Three-year-old Ivy is excitedly awaiting the arrival of a baby brother in a couple of months. She’s looking for things that will be the same and different for them.
He’ll be little and she’ll be big. But, after a bath: ‘he’ll have a naked bottom just like me’. Both true.
Ivy is pretty keen for this baby to arrive. (So am I, truth be told.) Still, there’s bound to be some adjusting to do.
The New Small Person is all about the adjustment – and the process:
Elmore Green has everything pretty much the way he wants it. He chooses what he watches on TV, he puts his
"precious things on the floor and no one moved them ONE millimetre.”
You won’t be surprised to hear that everything changes for Elmore when a new small person arrives.
It’s quite a rocky road to the time when Elmore starts to appreciate his new sibling Albert -
but eventually he does come to see the multiple benefits of having a younger brother.
New babies are a ubiquitous experience for young children. Siblings come, or cousins come, or friends come. In every case there is an inevitable time of adjustment. The New Small Person does a lovely job of respecting that adjustment and allowing it to take the time it needs to take. There’s no pretence that everything will be easy. But there is a promise of better times to come.
Told in Lauren Child’s familiar style, there’s a bouncy quality to the words – they’re full of life and fun to read.
And true to form, there are font and style changes that make reading easy and give a lift to the adult reader as well as being challenging and fun for young readers.
The funky retro illustrations tell the story when looked over quickly and then reveal even more about it as they’re examined closely. (Look for the jelly beans that seem to be close to Elmore almost all the time.)
The New Small Person is great for:
Someone, like Ivy, who is waiting on a new baby.
Someone in the throes of working out new family dynamics.
Someone who loves babies and wishes they had a new baby coming.
Someone struggling with the concept of sharing.
Someone having a hard time relinquishing control of the minutia of life.
Still, of all the things I love about this book, the thing that makes it a must-own for me is that Elmore and his family are not white and there is not one word in the text that hints at this.
One of the hardest things to find in picture books is a Black, Asian, Hispanic or other non-white family doing everyday things without their race playing a significant role in the story.
The experience of having a new baby join the family is unaffected by race – the same adjustments have to happen and the same feelings affect the older child (and their parents for that matter). So it is entirely without consequence what race Elmore is.
It's wonderful to have a book that treats people as people.
If someone in your life is waiting on a new baby they'll get a kick out of this book + they might also like Hello Baby (to lessen the apprehension about the birth itself) and Kissed by the Moon (to remind little ones that they will always be so very important and loved).
Also ... this book, a sweet and tender look at accepting what life throws at you.
(Lauren Child is the author of the Charlie and Lola series, which has been adapted for TV – if you have a small child I’m sure you’ve seen it!)
Names in this book – Elmore, Albert