Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee

Everywhere Babies

The problem of finding diversity in kidlit is one that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, so I’m always surprised and happy to find (and now, review!) a picture book that shows depicts non-white and non-traditional families. Everywhere Babies is a perfect example. The charm — maybe even the point? — of this book lies in the drawings of a gazillion babies of all races and colours being loved by their families. It includes babies being cared for by moms, dads, grandparents, and other “friends and relations who cuddle them tight.” There is even a mixed-race, same-sex couple with twins (love!).

I first picked up a copy when the boys were about 10 months old, while visiting my parents in Surrey, B.C. On the first day, I borrowed a big haul of board books from the library (and felt an ache of longing, comparing them with the meagre selection of English books at our local Montreal library).  I liked this one so much that I immediately snapped it up for my kids at a used booksale several months later, when they were old enough to appreciate books as more than chewing fodder.

I especially like the page showing a bustling urban street where babies are carried “in backpacks, in front packs, in slings, and in strollers, in car seats, and bike seats, and on Daddy’s shoulders.” There go the twins in their double buggy. There goes the balding, elderly dad pulling his toddler and his dog together in a wagon. There goes the lady with her kid in a bike seat, the dude waiting for a bus with his infant in what looks like a Baby Bjorn (he obviously didn’t get the memo), the parent with the minivan and the parent with the sling. After spending endless afternoons during my maternity leave pushing two sleeping (or sometimes wailing) infants up and down city blocks, I actually felt a weird sense of kinship with all the folks in the picture — living downtown, substituting parks and grocery stores and libraries and coffee shops for backyards, using the entire damn village as a space to raise their child.

But the very best part of the book? The parents look absolutely exhausted! Dishevelled, dressed in boxer shorts or bathrobes, lying in bed, lounging on the sofa, passed out in a rocking chair with a baby on their boob, watching their kids tumble through a play area with a coffee in their hand… How many realistic, empathetic depictions of parenting do you find in books for toddlers?  None, that’s how many.

Reading Ages: 1-2

Rating: A-

Diversity quotient: High. Very high.

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