Dianna Hutts Aston's Mama's Wild Child / Papa's Wild Child
illustrated by Nora Hilb
Children's books review by P.J. Rooks
More than a book about mooing
If you've been asking yourself (as you oink, cluck, and moo your way into a nightly stupor) why, exactly, the children's book industry is so sold on the idea that barnyard sounds are crucial to every toddler's education, here's a refreshing surprise -- children's books about animals and bedtime don't have to be syrupy portrayals of mush-eating bunnies and moon-leaping cows.
Taking real facts about real animals from the real world, Mama's Wild Child/Papa's Wild Child is a truly original treasure packed with interesting bits of trivia.
Did you know, for example, that a baby llama is called a cria, that newborn whales are nuzzled to the surface of the ocean by their mothers for their first breath of air, or that in seahorses, pregnancy is part of fatherhood?
Hutts Aston gives the barnyard scene the slip and shares some facts about other animals that your child may never have heard of -- like kangaroos. (Yes, seriously! A few weeks ago, when I asked my almost-four-year-old daughter what a kangaroo was, she didn't know. She can quack to beat the band, though... sigh.)
"If I were your kangaroo mama and you were my joey,
I would tuck you into my pouch
during pouring rains,
and when the clouds rolled away,
I would tap-tap-tap your little head,
and we would hop-in-the-mud, hop-in-the-mud,
Sounds fun! Hook me up with some mud!
Each animal entry comes with a separate trivia fact too. For this one:
"A mother kangaroo has a pouch for the safety and comfort of her young."
Hutts Aston wraps the worlds of her parent-child duos in vivid poetic imagery. Clouds "roll away," whales splash on the "sunny side of the ocean," and sea horses dance "beneath a watery sky," and although her stanzas aren't written to rhyme, each page follows a repetitive and rhythmic lilt that starts out with "If I were your... and you were my..." and ends up with a gentle and soothing expression of parental love.
Finally, who would have ever guessed that a simple flip-it-over book could be a novelty nearly on par with pop-up and open-the-flap books? Mama's Wild Child is half the story and, when you finish it, you close the book, flip it over, and Papa's Wild Child begins from the other side -- fascinating! Well, to a pre-schooler, anyway.
Precious, thoughtful, and imaginative, Mama's Wild Child/Papa's Wild Child opens a charming window on some of the other mamas and papas of the world and their own little bundles of joy. How do I love thee? Let me spit, blow, tap, hum, kick, claw, peep, and howl the ways.
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