cover image PLEASE, BABY, PLEASE


Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, Tonya Lewis-Lee, , illus. by Kadir Nelson. . S&S, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-83233-8

Many grownups will recognize the title as the comic carnal plea uttered by Lee (as Mars Blackmon) in his 1986 film, She's Gotta Have It. Now, the filmmaker and his wife/co-author, who have two children, have turned those words into a G-rated parental entreaty—directed at an inexhaustible toddler. "Go back to bed,/ baby, please, baby, please./ Not on your head,/ baby baby baby, please!" The large typography seems to writhe in vain supplication. The cherubic toddler, whose chocolate ringlets circle her head like restless electrons, tests her parents' patience in myriad ways, and Nelson (Just the Two of Us) has a knack for picking just the right angle. For the first of his handsome, burnished-toned acrylic spreads, readers share a toddler's eye-view. In the foreground are the feet of the prone, exhausted mother, a plastic ring from a stacking toy hanging from her left big toe, as a very wide awake baby plays horsey on her stomach. The clock on the VCR reads 3:01 a.m., and a bedtime video playing on the TV clearly makes no impact whatsoever. A tantrum when it's time to leave the playground, plus a chaotic meal and bath occasion other imploring phrases from the parents, whose presence Nelson suggests with just a foot or an arm outstretched to the youngster. But at book's end, the tables are turned: "Kiss me good night?/ Mama, Mama, Mama, please," says the girl, standing in the doorway of her mom and dad's room. The final wordless picture, a loving embrace, leaves no doubt of who loves this baby. Ages 2-5. (Nov.)