Avocado Baby – John Burningham

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 1 point
Good story:  2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points.

There is very little dialogue in this book, and it definitely doesn’t pass the Bechdel. The baby, interestingly, is entirely gender neutral (to the point where it is referred to with “it” rather than “he” or “she”). To me this feels like a way to keep the nuclear family balanced (mom, dad, brother, sister, gender-neutral baby), but it was an interesting thing to notice. The baby wears blue, and exhibits largely traditionally masculine characteristics (chasing burglars, lifting heavy things, throwing bullies into ponds) but at no point is it ever identified as a boy baby. Which is actually really quite neat.

There is one kid in the illustration where the baby is pulling a cart of kids uphill who is black, but apart from that every single person in this book is white. So it feels a little token, but as I have mentioned, given the rarity of people of colour at all in the books on this list, I’m going to give it a single point for that anyway.

As for ideology, the book is sort of a proponent of the “eat healthy food; get big and strong” thing, except that the baby only eats one thing (avocados) and gets supernaturally strong as a result. It did make C want to try an avocado, which I suppose has to count for something. But I’m not sure it can really get credit for the healthy eating thing – I mean, eating only one thing isn’t really thathealthy, even if the one thing is avos.

It’s a neat book though. I never get tired of watching the baby throw the bullies into the pond, despite my pacifist tendencies. C enjoyed it very much. He also thought the pond thing was hilarious. I mean, I’m generally quite fond of Burningham’s work – it’s an odd combination of very British while also being just a little bit left field. It’s worth reading, though again, it’s no Oi, Get off our Train. 😉

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