This book was first published in Australia and features the combined talents of author Jenni Overend and Julie Vivas, best known for illustrating Mem Fox’s wonderful Possum Magic.
From the opening double-page spread, it’s obvious that this picturebook is something special. A heavily pregnant mother holds her belly with both hands, head bowed, lost in the intense waves of a contraction. ‘Mum’s got pains in her tummy and that means her baby is ready to be born,’ the narrator, her rather knowing son Jack, tells us. Mum stands still and statuesque, surrounded by the bustle of activity as all around her the family prepares for the birth. Because this is no ordinary birth – this is a home birth.
I should point out at this stage that Hello Baby is certainly not a book for the medically squeamish. The text is written in a simple, almost sparse style and the reality of labour is never glossed over, but the author does make the book very reassuring for younger (and perhaps worried) children. The intensity of some of the scenes is diffused with the use of gentle humour ‘Every few minutes [Mum] yells so loudly the whole town will know we’re having our baby today!’
The coloured pencil illustrations are superb, full of expression and a joy to pore over. Vivas uses many different perspectives to make each page a new and fresh experience for the viewer. Her vigorous pencil lines are full of movement and life, and her soft and gently coloured, almost autumnal palate suits the subject perfectly. Endorsed by the UK National Childbirth Trust, this book is a godsend for any family hoping to have a baby at home, and I only wish it had been around in time for my own son to read before the home birth of our second child. A book to treasure; I can’t recommend it highly enough.