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
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