Johnston captures the beauty of a baby’s first laugh and a family’s subsequent joy in this sweet celebration of one of life’s loveliest milestones.
On a crisp, winter’s day, a baby laughs. “That small spill of happiness / went rippling through the house— / a dazzle, a jazzle, a shine.” To share in this wondrous event, relatives and neighbors gather, but no amount of prompting can get this babe to giggle again. Later, with bellies full of food and conversation, “into a slot of silence… / ...rang a little mirthful sound,” causing more hilarity to ensue until the guests finally depart into the soft, falling snow. Tender and exuberant, playful and poignant, the text perfectly honors this merry occasion. Unfortunately, Gammell’s uniformly chaotic artwork is a poor match. Almost the full color spectrum is represented in each spread, with black used mainly to delineate shapes rather than shadows, thus hindering readers’ ability to perceive depth and focus. A few artistic choices also detract from the text, such as the baby’s derriere-exposing pants (cute the first time, but distracting the fourth); the needless sloppiness of the guests (spilled dishes and drinks); and a reappearing “LOL” sign (when other indicators point to an era gone by). Moreover, despite the author's note on the Navajo First Laugh Ceremony, there are no appropriate ethnic elements in the illustrations.
Enjoy it for the delicious, read-aloud text, but hide the illustrations. (Picture book. 3-8)