The Baby Tree
By Sophie Blackall
The question comes soon or late for young parents: “Where do babies come from?” A new sibling on the way can prompt it or right now in springtime, it seems that new life is visible everywhere and that may just be the impetus for the query. Baby rabbits can be seen munching on clover on our lawn and a young groundhog that we named Geoffrey has been seen of late surreptitiously snacking on our newly planted lettuce leaves. Where did he come from? Well, Sophie Blackall of Pecan Pie Baby fame that deals with new baby/sibling issues, has the answer in her new book, The Baby Tree. Here, Ms. Blackall’s curious small boy tracks down a variety of charmingly sweet answers to his question in a round about trip that ends, as it should, with Mom and Dad’s explanation. Initially, he finds his answer provided from a variety of people. And he receives a variety of responses.
Mom and Dad announce at breakfast the “BIG NEWS”. A new baby is coming and that of course prompts the question. “Where are we going to get the baby?” Cue for both Mom and Dad to fly out the door as they are both running late! Or maybe they are both just plain running, as there doesn’t seem to ever be a convenient time for THE QUESTION to be tackled. Enter right on time, Olive, the baby sitter who sweetly relates the planting of a seed that results in a “Baby Tree”. Teenagers, you have to admire their efforts that are sometimes a mixture of half-truths, but always eager to help with their version of the story.
In close succession, follows a number of variations on the answer to a theme. From his teacher, Mrs. McClure, comes the succinct answer: the hospital. To the point, Mrs. McClure, but it misses the larger “baby in the room” question! But I do like her approach. She listened to the question and gave the answer that was, in fact, correct. Grandpa uses the tried and true; “A stork brings your baby in the night and leaves it in a bundle on your doorstep.” That sounds fanciful enough, but daily doorstep checks yield no results for the small boy. And the mailman is a tad closer to the truth as he ventures the opinion that babies come from eggs, but “he doesn’t know where to get the eggs.” Quick thinking, Mr. Mailman!
Ms. Blackall’s art gives full reign to the pictured imaginings of each of the answers to the small boy’s question. They are just what a child might come up with in his mind’s eye. Confusion reigns supreme and it is time for a bedtime story followed by a SECOND bedtime story that relates the true story of “Where do babies come from?”
Sometimes, we parents tend to overthink these things and give way more complex answers to the question that is being asked by our children. I’ve learned as a parent that more often we need to listen closely to the question and answer only what is asked at the time, and over time, more details may be added to our initial response. Information overload can be a problem.
Ms. Blackall’s The Baby Tree gives just enough, using proper reproductive terminology in a non-babyish way that explains the miracle of birth. And at the end of the book, she gives helpful hints on answering additional questions that may emanate from the first.
Okay, now WHO is going to sit with Grandpa and set HIM straight on this stork story? Why his grandson, of course! Well done, Ms. Blackall.
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