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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Best Baby Shower Gift

By Susan Chapek

Invite a kidlit writer to a Baby Shower, and you know what the gift will be: a classic picture book.

We all have our favorites. GOODNIGHT, MOON; GOODNIGHT, GORILLA; TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES. . . . Everybody knows them; everybody loves them; everybody else is going to give the same books. Why not bring a new classic?

Here's the one I always bring:

With a handful of rhyming words (sleep, peep, creep, leap, heap…), Julie Stiegemeyer tells a big bedtime story. And Rt 19's own Carol Baicker-McKee provides the perfect illustrations—cuddly, colorful, and funny. One Amazon review notes that they make her little boy giggle until he hiccups.

CHEEP! CHEEP! isn't a board book, but its stiff, glossy cover and thick pages are sturdy enough for baby and toddler handling. (If it's not on your bookstore shelf today, offer a gentle hint to your bookseller to order more copies.)

For a baby shower near the holidays, be sure to add this sequel:

CHEEP! CHEEP! is only the first of several collaborations by Julie and Carol. (Watch for MONSTER CAKE, coming soon to make the pre-K crowd giggle.)

Carol and Julie first teamed up while they were part of a particularly fertile kidlit writers group that met weekly in the Peters' Township Library. Under Pat Easton's leadership, that group saw Cynthia Cotten, Millie Flanagan, and Julie Stiegemeyer—plus Rt19's own Dave Amaditz, Carol Baicker-McKee, Cynthia Light Brown, Kitty Griffin, Andrea Perry, and Judy Press—publish, and publish more.

Every writers group makes its own chemistry, but that group—from about 1996 to 2004—rose to the level of alchemy, I think. Many of us have moved far away, but we still cherish the memories and are nourished by the friendships.

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By the way, one of Julie Stiegemeyer's specialties is making the most of the fewest words. Check out her series of church-time board books THINGS I SEE IN CHURCH, THINGS I DO IN CHURCH, THINGS I SEE AT BAPTISM, and the rest. They are wise and charming diversions for the toddler in your pew.)

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NOTE: The birth of a sibling is a common picture-book theme, but the newcomer is usually portrayed (however humorously) as a monster or usurper. In CHEEP! CHEEP!, by contrast, the older sib is the star of the story, the birth is an exciting discovery, and the newcomer a welcome addition to the snuggly group.

Now that's a bedtime story that won't lead to nightmares.

So if there's an older pre-K sibling in the expectant family--especially one who's been the "only" child so far--then wrap CHEEP! CHEEP! up as a shower gift for the soon-to-be Big Brother or Big Sister.

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