Kate Beaton’s latest picturebook is a humourous treatment of the constant attention newborn babies need from their caretakers, told from the point of view of the exalted King Baby himself. King Baby has many demands, offering his adult subjects ‘smiles and laughs and kisses’ as a reward for carrying out his orders (‘FEED ME! BURP ME! CHANGE ME! BOUNCE ME! CARRY ME!’).
Fans of Beaton’s previous work will not be disappointed. She is able to convey physical humour in the simplest of drawings, the sequence in which King Baby learns to crawl and then walk being a particular highlight. The illustrations also capture perfectly the emotional journey of the family through subtle alterations in their facial expressions, as the parents adjust to parenthood and King Baby transforms triumphantly into a Big Boy.
The humour will most likely resonate more with adults than with children. New parents especially will laugh as they recognise their newborns and themselves in King Baby and his parents. This inevitably leads to questions as to the target audience; in other words, is it really a children’s book? While this is a valid criticism, I can see this book working well with children who are expecting a new sibling. It shows what children can expect when a new baby comes in a way that is both accessible and humourous, as well as making a useful distinction between a ‘baby’, who has many needs and demands, and a ‘big boy’ who can do things for himself.