The Baby’s Catalogue – Janet and Allan Ahlberg

POINTS: 5 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 2 points
Good story: 1 point. C liked it. Me? Underwhelmed
Discretionary ideological points: 2 point

Oh my! This book has a black baby in it! In fact, it has a whole black family! You may think I am being overly excited about it, but these are literally the first people of colour I have seen in any book on this list so far, so I think it’s worthy of some excitement! And perhaps a little snark, because it’s pretty sad that it’s taken two solid weeks of doing this before I hit a book that showed any diversity at all.

On top of that, it has a Mom going to work! Dad stays home looking after the sprogs, and Mom gets dressed up and goes off to work. Women going to work! Black people! What is this crazy progressiveness?!

Okay, fine, I’ll stop with the snark. Honestly, I wish it was more surprising to me that we had to wait until we hit the early 80s to see any indication of any diversity in a picture book on this list. But it isn’t. It also isn’t surprising to me (being a student of such things) that the book in question is an Ahlberg.

 

All that being said, I really wish I liked this book more. C enjoyed it well enough. We chatted about the different families and the babies in each. We looked at what they ate for dinner (There is even open breast-feeding going on in this book as if a, it’s no big deal, and b, it’s one of multiple options! Crazy!) and their various toys. There’s no plot to speak of really. It’s simply a day in the life of these five families. The “accidents” page made me crack a smile (especially the baby stealing what looks suspiciously like the dregs of one of their parents’ wine glasses), but mostly I found it a bit dull.

Still, nice to actually see some diversity in a kids’ book that doesn’t feel particularly forced or token. It didn’t pass the Bechdel, but in fairness it also doesn’t have any dialogue at all. I gave it points for the working Mum, and for actually having people of colour. Also the breastfeeding thing engladdened my heart. (Ironically I think it was possibly more normalised in the early 80s than it is now, which is a bit of an indictment on modern society, but that’s a debate for a different day.)

For a picture driven book, it’s okay I guess (and definitely scores way higher than its contemporaries so far), but I still wasn’t as blown away as I hoped to be.

What do you think? Do you love the book? What other books do you know that have diverse characters?

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