But I Wanted a Baby Brother, by Kate Feiffer, illustrated by Diane Goode, Paula Weisman Books, $16.99
Two books from Little Pickle Press by Rana DiOrio, one illustrated by Chris Hill, the other by Chris Blair, both $16.95.
A child’s book works best when it operates on two levels, appealing to both child and parent. All the classics — Wind in the Willows, the Eloise and Madeline sagas, and Winnie the Pooh, accomplish this. But at bottom, the best books in this category impart something for children and grownups to ponder.
Vineyard author Kate Feiffer consistently delivers this brand of rich subtext. In her new picture book, But I Wanted a Baby Brother, questions run through the reader’s head even as the plot line spools out and one charming vignette follows the next. Kids might find themselves asking, do I want a baby brother or a baby sister? Am I happy with what I’ve got? Am I the luckiest kid in the world to be an only child?
For expecting parents, the questions will revolve around what bombshell they’re about to explode on the original nuclear family. Parents who have already produced a second or third child may wonder if the genders rolled out are working to maximum benefit. And finally, all of us might take a backward look at our own childhood family plan and wonder if the whole kit and caboodle could use a spot of therapy.
The star of But I Wanted a Baby Brother, Oliver, who appears to be five or six, kicks off the narrative with an autobiographical sketch: “My name is Oliver Keaton. My initials are O.K. I have one dog. His name is Chaplin. I don’t have any sisters and I don’t want a sister. I want a brother. I’ve wanted a brother for my entire life.” And so it goes. Oliver’s mom and dad bring home from the hospital a baby sister. She’s bald, she sometimes wears dresses — pink dresses — and everybody buys her presents.
Oliver is not happy, and as a result his dog Chaplin is not happy. The boy and his pooch watch and frown and hatch schemes to swap or otherwise unload the baby sister for a baby brother. But as Oliver casts a speculative glance at other little kids, something happens. He begins to see his own baby sibling has got a lot going for her.
And then, just as Oliver has worked out all his issues, the day arrives when mom and dad bring a new infant home from the hospital. Once again he has a shot at a baby brother. And the new sibling is . . . well, why give away the surprise ending?
Ms. Feiffer writes with her usual flair: “. . . on the morning of Tuesday, February 2nd, Oliver got a baby sister . . . BY MISTAKE. No one else seemed to notice the mistake.” Artist and Caldecott prize winner, Diane Goode, who collaborated with Ms. Feiffer on the engaging My Mom Is Trying to Ruin My Life (this spring adapted for the stage by MJ Bruder Munafo of the Vineyard Playhouse), sketches her usual winsome scenes and piquant faces. Ms. Goode has illustrated more than 40 books for children and lives with her family in Watchung, N.J.
Ms. Feiffer’s new book is available at Island bookstores; you can visit the author online at katefeiffer.com. You can also access the promo for But I Wanted a Baby Brother on YouTube, featuring the voices of Dr. Charles Silberstein and Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School second grader James Seccombe.
Ms. Feiffer will be signing books at the Bunch of Grapes on July 24 at 10:30 a.m.
Vineyard summer visitor Rana DiOrio (her father and stepmother are Ron DiOrio and Paula Catanese of Oak Bluffs) has started her own publishing company, Little Pickle Press in San Francisco. Ms. DiOrio was a political science major in college, then a lawyer, then an investment broker, so writing and publishing books is a brand new venture for the mother of three little pickles.
What Does It Mean to Be Global? and What Does It Mean to Be Green? are both priced at $16.95, the first illustrated by Chris Hill, the second by Chris Blair. The text is charming, the pictures upbeat.
What Does It Mean To Be Global? encourages us to embrace all cultures, music, languages, foods, spiritual traditions, people and games. What Does It Mean to Be Green? teaches good habits such as saving rainwater, drawing on two sides of pieces of paper, and wearing pajamas one more time before washing them. The book also provides factual tidbits: one bus carries as many people as 40 cars, and recycling a single glass bottle saves energy to light a 100-watt bulb for four hours.
The volumes are printed on New Leaf forest-friendly paper. Both books have already won awards, and they’re available in English, French and Spanish.
Ms. DiOrio will be signing her books on the Island twice: on July 9 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Craftworks Gallery on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs, and on July 10 at Featherstone Center for the Arts, where she will be conducting programs on writing and publishing children’s books, one for adults, one for children.