cover image Peter Is Just a Baby

Peter Is Just a Baby

Marisabina Russo. Eerdmans, $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5384-4

The title is the favorite refrain of the narrator, an anthropomorphized six-year-old bear and Peter’s big sister—and she means it pejoratively as well as descriptively. Delineating Peter’s babyish ways also lets her cite all the ways she is more mature and sophisticated. “Peter is just a baby, and he puts everything in his mouth.... even his foot,” writes Russo (A Very Big Bunny). “Not me. The only thing I put in my mouth is food.” Of course, it helps if one’s grandmother is French (or at least a Francophile); with help from her beret-wearing tutor, the narrator learns to say “Bon appetit!” before eating and “Quel dommage!” when disappointed, which is “much more dramatic than ‘too bad’ and always gets attention.” This worldly-wise and ultimately accepting attitude, combined with the parallel story of learning French (a short glossary opens the book), gives an otherwise typical tale of sibling rivalry a stylish, refreshing twist. If Russo’s cheery, naïf gouache pictures don’t quite keep up with her Continentally inclined heroine’s considerable élan, it’s still a spot-on portrait of an older sibling’s benevolent frustration. Ages 3–6. (Jan.)