I come from a large-ish, blended family. There were six of us—that is, six siblings. We got along mostly and eventually all moved out and went in different directions. But we would come back for those large family meals. When we did it was with a pocket full of anticipation and levity. Over the years our crowd grew as some of us married. Even larger when we started having kids. By then we knew to expect a sweet kind of cacophony and ordered chaos to those events. The most popular person at those gatherings? Always the newest, the youngest, and there was ample competition for their attention.
Susanna Reich’s new book, Pass the Baby, illustrated by Raúl Colón, is so familiar to me.
This story of a family mealtime gathering is charming, familiar and relevant in so many ways.
It is vignette of joy and togetherness, if only for an afternoon or evening. It’s about working together to prepare the meal, the table, the house, and enjoying the company in the process. It is the gathering of the family in the kitchen, around the table, and after dinner, the living room. The baby is active and her antics that would hardly be tolerated by anyone older. But, she’s the baby!The menu (like the family) is diverse—guacamole, enchiladas, ravioli, black-eyed peas. The desserts as well.
The baby is wild one and is handed off to different members of the family, each eager to spend time with her. She plays with her food and makes a mess, much to the delight of the dog who scoops up the fallen treats. And everyone wants to hold her, thus the chant of “Baby, baby, pass the baby!”
Like most of my big family meals, this one ends with everyone slipping into a stuffed, synchronized snooze in the living room.
Well, almost everyone….
Colón’s illustrations pair beautifully with the joyfulness of the text, bright and animated, using his recognizable pastel-ish palette.
They are created with watercolor, colored pencils an lithographic crayons. There is a levity and ebullience projected from each scene. People laughing, smiling, working together, and enjoying the presence of all. Colón’s characters have a detectable familiarity here. I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is, but this whole diverse crowd here seems like people I know or have known. It is obvious through the illustrations that there is a truckload of love and appreciation there. I bet if I were to knock on the door of that home, they’d even invite me in. I’d like to do that
Reich is probably best known for her non-fiction biographies. A wide variety of fascinating folks.
Pass the Baby is her first picture book and I wonder why, and will she do more?? She tells this story in a smooth and flowing rhyme, and does so wonderfully.
This is a delightful, engaging, rhythmic romp through a family’s gathering and meal that seems almost a celebration.
It makes me harken back to similar times and experiences in my life. Or perhaps future ones as my own family evolves…