Seeing that baby talk isn’t working as well as he’d like, Henry decides to find his first word.
Inaugural-word picture books remain perennial favorites, and this one distinguishes itself by committing wholeheartedly to little Henry’s perspective. Clear pencil outlines, matte pastel colors, and flat forms and backgrounds cohere to offer the softly benign, limited viewpoint of a baby. Henry’s wide face and teeny eyes anchor the artwork, imparting emotion with economy, and children might enjoy articulating the feelings behind his mild expressions. Sympathetic narration further explores Henry’s (often funny) frustrations, pleasures and thought processes. “It would help if he knew what to look for. But Henry wasn’t sure what words looked like.” The words “big,” “fuzzy,” “prickly,” “long” and “short” follow, each appearing as the shapes and textures they denote. The puffy, woolly outlines of “fuzzy” look soft to the touch, and “long” stretches out along the top of a dachshund’s back. Henry pets a fuzzy bear, feels prickly grass, gazes up at the towering letters of “BIG.” Here’s exactly how a baby decodes and interprets the world around him, which can be a scary place when mama isn’t in sight! Suddenly seemingly alone, Henry’s first word bursts forth: “MAMA.” And from there, as all mothers know, it never stops.
Let this be the first first-word book to pull from the shelf. (Picture book. 1-4)