windows. I loved this “moo” silliness for a personal reason: when Raisin was still quite young, he insisted that while grown up pigs say “Oink,” baby pigs say “pig pig.” It was quite cute. Now, being a big four-year-old boy, he knows the “proper” animal sounds, of course. Never the less, he still enjoyed reading the rhyming verse and yelling “MOO!” whenever it was (finally) baby’s turn to talk. I love the uncomplicated and colorful illustrations: they matched the tone of the text perfectly. (Nominated by Lisa Moser)

Bear’s Birthday by Stella Blackstone and illustrated by Debbie Harter (Barefoot Books, June 2011) lets us celebrate Bear’s birthday with all of his friends. Apparently, this is part of a series about Bear and his bear friends; I’ll be first to admit this is the first I’ve found. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the others. We greatly enjoyed reading it. Bear and his friends play all the fun birthday games that Raisin loves and couldn’t wait to play at his own party. They have cake. They open presents. What’s not to love? Each page also has one less balloon than the previous page, since they kept popping. Raisin loved looking for the popping balloons, and he loved counting how many were left. A fun book for birthdays1. (Nominated by Nichole Armstrong)

And then, because I don’t want to neglect all the other fun books we’ve been reading (yes, we’re reading picture books beyond the Cybils, somehow), I also want to mention another wonderful birthday book. A Birthday for Bear by Bonnie Becker and illustrated by Katie MacDonald Denton (Candlewick, September 2009) tells the story of Bear, who is not a fan of birthdays and is determined to be grouchy and clean his house all day. It’s a very busy day. His friend Mouse keeps trying to wish him a happy day, with balloons, a party, cake, and a present. In the end, of course, Bear realizes he can enjoy the day when he celebrates it with a friend. Raisin loved the silly persistence of Mouse, and we both enjoyed the change that came over Bear by the end. It is a four-chapter early reader, which Raisin really liked (he had to find a bookmark so we’d finish it “later,” just like Mommy does with her books). We read this daily and over and over again for a week or two before Raisin’s birthday. He was so excited to celebrate his own birthday; celebrating Bear’s helped him stay excited. I liked the dynamics between the two friends, and I’m eager to read more from the Bear and Mouse series!

(All of these books were read via library copies; I was not compensated for review.)

What baby and birthday picture books have you enjoyed? Raisin still wants it to be his birthday, so I’m sure he’d welcome more books on the subject!

  1. Since Raisin’s birthday was last week, I actually used it at the party. (We had a reading/Super Why theme.) I added the word “birthday” in key places as I read the story and the kids were to blow their noisemakers whenever they heard that word. Let’s just say they loved the game! I’m pretty sure they didn’t hear the story at all because they were too busy making noise again and again! But then, isn’t that the point?
Reviewed on October 14, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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  1. Monkey is a girl? How exciting! Congratulations.
    My nieces are turning two in December so I think the two birthday books you mentioned are perfect for them.

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