by Jenni Overend, illustrated by Julie Vivas – Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd, 2008
ages birth to 10 years / heartwarmers, s.t.e.m.
I’ve never had a homebirth. Unless you count having a baby in a car. Which I do! As you can imagine that was messy, frantic and a bit stressful … and yet, lovely and personal and life enhancing.
There’s an unforgettable beauty to birth—the kind of beauty that links generations. And I can’t imagine a more tender and gentle tribute to mothers and the wonder of birth than Hello Baby. I still get goosebumps every time I read it.
Jack, who is the youngest in his family and who has ‘never seen anyone born’ tells the story of the night his baby brother comes into the world.
It’s an uncomplicated perspective—one of anticipation coupled with a little bit of nervousness about the unknown. (Pretty much the same way every parent-to-be feels, even if they have seen someone born before.)
Jack’s family are at home for the birth of their baby so there’s work to do: a fire to kindle, a bed to be made in front of the fire, tiny baby clothes to ready, toast and soup to make. And Jack’s apprehension is balanced by his curiosity and his delight at the prospect of a new baby.
Of course, this is a perfect book to read with a little person who is waiting on the birth of a baby. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful for mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles—anyone touched by a new birth. The words are soft and warm; they seem to want to be whispered. There’s a captivating reverence to the way the story is told. Without any pretence or fear, Jack’s experience becomes our experience too. I especially love the very last line:
‘Goodnight, baby,’ I say. ‘This is your first night in the world. Good night.’
If ever there was a perfect pairing of words and pictures, this must surely be it. Those gently evocative soft edges that Julie Vivas is famous for help to immerse us in Jack’s life. I don’t think I’ll ever see a more beautiful illustration of birth in a picture book:
Of course, we all know from life experience that not every birth is calm and peaceful and surrounded by love. Even so, this is a lovely way to talk to children about the wonder of birth regardless of where or how it will take place.
We bought our copy the year before my birth-in-the-car and I read it aloud over and over and over. We knew that we wouldn't be having a peaceful birth at home, but reading Hello Baby connected my little ones with the impending birth—and I even think it helped the two children in the car with me at the time to feel a tiny bit calmer!