Children’s Book Review: For the Little Ones

By Cyrisse Jaffee

Looking for a book to give a new baby and their family? These charming new books fit the bill.

 Awake, Asleep by Kyle Lukoff. Illustrated by Nadia Alam. Orchard Books

This Baby, That Baby by Cari Best. Illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh. Random House

Even the littlest ones will enjoy the everyday adventures of diverse families during a typical day in Awake, Asleep. The very simple, soothing, repetitive language (“A kiss, a blink, a dawn, a break/A yawn, a peep, a stretch, awake!) manages to convey a lot of feelings and actions in very few words. The illustrations are a good match, focusing on each scenario without being overly sweet or cluttered.

In a nice twist, the exact makeup of each family is never made quite clear. There’s a jumble of children — a baby, a red-headed boy, a little kid with pigtails, and a girl who wears a headband to hold her straight dark hair. The adults are multicultural, too. They include three different dads (one of whom sports a tattoo as well as pink sneakers to match his child’s, another is bald and bearded), a grandma who walks with a cane, a pregnant woman, and a red-haired mom.

The grown-ups chat as they walk to the park. The children explore their environment — a bird feeder, a spider and its web, and a stalk of grass growing in between concrete. At the playground, the kids have fun but there are also boo-boos, a broken toy, a skinned knee, and a much-needed, reassuring cuddle. Back at home, a minor melt-down leads to the comforting rituals of bath, dinner, reading time, and, as the day comes full circle, “A yawn, a peep, a stretch, a heap/A kiss, a blink a night, asleep.” While capturing the energy of children, this is a comforting, reassuring book, whose lyrical style makes it a winning story, perfect for bedtime.

The toddlers in This Baby, That Baby are also neighbors. They live in apartment buildings that face each other and when they wake up, they are very happy to see each other through the window. “This baby,” the narrative tells us, “has a lot of black, curly hair. It bounces when he giggles.” That baby, “has a floppy red hat. It falls off when she wiggles.” One of them has a cat and a stuffed panda, the other has a dog and a stuffed cat. One likes to nap, but the other doesn’t. After they wake up (one is teary, the other is grumpy), the mom takes the little boy to the park, meeting up with the little girl and their dad. As they play peek-a-boo and enjoy each other’s company, the mom and dad slump over on the bench in exhaustion.

Cari Best is a well-known children’s book author, and she packs a lot into the sparse narrative. Ideal for reading aloud to babies and toddlers, the book perfectly captures the absolute delight of babies — their joy in discovery, their affection for others, their infectious energy — with a subtle message about our shared humanity. Iranian-born illustrator Rashin Kheiriyeh is equally adept at creating two very adorable babies and their hard-working parents, plus a lively, appealing cityscape that adds a strong sense of place. It’s not hard to imagine that little ones will want repeat readings of this book and will soon be chanting along with the “this baby, that baby” refrain.

Cyrisse Jaffee is a former children’s and YA librarian, children’s book editor, and a creator of educational materials for WGBH. She holds a master’s degree in Library Science from Simmons College and lives in Newton, MA.


  1. Jackie Ascrizzi on January 31, 2024 at 7:39 am

    Fabulous reviews! I want to go out right away and buy these books – even though my grandchildren may be too old for them!

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