Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Board Books for the Birthday Boy: Global Babies

My little one is almost one! He's been read to nearly daily since he was born, but it wasn't until sometime around six month old that he made any indication that he was actually interested. Before that, he would screech like an angry monkey about halfway through the book and then bat it out of our hands. Our persistance paid off, though, and now he screeches like an angry monkey when the book ends!

Against our best intentions he got a glut of toys for Christmas (albeit mostly homemade or natural wood), so his birthday is going to be all about the books. It was really hard to stick to our self-imposed money limit, but I think I made good choices.

We just received the first two in the mail: Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children and Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. Let me just start by saying it's really hard to find good board books. Lots of the books out today are just board versions of books that were intended for an older audience with too much text and small illustrations that just don't hold the attentions of little ones. Or, they have the bold photos or simple illustrations that babies love, but come off like a collection of clip art.

I was expecting the latter when I ordered Global Babies, and was pleasantly surprised to find those expectations surpassed. While his favorite face is his own (seriously, he lights up whenever he gets a glimpse in the mirror), like most babies, my son loves to look at other kids. This book features close-ups of babies from around the world, with an emphasis on third-world countries. The photos are coffee table book quality gorgeous. I love the fact that the children are in both traditional dress and modern clothing and as a babywearing mama, I think it's really neat that many of the babies are depicted being worn by an adult.

I think my favorite thing about this book is that each baby, no matter how "foreign" the location, is captured in a moment that babies and parents can recognize as familiar. Seeing the same impy expression Henry often gets mirrored on the face of a child half a world away brought tears to my eyes.

So often, I'm struck both by how lucky I am that Henry was born into a safe place where I have the luxury of imagining a happy future for him and by the realization that such luck is a precarious thing that many mamas and babies have lost or never had. I remember rocking newborn Henry and listening to a CD of lullabies. Before I had him, I'd never realized the sad, lonely, fearful quality of many traditional lullabies. It connected me in a bittersweet way to all the women who've held a fragile life in their hands and worried about the future.

Looking at this book brings up similar emotions (for me--Henry will just dig the baby pictures). That such a simple book as this can hold so much makes it one of my new favorites.

Check back tomorrow for Each Peach Pear Plum.

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