The trouble with toddlers
I must confess that I seldom like books with rhyming text. Too often, the language seems forced and uninteresting, sing-song and cliché. But The Day the Babies Crawled Away is a wonderful exception to my rhyming rule. Here is a short, imaginative tale that has movement at its heart, a story told in verses that establish both a narrative line and a rhythm for the adventure that takes place.
The tale gets off to a rollicking start as families gather at a fair. While the grown-ups are preoccupied with a pie-eating contest, a group of plucky infants scurries off into the woods followed by their rescuer, a brave preschool boy wearingappropriately enougha fireman's hat. The narrator of the story is his mother, and she recounts his great adventure with pride: "Remember the way/You tried to save the day?/You hollered, 'HEY!/You babies, STAY!'/But none of them did. And some of them hid."
Peggy Rathmann's art is as whimsical as her plot. She depicts the characters and the landscape in black silhouette throughout the book, with an infusion of color on each page from the sky. Thus, we see the outlines of the babies in their bonnets and our hero in his hat, along with the contours of trees, butterflies and bats, all meticulously detailed.
Dashes of Rathmann's signature humor enliven the story further. Little readers should look carefully for many fun touches, like the baby who hangs upside-down at home, on the last page, after the hero finds him in a bat cave.
The Day the Babies Crawled Away has all the elements youngsters look for in a book: adventure, near-catastrophes, a likeable hero and, last but not least, a calm and cozy ending. Rathmann, a Caldecott Medal winner, has carved a firm niche for herself in the world of children's literature, having delighted millions with books like Officer Buckle and Gloria and Ten Minutes Till Bedtime. The Day the Babies Crawled Away is an extra-special offering from this beloved author.
Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.