Every now and then someone writes in to ask what a good book to get someone for a baby shower or father's day or some other holiday like that that's about having, you know, children. And I always say a few dumb things and then feel obvious. I mean, I'm all in favor of your basic Goodnight, Moon, because however ubiquitous it is, it's still awesome. And Animal Dads pretty much rocks for the scientifically minded among us.
For a while there, I was recommending Child of Mine, which is a collection of essays on mothering. I like to get a book that's for the grown ups, if I can, because as a parent your world can become so completely child-centric that you have to do some work to avoid drowning in it. Child of Mine is pretty compelling to anyone who just gave birth and is, probably, as a result of that, out of her mind. It's also humane, with a piece on how horrible breast-feeding can be, and what it's like to struggle with colic + postpartum depression. But it's pretty much all about the mothers. And while that's great, it can feel somewhat exclusive.
So it is with great pleasure, I offer you this:
My in-laws gave me this a while ago, and it is truly excellent. George and Bella receive a wonderful package in the mail, and look! How cute it is! A sweet little creature that smiles and coos. But then it changes, and changes, and changes, from one shocking incarnation to the next. It's perfectly silly, but weirdly moving as well, and if you're a sucker for those original illustrations from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, these will please you no end.
What's great is that children love to have this read to them, and they follow along through the baby's transformation from cute bundle to screaming aardvark to baby elephant to monstrous sullen hairy giant, completely rapt, happily unaware that it's all about to happen to them.
The only danger with this book? If you're like my sister, the essential truth of it all—that our children are mysterious creatures who terrify, thrill, and bedevil us constantly, until one day they're adults and it's all gone before you even had time to adjust—will make you cry.