Ashman’s fresh take on the classic lullaby “Rock-A-Bye, Baby” first expands upon and then addresses the nonsensical aspects of the verses.
A wordless page facing the copyright information shows the familiar image of a baby asleep in a treetop cradle. Even though the baby is smiling and the cradle appears to be securely lodged, there is something unsettling about the high perch. The page turn reveals the now-empty cradle with the accompanying verse, “Evening is near now. / Hear the wind blow. / Branches are shaking… / Where’d Baby go?” What follows is a succession of increasingly silly resting or play scenarios for baby—first the tot lands in a bird’s nest, then atop a pig, then next to a sheep, and so on. Tumbles and flights resolve into a homecoming to mother’s arms, where the scene reveals a nursery decorated with the animals and places of baby’s adventures. This suggests that baby was always with mother, who made up this rock-a-bye romp of a song for her little one, concluding it with the lines, “Sweet little Baby, rocking with me— / Who’d put a cradle high in a tree? / Babies in trees are fine in a song… // But you, little one, / are where you belong.” Mulazzani’s mixed-media art indulges in delightful decorative details that provide visual interest, but it stops short of fully indulging in the silliness of the playful verses.
A fine addition to the nursery bookshelf for baby and all. (Picture book. 0-3)