What to give a baby? Books, of course! My beautiful great niece was about four months old and I still hadn't given her anything. See, I don't usually give gifts to the unborn, and just hadn't found the right gift. Part of my problem was a determination to give this little Texan something made in Australia. Of course everything here is made in China, just like all over the world and I was searching in vain. And because she's there and I am mostly here, I wasn't sure of colours, tastes and sizes for clothing.
Finally, a lovely friend reminded of books for babies. She commented on how much her baby girl loved the books I had given her a year or so ago. I had forgotten, I suppose, but she said her little one was responding to books at six weeks. Mine were too, but that seems so long ago. So I sought out some Aussie board books for wee ones. They must be board books, to be chewed, bashed and played with. I found a couple of good ones.
Jackie French is an author I feel close to because I started reading her articles in the back to basics magazine Earth Garden many, many years ago. She seems like a distant aunty or long-time pen pal. Her personal story is interesting: she started writing in a desperate attempt to pay some bills and she is dyslexic. So I bought Princess the book Diary of a Wombat, illustrated by Bruce Whatley.
It is just what it says-- a recount of a week from the point of view of a marsupial. Oddly I never read this one to my own kids, but I was amused to hear my twelve year old reading it aloud to her little sister and a thirteen year old friend on the way home from the shop. The story is so charming, you can't help smiling. Mothball the wombat does a lot of sleeping, but works hard to train the humans that live nearby, and they do eventually catch on. In the end she concludes, 'Evening: Have decided that humans are easily trained and make quite good pets.'
My other choice was Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox and illustrated by Judy Horacek. Again, hearing this during the back seat recitation was strange. See, this book is my main foreign language teaching source with children from about three to five years old. My little students love doing hand gestures to the story, and reciting along with me. There's no Italian or French publication that I can find. I just translated it myself and show the kids the pictures in the English version, a copy of which is in almost every kindy or grade one classroom in Australia. So, I had never read it out loud in English and hadn't realized it actually rhymed!
Obviously, the main idea is the search for the Green Sheep, and we have to meet lots of other sheep before we find him. For example, 'Here is the near sheep. And here is the far sheep. Here is the moon sheep. And here is the star sheep.' The story ends as we find that elusive sheep, asleep curled up behind a bush like Little Boy Blue…er, Green. Ending a bedtime story with a character asleep is great. Sets a good example, see?
While in the post office I saw a book by Pamela Allen with a magpie on the front, called Waggle Giggle Gargle. They are charming Aussie birds that make a fun sound (click here to hear it). This one's new to me, but I've always loved her books, and I popped it in the package. Princess' Mum and Dad will have to tell us if she likes it.
So I hope Princess' parents read her lots of books, especially ones to teach her about her family in Australia. And I hope they let her chew them, too.
Which books would you buy for a baby?