The Body Book
After the usual timeline of pregnancy, the process of birth is depicted vaguely and somewhat bizarrely: “It is hard work for a mother to help her baby get out. She has to stretch her baby-making place very wide, and that takes a lot of time. But it is worth the hard work, because a new baby is a very happy person to have in a family”. Is the stretching referring to the vagina or cervix? We will never know as this book seems to have a fear of reproductive terminology. Also the assumption that ‘a baby is a very happy person to have in a family’ is amusingly nonsensical considering how much of a baby’s first year it spends crying.
After birth the book features a brief nod to breastfeeding. The text describes that: “After the baby is born, his mother holds him close to her breasts and puts the soft tip of one of them in his mouth. Then he can suck, and get the milk the breasts are making”. Although the word ‘breast’ is used correctly, there’s no mention that ‘the soft tip’ is called a nipple. Refreshingly however the mutual pleasure of breastfeeding is described: “Mothers like doing this. It feels nice for them. Babies like doing this. It feels nice for them, too”. Also skin to skin is championed: “Breasts are for making milk to feed the baby with. They are also to help cuddle the baby. Being cuddled by a mother with warm soft breasts is very nice for babies and children”. In all I would recommend this book for its nostalgic quirky value.
Part One) here is another story featuring a young girl learning about babies. The familiar felt-tipped illustrations that Catherine Anholt is famous for are plentiful, however this time, instead of preparing for the arrival of a new sibling, the little girl is reflecting on her own babyhood. Together with her Mum, they discuss the various milestones of her infancy, starting with her arrival home from hospital, then discussing babycare tasks such as bathing and nappy changing, and ending with her first birthday party. There is an eclectic mix of parenting styles depicted in the book. Breastfeeding and cosleeping are shown at the start. An illustration shows Mum nursing her daughter in bed, with moses basket close by, whilst Dad delivers breakfast to them. In the accompanying text the little girl asks “What did I eat when I was a baby?” to which her mother responds: “For a long while you only drank milk”. No more is said regarding breastfeeding and later in the book a bottle is shown. There is no babywearing. Instead the baby is transported in a pram. However the baby does appear to be wearing cloth nappies rather than disposables, and babyled weaning is hinted at. So as I said, an eclectic mix.
Part Four) you may be wondering. I dislike this book because of the clumsy way it describes breast milk and formula. After announcing the birth of baby Benny the text inform us that: “The only food new babies need is milk from their mother’s breasts or from a bottle filled with special milk for babies. This special milk is made from cow’s milk or soybeans. Breast milk and the special milk taste different from the milk we drink. The special milk has a stronger taste because extra vitamins, salt, sugar, and fat have been added to it”. Firstly, why use the word ‘special’ to describe formula? Why not just call it formula? Secondly, why mention that ‘special milk’ has vitamins added but neglect to mention that breast milk already contains those vitamins and a host more? None of the attributes of breast milk are mentioned. These oversights are a real shame considering that the book contains a wonderful full-page illustration of a happy mother nursing her newborn with proud father on looking.
Giles Andreae and David Wojtowycz
Farmyard Hullabaloo ticks all the boxes of a great book for toddlers. Simple illustrations? Check. Lots of primary colours? Check. Bubbly rhyming text? Check. Animals? Check. Each page describes the life of a different farm animal from their own perspective – and that perspective can be bluntly honest at times. For instance, the rather menacing-looking fox says, “I wait in the woods until nightfall, Then down to the farmyard I creep, Because nothing looks quite as delicious, As chickens who’ve fallen asleep”. The fox is shown stalking around the dark farmyard, licking his lips in anticipation. The best part of the book (not that I’m biased) features a plump cuddly mother pig watching contently as her piglets search for a teat, piling on top of each other like a rugby scrum. A lot of books in the farm animal genre feature pigs nursing their young, but in my opinion none of them do it as endearing as this. The little fatty butts wriggling, the piglet on the right nuzzling its mother’s face adorningly, even the little fella in the corner who is waiting for a teat with a disappointed expression on his little piggy face.
THIS book by William and Martha Sears, pages 150-151, although this is not acknowledged).
Coming up: Images of Breastfeeding in Children's Books, Part Seven