Toby feels displaced in his elephant family thanks to his needy baby sister, Iris.
Like most young children, even anthropomorphic elephant ones, Toby is eager to be considered “big” and do things on his own. But being a big boy isn’t quite as exciting as Toby thought it would be when he realizes it comes at the expense of Mama’s attention, now devoted to his baby sister, Iris. Peacock’s text certainly includes accurate examples of Toby doing things “All By Himself” (yes, with the caps!), such as buttoning his coat (out of alignment) and putting on (two different) rain boots. And young readers with little siblings will certainly relate to the feelings of displacement. Pym’s illustrations—done in watercolor, colored pencils, and potato stamps—are charming and full of detail. When Toby is proudly explaining his milk-pouring and book-reading skills, he’s actually spilling milk out of the bowl and reading a book upside down. Toby ultimately decides to run away (that’ll show Mama!), packing his suitcase with a toothbrush, trumpet, and toys, a true preschooler moment. In the end, Mama reassures him with the tired cliché that he’ll “always be [her] baby.” This ending reads like a missed opportunity to instead affirm all of the ways Toby (or a young reader) is in fact a successful “big boy,” no longer a baby.
Familiar moments for children in growing families. (Picture book. 3-5)