If Baby Could Talk (Michael Wagner, illus by Jess Racklyeft, Windy Hollow Books)
It’s never too early to start reading books to children; even newborns will derive pleasure from listening to words read out loud by a loved one. If Baby Could Talk is a collection of stories and rhymes about the worldview and struggles of a newly minted human, designed to be read out loud to the youngest among us. Prolific children’s author Michael Wagner (Bear Make Den, ‘Maxx Rumble’ series) opens the book with ‘My First Word’, which presents a number of possible words for the baby to say that are duly rejected for obvious or whimsical reasons: ‘Mum is scared/of scuttling things/so I will not say mouse … I will not say lion/it might come to our house!’ After the first word, the book moves on to the first step and follows the baby’s bumbling footfalls and struggles with different obstacles, including a cactus and a dozing dog. The book also covers the strangeness of feet (‘Feet, feet, what a treat/to place them on your nose’), the first taste of mac and cheese (‘My little mouth was very pleased)’, and when baby spies a swan and a giraffe, it laments its lack of an elegant neck. Wagner’s rhymes evoke the perspective of the child with a gentle humour that reveals how odd, magical and difficult the world can be for a baby, while Jess Racklyeft’s illustrations are detailed in appropriately soft nursery-inspired pastels.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue