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Thursday, February 7, 2013

My First Day, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mfflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"On my first
day, it was cold!
I climbed out
of my egg,
stood on my
father's feet,
and snuggled
into his
feathers to
stay warm."

Who doesn't like babies? And the young readers who are meant to be the audience for this new book are sure to find much to 'ooh' and 'aah' about as they share it. The premise is to show us how 22 babies of the animal variety spend their first day. Most are much more accomplished than their human counterparts who will be listening to their stories:

"What did  you do on your first day - the day you were born?
Probably not much.
If you were like most
newborn babies, you
opened your eyes, cried,
slept, and drank some
milk. And that's about all
you could do."

Each of the animals tells about its first day in short text that will soon be mastered by the young readers! They have some unusual and very informative stories to tell. Readers will recognize some of them, but they will be introduced to others that are rare and unusual. There is diversity in their introduction to the world; from the wood duck who jumps from a nest high in the tree into nearby water to the capybara who can swim and dive within hours; from the sea lion who calls back and forth with his mother until they will recognize each other among many others to the Darwin's frog (!!!) who hops out of her father's mouth.  With each turn of the page, we are made aware of the time spent with a parent before the baby strikes out on its own.

A short description of that first day adventure is accompanied by a small label, and Steve Jenkins' signature cut-and-torn paper collage illustrations. Each focuses on the baby animal, and places it on a single color background, allowing the animal and its parent visibility, and attention.  In the backmatter the authors offer a return visit to the animals portrayed, adding new information for avid readers:

"The Malayan tapir lives in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. It averages seven feet (2 meters) in length and weighs around 650 pounds (295 kilograms). Tapirs can't see very well, but they have a keen sense of smell. They eat plant roots, stems and leaves. A newborn tapir weighs about 15 pounds (7 kilograms). Since it isn't strong enough to push its way through the dense jungle undergrowth, it must remain behind while its mother searches for food. As it waits, the calf holds very still, and the stripes and spots on its coat help it hide in the dappled light of the forest."

And now you know the whole story!

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