It is never too early to start reading to children. Recent research has shown that the more parents read to newborns, the better. While quite a few Canadian books have been written for infants, the debut picture book from Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Johanna Skibsrud (The Sentimentalists) and Sarah Blacker is a sweet little story that stands out from other recent offerings.
Sometimes We Think You Are a Monkey draws on similarities between a newborn’s qualities and the behaviour or characteristics of an animal – such as a monkey climbing a tree, a baby bird asking for food, or a kitten stretching in the sun. While most of the comparisons ring true, a few are a bit awkward. For example, a baby’s soft skin is compared to “the fine dust of a butterfly’s wing.” Despite this occasional unevenness, the text holds much value.
Vancouver illustrator Julie Morstad provides beautiful art for this ode to babies. Using her signature nostalgic style and a vibrant palette, Morstad breathes life into the animals on the page. In each colourful spread, she goes beyond what is expressed in the text and supplies a visual clue as to what the next animal will be. Sometimes the hint is subtle, other times obvious. Parents could encourage their babies’ observational skills by pointing out these details.
Sometimes We Think You Are a Monkey would be more practical as a board book, as reading a full-sized picture book while holding a newborn can be difficult. However, it is a nice addition to a growing canon. Parents and storytellers looking to explore more animal-themed books for babies could pair this offering with Canadian classics Sweetest of All by Jean Little and The New Baby Calf by Barbara Reid and find themselves with a good selection sure to please their youngest bibliophiles-in-arms.