John Burningham (text) & Helen Oxenbury (illustrations)
There is going to be a new baby in the house, and the first born has a lot of questions to ask. When is it going to come? What will we call it? What will the baby do? We don’t really need a baby, do we? The story focuses mainly on conversations between the mother and the child, with the little boy is full of wonderment as to what the baby will do when it arrives: will it work in the zoo? will it be a chef? As we follow the little boy and his mum through the seasons as they await the new arrival, we also follow his emotional journey to reach acceptance of his new sibling.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Helen Oxenbury who has used some beautifully retro colours, and has used two very distinctive styles to convey what is happening in the little boy’s life and what is considering as career paths for his future sibling. For this bit, there is a dotted comic-strip style pages, à la Lichtenstein, again using those beautiful retro colours but more more faded. The effect is really lovely, and is clear enough that a young audience will be able to differentiate between what is really happening in the child’s life and what he is daydreaming about.
The text is written by John Burningham. This is the first time this husband-and-wife team have worked together and it is a collaboration that has been long-awaited, as they are both some of our most beloved picture book creators. So of course there was a lot of hype and media exposure for this book. Does it deliver? Yes, to a certain extent. The book really is lovely and will be a great book to help prepare a child for the arrival of a new sibling There is a lot of humour, specifically through the baby’s potential careers, which will help lighten a situation which can be quite hard for older sibling.
But I was slightly disappointed because I really wanted the book to include both illustrators’ artwork; their styles are poles apart but I would have loved to see Oxenbury illustrate the “real world” and Burningham illustrate the baby’s careers to be. I don’t feel Burningham’s stamp is on it. It could easily be just a Helen Oxenbury book.
If you are looking for a present for a sibling-to-be, I warmly recommend it.