Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | June 18, 2012

The Baby’s Catalogue

Recently, I have been reading quite a few books written for toddlers. We are privileged to be living near a library from where we borrow from time to time. In doing so, not only we get to choose from a wide variety of books but also save a lot of time and cost in buying books. We also do not have lot of space to store books. However, some books you got to end up buying. That is what happened when three of us at home fell in love with “The Baby’s Catalogue” by Janet Ahlberg and Allan Ahlberg; published by Puffin Books.

This book captures a day in life of six babies (a pair of twins) in five families from morning till night. There are hardly any words (other than chapter headings) in the book. However, through illustrations the pages show what the respective parents and the babies are doing at one particular time. For example: a page will typically show one dad is reading the newspaper, while another is brushing his teeth and their respective babies are probably getting their nappies changed that time or perhaps eating breakfast. There are various illustration to show different kinds high-chairs, toys, beds and food that the babies come across during the day. As well as all these there are even illustrations to show the accidents (such as one baby trying to switch on the television or one baby falling inside the toilet) that the babies get into during the day.

We enjoy reading this book together and one has to see to believe how the toddler at home responds to this book. He responds all the more because he identifies with each and every picture in that book. I wonder with amazement that such a simple book with humorous pictures of can be so captivating. We normally talk through the pages – over and over again. Honestly, last one year I have come across quite a few good books written for toddlers, but nothing better than ‘The Baby’s Catalogue’.

It took a month or so for our copy of the book to arrive from the UK and its arrival excited us to say the least.

I did a bit of research on the authors Janet Ahlberg and Allan Ahlberg and found out from Wikipedia that the husband and wife collaborated for 20 years until Janet died of cancer on 13 November 1994, aged 50. Allan wrote the books, and Janet illustrated them. Allan Ahlberg was born as an illegitimate child in Croydon, in 1938. He was adopted and brought up in Oldbury in the Black Country. I have come across other books written by the couple and I must say they are very good too.

Thanks to Puffin, they come in very attractive hardback as well as paperback formats.

The other day, I was trying to find out what is the highest recognition given to an author and an illustrator of children’s book. My internet search led me to Hans Christian Andersen Award awarded by The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark is the Patron of the Andersen Awards.

Good that there exists an award to motivate writers and illustrators to continue writing for children.

I wish I could share The Baby’s Catalogue with my readers.

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Responses

  1. For reasons that you well know, Tanmoy, I am delighted that you are taking a strong interest in children’s books, especially at this stage of your life. You will not only enjoy yourself hugely but will be doing one of the most precious things that a father can do for his son. I daresay you will gain wonderful new insights, too, such as that the best of ‘children’s’ literature is not just for children but for thoughtful human beings of all ages, and no one should look down at the works of Andersen or Tagore’s Chhelebela or a book like The Little Prince (read my daughter’s review on her blog) as works of any but the finest of authors and thinkers… and you might also reflect upon this: not many of my grown-up ex students can claim that they are doing as much for their own children, though most of them like to think of themselves as good parents!


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