Bringing Up Baby
By Sam Martin
Perigree Trade, $14.95
144 pages, ISBN 0399532536
Review by Jessica Carlson
Sam Martin's new book, "Bringing Up Baby", tells dads on the back cover to "put down your beer and pick up the diaper bag!" That may be a tall order, but the book is designed to help make the transition a little easier.
A fun and easy read, this Daddy instruction book gives basic advice intended to educate first time fathers to be, so that they aren't as clueless as they were once assumed to be. Unlike fathers of the not so distant past, today's fathers are splitting spit up and poop duty as new dads are expected to be compassionate, competent, supportive and ready to pitch in whenever needed. The author even makes the distinction between modern day fathers and our own fathers, who were most like the sole breadwinners, which consequently meant little to no time spent with his children. Today, many moms work, creating a whole new identity in the modern role of a father. Today's family is more of a partnership than ever before.
Martin specifically addresses looming questions like what to expect when your wife is pregnant, when the baby actually arrives, how to deal with baby illnesses, crying and how to play with your baby once he or she arrives. He offers these antidotes and modern day solutions in a pocket-sized book, clad with really cool retro photographs and easy to follow illustrations. His charm and wit is disseminated throughout the text, for example, under "Bodily Functions", Martin writes, "If you didn't get a crash course in biology during the birth of your child, then you will certainly get one during the first year of your baby's life. Not only will there be poop--and lots of it--but there will be gas, spit-up, urine, and snot. To keep your knees from bucking under a squeamish stomach, it helps to know why babies emit so many things." Martin then takes you step-by-step into the how, what, why and where's of baby's bodily fluids and functions.
Martin also includes information feature boxes, which offer a checklist of do's and don'ts and other practical advice. For teething, he offers strategies such as teething rings, biscuits, fingers, frozen banana, icy washcloth, cold carrot, chilled teething-ring, rubbing your baby's gums, cold applesauce or yogurt (if baby is already eating solids) or an infant dose of acetaminophen.
This book will definitely provide a basic how to for new fathers and provide him with the confidence needed to care for his baby without having to rely on learning it through baptism by fire. Not only will this provide a valuable education and crash course on bringing up baby and keeping him/her safe, but think how impressed your wife and in-laws will be when they find out you aren't as much of a doofus as they once thought? Your mother's disbelief will be well worth the rewards of studying this wealth of new parenthood information. You may even teach your wife a thing or two, just a warning about that though, try to make it sound like it was her idea unless you want some disciplinary couch time.
Bringing Up Baby stays clear of the sometimes condescending "fathers are clueless morons" language that makes its way into a lot of books geared towards dad, and instead offers straightforward, practical information that's a must read for any expecting father.
By Jane Yolen
32 pages, ISBN 0399246320
Review by Amy Andrews
Children's picture books are often rhyming stories, which, if you've read a few (or a dozen) picture books, you know that rhyme scheme is a tricky thing. There should never be odd word choices used because the writer's clearly trying to force the rhyme, and you shouldn't have to speed up or slow down your reading because the meter is inconsistent, which just makes the book sound funny. When you're reading it aloud and the number of syllables per line is off, or the accentuation of ending words in different lines is unnatural, the whole book suffers, no matter how good the story is.
Thankfully, Jane Yolen's new picture book, Dimity Duck, suffers from none of those rhyming flaws. In fact, this charming little book about a fluffy duck and her froggy friend is likely to become one of your child's new favorites. (I myself had to read our copy three times in a row, let the kids pore over the book on their own, and then settle a disagreement over who got to take the book to bed.)
We first meet Dimity Duck as she wakes up one morning and prepares for the day. After enjoying a swim and breakfast, she finds her pal Frumity Frog ready to play in the pond. An energetic game of hide and seek soon stumps Dimity-- but Frumity's still in plain sight to children, peeking out from under a lily pad; kids will get a kick out of pointing out his hiding spot, to Dimity and to the grown up reading the story to them. Turning the page, there's a two page, full-color spread of Frumity Frog jumping off a log-- surprise!-- for Dimity and for the child enjoying the book. Playing all day, the two finally part ways as the sun sets and Dimity Duck goes home, prepares for bed, and goes to sleep.
The sun-up to sun-down time frame of the story is perfect, engaging readers with lively language and then gently winding down to "Good night, Dimity. Shhhhh!" Yolen effectively sets the stage for quiet time, naptime or bedtime with this simple picture book.
Repetitive phrases and onomatopoeic language keep the voice of the prose light and fun, making the book audibly interesting to young readers:
"Dimity Duck waddles,
she toddles out of bed.
Niddy-noddy goes her tail
and quack! goes her head."
It's hard to resist breaking into a sing-song voice and really having fun with the child you're reading this to.
Sebastien Braun's bright, colorful illustrations are beautiful to look at and mirror Yolen's warm tone and the text perfectly. Dimity Duck looks soft enough to touch, and the mix of full page and sequential illustrations are a nice variety. The unobtrusive arrangement of the text, like trailing the words in the curve of a ripple made by the swimming Dimity's wing, work perfectly in concert with the illustrations, keeping kids' attention on the art, rather than on big blocks of text that could up space on the page.
According to Jane Yolen's online journal, Dimity Duck marks the beginning of a new series of rhyming picture books. It doesn't specify whether or not this a series to be penned by her or by additional writers for the publisher, but one can surely hope we see more of Dimity Duck soon.
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