Sophie Blackall, The Baby Tree
Published 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group, 40p
Every family is slightly different, but every single baby begins with a sperm and an egg.
Sooner or later each adult has to give an answer to children’s famous question: Where do babies come from?
My daughter was no exception, her father diplomatically avoided the conversation so, half serious, half amused, I explained that babies grow inside their mummies’ tummies and after nine months they are born. I also used the words love, family and joy several times and I think my explanation was satisfactory.
It would have been extremely useful to have Sophie Blackall’s book then, as The Baby Tree is enchanting. There is warmth, scientific information and realistic depictions of a child’s unique inner life. Not to mention the creative and beautiful illustrations.
The story is narrated by a little boy who is announced at breakfast that a new baby is coming.
I have a hundred questions in my head, but the only one that comes out is Are there any more cocopops? And because Mom and Dad are all happy about the baby coming, tey let me have a second helping of cocopops and I make sure it’s a big one.
But what he really wants is to be explained where the baby is going to come from. As his parents are late for work, the boy asks other grown-ups. Olive, his teenage babysitter tells him that babies grow into a Baby Tree after you plant a seed. His teacher tells him that babies come from the hospital and his grandpa explains that babies are brought by storks. As the milkman thinks babies come from eggs and the boy is puzzled with so many variants, he finally asks his parents.
Offering a scientific but warm explanation, the parents tell him that a seed from the dad is planted in an egg inside the mom and a baby starts to grow until it runs out of room and is ready to be born.
Happy to have his answer, the boy realizes that his grandpa needs to be updated.
So, Olive was right about the seed. And Roberto was right about the egg. Mrs. McClure was right about the hospital. But Grandpa… I’m going to have to tell Grandpa where babies really come from.
There is a splendid combination between real facts regarding reproduction and the elements that would define a suitable context when explaining where babies come from. Dressed in lovely striped pyjamas, the boy sits comfortably in bed between his parents who kindly answer his questions. There is love, strong connection and sensitivity.
As experts recommend giving honest and short answers to children to satisfy their curiosity, the back of the book provides several suggestions regarding reproduction; situations referring to adoption, twins, same-sex families are included.
Complement The Baby Tree with And Tango Makes Three, a story with two penguins that teach us about family and devotion.