Perfect Picture Book Friday – Hush Little Baby

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the lovely children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Check in each week on Fridays for new book reviews. Susanna also has a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all the book reviews. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for activities for a book, or books focused on a particular theme.

Recently, someone was asking me to recommend some books for a baby shower gift. How often have you been to a shower where the mother-to-be opened up copy after copy of Goodnight Moon and Pat the Bunny? These are wonderful books and every baby should have a copy, but there are so many other great books for babies out there. We’ve discovered many along the way and I now often give these as baby shower gifts. For the next few weeks, I plan to focus my reviews on board books (and board book editions of picture books) that my children loved as babies.

Title: Hush Little Baby

Author/Illustrator: Sylvia Long

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Year: 1997 (board book published 2002)

Genre: Board book/picture book

Ages: Infant-5

Themes: Natural world; bedtime; mother/child

Opening: Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a hummingbird.
 If that hummingbird should fly, 
Mama’s going to show you the evening sky.

Synopsis: (from publisher’s website) From award-winning artist Sylvia Long comes a touching version of the well-known lullaby, Hush Little Baby. Each spread reveals a tender scene as a mama bunny lulls her baby bunny to sleep by enlisting a parade of bedtime wonders—the beauty of a hummingbird in flight; the magic of a harvest moon; the reassurance of a parent’s hug, all these and more combine to create a classic volume sure to be treasured for generations to come.

What makes it great: I’m going to share the author’s note from Sylvia Long which appears at the back of the book, because she says much better than I could what makes this book wonderful.

As much as I love being an artist, my favorite and most important profession has been being a mother. I sang and read to my children just as my mother sang and read to me. One of the songs that has bothered me as an adult is the original version of “Hush Little Baby. “ In it, a mama offers her baby comfort by promising to buy him or her all sorts of things (a mockingbird, a diamond ring, horse and cart, etc.) It seems much healthier to encourage children to find comfort in the natural things around them and the warmth of a mother’s love. This belief was my inspiration for a new version, which I hope you will enjoy as much as I enjoyed creating it.

What readers notice: Besides enjoying the song, my kids loved looking at the patchwork quilt on the baby bunny’s bed in this book because it has pictures/symbols of all the things mentioned in the song.

What a writer notices: I admire how Sylvia long took a song that everyone knows, and created a version that is so much better (in my opinion) than the original. Within the framework of the original song, she wove several strands: it’s a bedtime book, and a book with a focus on the natural world, as the mama and baby explore the outdoors and get ready for bedtime. These interwoven strands make it feel like a connected story, not just a random collection of things that have no relationship to each other, as in the traditional song.

Activities/Links to Resources: 

For young babies, a great activity with this song is to add your own verses with language they can learn and understand. Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to show you a kitty cat.
 If that kitty cat runs away, 
Mama’s going to show you your favorite ball. No, it doesn’t rhyme, but it still plays with words in a way that helps an infant developing language.

Older babies and toddlers might enjoy an exploration of the outdoors in the evening, as the mama and baby in the book do. Do you hear a cricket and see the moon like the baby in the book. What other things do you see and hear outside?

Interview with Sylvia Long

21 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Hush Little Baby

  1. patientdreamer says:

    What a beautiful book Carrie. Loved the originality that the author came up with for the lullaby. Very cute and very clever. The weaving on events that connect…. I am learning a great deal from you. Thankyou.

    • Carrie Finison says:

      I had it in the attic and just re-read it to my daughter, who noticed it because I had gotten it out to review. She really enjoyed it. Made me remember that kids can connect/reconnect with books at any age.

  2. Joanna says:

    Carrie, I so agree that the original words of this lullaby have always disturbed me, so how lovely to discover this beautiful version.

  3. Beth Stilborn says:

    This is so lovely, and I appreciate very much the way the author has shown the baby how to find comfort and serenity in the natural world. (I recently read a picture book called “Hush Little Dragon” that had the mother dragon giving the baby dragon all sorts of things to eat to hush him — things like knights and damsels. I didn’t like that revised version at all! This book, on the other hand, sounds wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  4. Laura Renauld says:

    This has been the “normal” Hush Little Baby song in my house. We only use the book occasionally now, but it was a standard when I could choose the book myself! Love this version. Thanks for sharing it here.

  5. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    This sounds so lovely, Carrie! I love the idea of taking that song (which I always had a problem with too :)) and making it so much nicer. I also like your focus on good little kid books. I also give books as baby presents all the time and I’ve got some favorites! I’ll be interested to see if any of them show up here 🙂

  6. viviankirkfield says:

    Carrie, this is lovely! I will have to try to get a copy…with a thought to making my “Whom Do I Love?” better. 🙂 I’ve always loved the “Hush Little Baby” song…it was one of the lullabies I sang to my children…I’d be interested to see how the author changed it. Great activities and resources…wonderful review!

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