how celebrations unite families and communities

by Bob Graham - Walker Books 2008
ages baby to 7 years / heartwarmers

Our copy of Oscar’s Half Birthday has “Happy Birthday Max – look on the verandah for the rest of your presents - Love, Mum & Dad” written inside.  

For the life of me I can’t remember what the rest of the present was and neither can Max, but every so often someone (successfully) claims their half birthday and so they are in need of a cake! 

In the story, Oscar is six months old – and it’s the perfect day for a half birthday and a picnic with a cake!

So the family gets ready. They take tuna sandwiches and the cake - and Oscar’s sister Millie wears her fairy wings. They walk across to a park in the city where they enjoy the countryside and settle in for their picnic.

But Oscar is just so adorable that, in no time, people from all over the park are admiring his ‘cute little smile’ and so on. 

The whole hillside joins in singing happy birthday and eventually the exhausted family goes home to a bath, dinner and a bit of dancing for Mum and Dad.

This is a lovely family doing simple life-enhancing things: making memories, cementing friendships, sharing with their community, learning together, living life. It’s a joy.

There’s great significance in moments and days like these – they’re hard to carve out of life sometimes but so very worthwhile. This is a story to remind us that:

family holds the greatest joys,

simple is almost always best,

little acts of service mean a lot,

strangers can become friends through sharing experiences,

ritual matters in families,

Mums and Dads matter in little lives,

little lives matter to Mums and Dads.

The story is also about the value of celebrating. Celebrations are one of the things that bind the human family – we may be celebrating different things, but we all know the feeling that goes with celebration. 

Here, the other picnickers celebrate right along with Oscar and his family – just because they can. And I suspect that the more we share our celebrations, the less likely we are to find things to argue about.

Of course, this story will appeal to children who have recently had a new baby join their family, but we bought it for Max, our youngest when he turned seven. A seven-year-old may seem like the outer reaches for a picture book like this one but we think it was just what he needed at the time – a book that slowed down life, and valued little people.

Amazon  -  Book Depository

P.S. If you liked this post, you might also likeThe Trouble With Dogs - it's another fresh and funny picture book by Bob Graham.

P.P.S. I’ve been fairly liberal with the themes on this one – that’s because it’s such a child friendly book that it can cement and teach a really wide variety of ideas. It’s non-confrontational and will feel familiar to many children, but it has a lot to say. For example, I’ve included Racism because the family in the story is mixed-race, and Pets because they have a little dog that they consider and care for throughout the story.