Brand-New Baby Blues

Kathi Appelt, Author, Kelly Murphy, Illustrator , illus. by Kelly Murphy. Harper $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-06-053233-8

If Lisa Simpson can sing the blues, why can't a highly reluctant sibling of a new baby brother? Appelt (the Bubba and Beau series) has hold of a great idea here, and her “lyrics” have the requisite driving rhythm. Readers can almost hear a wailing harmonica testifying to the girl's pain: “Now he's wearing my old jammies,/ he sleeps in my old bed,/ he's got my favorite baby bear/ beside his baby head.” But Murphy's (Hush, Little Dragon ) illustrations, in gentle textural pastel tones, don't seem to be in on the same joke. While her skills as a colorist and draftsman are never in doubt, her depiction of the heroine and her domestic travails feels innocuous compared with comically down-and-out gestalt of the text. Even when the girl's angst is at its peak (“It makes me sad, it makes me mad,/ it makes me want to roar!”), the accompanying image feels overly literal, and the scene's hospital green palette does nothing to drive home the emotions at play. Appelt is channeling Howlin' Wolf, but Murphy seems content with a whimper. Ages 3–6. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/21/2009
Release date: 12/01/2009
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