There’s Going to be a Baby
This new title from the picturebook dream team John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury doesn’t disappoint. An enchanting tale about the arrival of a new baby, it deals with some of the familiar worries and concerns an older brother has before his new sibling is born – ‘When is the baby going to come?’, ‘What will we call the baby?’, ‘We don’t really need the baby, do we?’ The text perfectly captures the warmth and love between a child and his mother, in simple, carefully considered, and timeless prose.
The little fellow in question is a classic Oxenbury child with a round face, chubby cheeks, sticky out ears, and a mop of pale blond hair. His facial expressions are rendered in deceptively simple ink lines, and Oxenbury changes his features from anxious to joyful with a few masterful flicks. She uses firmer, crisper outlines than in previous books and the pages were, I believe, coloured using a computer programme, which took hundreds of hours of work. I can well believe the timescale; the illustrations are joyfully rendered in shades so unusual that they are hard to describe – egg yolk yellow, mink, inky lilac.
There are also a series of double-page cartoon spreads punctuating the book, reminiscent of Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen and Little Nemo from the early 1900s, which chronicle what the new baby might get up to once he’s born. This is an unusual touch and these spreads, with their muted colours and almost pixelated finish, make an excellent contrast to the other, more brightly coloured pages, giving the book a unique and often surprising visual rhythm. This is not just a book to be read and shared time and time again, it’s a work of art. Don’t miss it.