The birds, the bees and the little joeys
Never work with dogs or babies, said WC Fields. Charlotte Voake, in Mr Davies and the Baby proves the point in her gently wicked tale of a dog, Mr Davies, who insists on coming for a walk with a baby and that indispensable adjunct of a baby, its mother. But Mr Davies, like many another canine, is equally insistent on chasing other creatures - cats, ducks, you know the score. The mother finds a solution, but remains upstaged by both Mr Davies and the baby.
The World is Full of Babies, write Mick Manning and Brita Ganstrom. These are animal babies who, rather more jumpily than in Charlotte Voake's watercolour and ink drawings, leap all over the place in thick lines of text and illustration. There's a lot of infant-school zoology about the rearing of young, from crocodile to butterfly, from seal to seabird. Packed with facts, it's even got a glossary of useful words and a drawing of a gestating elephant, fascinating to the older child looking over a sibling's shoulder: two years for an elephant to grow and be born!
Similar points are touched on in Kangaroos Have Joeys by Philippa Alys Browne. Here, however, the glowing Chagall-like illustrations and the simple nursery text is divided off from the straight information for older readers at the back of the book.
Jan Ormerod's Mum and Dad and Me is more likely to appeal to adults than children. Beautifully drawn, like all Ormerod's books, its humour, chiefly focusing on the fondness babies have for pulling noses, is aimed at the reading adult rather than the read-to child.
Likewise its vignettes from life, taking in such scenes as the pre-natal stretching exercises and hiding under the duvet, are aimed straight at the Laura Ashley pocket of the maternity smock.
Ormerod's gentle jokes redeem the slight smugness of her material, which is more than can be said for On the Day You Were Born by Debra Frasier, a curious mix of Leboyer birth poesie from the baby's point of view and bits of biochemistry about Mother Earth, migrating animals, skin colour and the water cycle. Ever so New Age.
For those who are Old Age, the anthologies Safari Animals and Farm Animals illustrated by Paul Hess are dear little books with dear little rhymes about dear little animals. Very soothing for grannies to read to their poppets.