You don’t have to be a genius to realize that babies are just lazy,” complains the peeved, thoroughly cosmopolitan young heroine at the start of Orlean’s first children’s book (after her well-received adult titles, The Orchid Thief
and Saturday Night
), expanded from a 1996 New Yorker
“Shouts and Murmurs” piece.
But as our girl walks through the heart of Manhattan on her way to school, readers will quickly realize that her argument is colored by a classic case of displacement: the baby who exemplifies all that’s wrong with babyhood is in fact her little brother. Clearly, no one cares that she’s lugging the world’s biggest backpack (a sublime visual joke) or that babies get to hang out “mostly naked” in Central Park (“all loafing around and looking as happy as clams”) while big kids like her are “hard at work taking tests, giving book reports, and figuring out tough math questions.” Karas (Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!
) matches the wry text with deadpan cartoons of jaded babies ferried in limousines or beaming as they lounge in strollers, and his handsome palette of browns and golds (with a little photo-collage thrown in for punctuation) captures Manhattan in all its autumnal glory. Obviously, life isn’t so bad—but to the team’s great credit, the book ends neither with the narrator capitulating nor with a poignant reconciliation between siblings. One of the wittiest new-baby-in-the-family books of recent years. Ages 5–8. (Oct.)