15 Things Not to Do with a Baby
written by Margaret McAllister, illustrated by Holly Sterling
(Janetta Otter-Barry Books, Frances Lincoln, 2015)
For every second-time parent, that moment of introducing Baby to Child Number 1 is often fraught with anxiety – in my case, the carefully orchestrated scenario completely fell apart, although I’m glad to say the introduction itself was a (still memorable) success… I would have loved to have had 15 Things Not to Do with a Baby to hand – it would have been a perfect addition to the books we read and re-read about a new sibling arriving in a family. It’s a bonus that the family depicted here is interracial, making this a wonderful book for promoting diversity before diversity even becomes an issue that requires verbalising to young children.
15 Things Not to Do with a Baby is a hand-book of sorts: it even begins with a take on the classic instruction book Congratulations – you are now the proud owner of…: ‘Congratulations! You now have a baby in your family. You will make each other very happy, but you must remember these simple rules.’ And those rules are sure to make young children giggle at the often unthinkable vetoes such as ‘Don’t peg the baby on the washing line’ or ‘Don’t give the baby to a kangaroo’ – yet, cleverly, they are just the sort of exuberantly absurd rules young children might come up with themselves. Holly Sterling’s charming illustrations more often than not show the older sister and the baby thoroughly enjoying themsleves, engaged in whatever unsuitable activity has been conjured up.
The book ends with a double-page spread of six things to do instead, including giving cuddles, singing and reading to him, with the final page showing big sister giving Baby ‘lots and lots of love’ in the form of a gentle cuddle as he sleeps with a smile on his face. You will notice my references to the baby as ‘he’ – that is as per the text, but as is pointed out, the baby in the illustrations could be either a boy or a girl, and grown ups sharing the book with a child are invited to choose the gender of the baby and change the text if necessary.
15 Things Not to Do with a Baby is the perfect gift for an older brother or sister, before or after the arrival of a new baby.