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Monday, January 30, 2012

Shhh! Written and illustrated by Valeri Gorbachev. Philomel, Penguin. 2011. $19.50 ages 3 and up

"When my baby brother sleeps,
it is so quiet in my house.
I can even hear a fly!"

This is just the right book for Rowan and his new brother, Tate. I had been looking for a while, and certainly found others. This one seems perfect for a big boy (well, two and a half) whose life has been indubitably changed with the arrival of a baby. He will have much to learn, and to teach!

The narrator is the older brother. He is most considerate and loving of the new arrival. While the baby sleeps, his brother quietly goes about suggesting that his toys enjoy the peaceful atmosphere while being very quiet themselves. The clown stops laughing, the tiger stops growling, the conductor stops his train...even the pirates cease firing their cannons.

Once the baby awakens, all bets are off and play begins in earnest. The clown becomes his companion on a tricycle trip, the knights are allowed to battle and the tiger can roar once more. The older brother is happy:
"And I am jumping and
shouting and singing again!
And I am playing my
trumpet and my drum
and riding my horse
around the house!"

When the baby falls asleep the next time, the young boy is content to be quiet again, contentedly awaiting his next chance at riotous action. Being quiet is his way of showing his new sibling his love
for him.

Valeri Gorbachev has obviously watched young boys at play, as their toys become real and offer adventure at every turn. As the quiet of the afternoon nap descends, the older brother makes a visit to each of the toys (who appear as living replicas of those that are his constant companions) and assures their cooperation. Once allowed to return to play, they take on their original form. These scenes remind me of the sudden suspension of movement when Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger.
Gentle love for and obvious delight in that new baby are evident in Mr. Gorbachev's charming and tender illustrations.

The book is on its way, Rowan and Tate!

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