on November 3, 2003
One day, while the adults are distracted at a picnic, the babies crawl away. The only one who sees them leave is the hero of the story, a child in a fireman's hat. The babies crawl and the child chases. Eventually the babies are rounded up and returned to the parents and the hero gets a much deserved rest.
While the tale is simple, the illustrations add a wonderful dimension to the story. The pictures are done in a silhouette style but with no lack of detail. We see the babies crawl, hide in trees, and other antics. My favorite is the baby with a bow who starts hanging upside down like the bats. In the final scene we see this baby and a parent both hanging from the rafters.
A delightful book with detailed illustrations and fun rhymes. Kids learn that even little kids can be heroes. Check out all of Peggy Rathman's books.
There is no justice in the world. None at all. Ladies and gentlemen I direct your attention this evening to "The Day the Babies Crawled Away". Now this is a tale told entirely in silhouette. It is accomplished and witty, ending with a touch of sentiment that brings an actual honest-to-goodness tear to the eye. And yet what did author Peggy Rathmann win the Caldecott Award for? For the phenomenally less deserving and trite, "Officer Buckle and Gloria". A fine book, but not even a hair close to the brilliance of this, her latest text.
The book begins in the early morning. A fair is being set up next to a group of houses. The narration speaks to the reader.
"Remember the day
The babies crawled away?"
"Remember the way
You tried to save the day?"
So we follow our protagonist, a boy in a fireman's helmet as he frantically follows five fast moving babies. The boy follows them from the woods, to the swamps, into caves and on ledges. The babies find themselves in perilous situations, and the intrepid young boy must find a way to save them all and get them back home safe and sound. When he returns to the fairgrounds, babies in tow, the grown-ups cheer him soundly. That night, boy and babies fall asleep in their parents' arms after a long and exhausting day.
It sounds cutesy, no question, and it isn't. Not in the least. First of all, technically it's remarkably adept. The silhouettes are so detailed and delicate that you find yourself discovering all sorts of tiny details on every page. Is that Officer Buckle and Gloria on the title page? Is the trophy given to the boy at the end topped with a pie? And how did Rathmann draw an exploding water balloon so well in silhouette? Looking at the babies, you can see that each one is differently drawn. There's the bonnet baby, the baby with one curl, the cornrows baby, the dredlocks baby, and the smallest baby of all that spends almost all of this book upside down. Rathmann uses the silhouette technique to her own advantage at critical times. When the babies collapse as a sleepy pile on top of their boy rescuer, the viewer can only make out a hand here, a heel there, and a wild assortment of perching birds, butterflies, and frogs. As for the text, it really does give credit where credit is due. The boy has saved the babies and as a reward we are shown a scene that touched me deeply. The boy sits on his mother's lap in the fading evening light. His fireman's hatted head is tipped gently towards his mama who is kissing him sweetly. In her hair, a butterly perches and the book says, "You told me your story, I brewed you some tea, then you fell fast asleep in a small pile on me" It's enough to break your heart.
And I haven't even gushed to you about the shifting colors of the day from early morning to the bright light of noon, and eventually the cool colors of twilight. For a book that deals up a healthy heaping of black, this is one of the most colorful (and lovely) picture books out there today. There's something about a story in which a toddler can be the ultimate hero that appeals deeply to children. The adults (incapacitated by a pie-eating contest) are useless here and it is up to a small boy to save the day. Rathmann had always struck me as the poor man's Steven Kellogg until now. With "The Day the Babies Crawled Away", I think she's really come into her own. It is perhaps the most charming toddler empowerment book I have ever seen. More importantly, it is simultaneously witty and beautiful. With so few books managing to be either one or the other, we should be careful to praise the few (like this one) that are both.
on November 8, 2004
Rathman, a well-known author/illustrator (i.e., Officer Buckle and Gloria, a Caldecott Medal winner, and Good Night Gorilla) has created an enchanting and irresistible rhyming tale here. A young boy becomes a hero by rescuing and eventually returning a gang of mischievous, runaway babies to their grateful parents. This unique storyline is beautifully brought to life in even more unique illustrations. The illustrations are almost completely done in silhouette. The entire landscape, the young hero, the adorable and troublesome babies, and all the butterflies, birds, frogs, and bats they encounter are all done in black silhouette. But wonderful, lively colors are introduced into the illustrations. All of the silhouettes are set against beautifully colored, wondrous skies. These amazing skies range from a beautiful, blue green sky with puffy white clouds in the beginning to a rainbow-colored, sunset sky to a stunning, purple night sky filled with lively white fireworks. Preschoolers are sure to enjoy the rhyming text and heroism of someone their own age and be captivated by probably unfamiliar artistic method of silhouette. This book is likely to inspire many to try this style themselves. Highly recommended for ages 3 to 10.
I'm shocked that this truly exceptional picture book did not win the Caldecott award in 2004(for the most distinquished American picture book published in the preceding year) or at least get picked as a Caldecott Honor Book (basically a "finalist"). I'm also surprised that there is no indication of other award it won or should have won. For example, it won the 2004 Northern California Book Award award in the Children's Literature category.
on June 1, 2006
I've owned this book for my oldest daughter's entire 3 1/2 years (got it before she was born) & I'm only now writing a review because I'm shopping for a new copy. The original, 2 daughters later, has been read and read and read to the point 4 of the pages are ripped & taped, there are thumb-smudge marks all over, and the spine is practically off. Needless to say, this (along w/ every other Peggy Rathmann book) is one of their favorites. It's funny and lighthearted but like all Rathmann books the best part is the way she gets your children to practice their powers of observation and association. Patterns are placed for my kids to pick up on, like the little creatures that join the boy on his quest and the curious personalities of the babies (one in particular). Great book!
And to the reviewer who said "I also miss the clues and hidden references to previous books", look in the pages before the title one and you'll find a policeman & his faithful dog (doing one of her classic tricks on another page)...
on January 12, 2007
I had as much fun reading this as my kids did. But its not just a story, its an I spy game to. We noticed that there is one baby that is upside down on almost all the pages, can you find her? And as the babies crawl after the bees and bats they begin to follow the babies, can you find them? We had many different ages enjoying this book - 2, 4, 6, 8 & 33!
The black shadow drawing lets the kids use their imagination more.
on February 27, 2013
A truly delightful book--both the pictures and the text. Heroic, entertaining, fun--you name it. We have bought this book as a present for many friends and will continue to do so in the future. Probably best for kids ages 2-4. It really is a fun, fun book, and we never tire of reading it.
on January 25, 2013
This is a very cute picture book! All the pictures feature a silhouette of the babies on their various adventures with a beautiful, colorful background. My son loves the pictures and they would be great even for the very young. The story is cute as well.
on November 23, 2010
This book is tragically unknown by most parents I know (and I know a LOT). I'm not sure why its stayed under the radar when it should be up there with The Hungry Caterpillar, Good Night Moon, Guess How Much I Love You, Frederick, and all the other "must" books out there. This is a GREAT kids book for SO many reasons:
1) In true Peggy Rathmann form the illustrations are full of humor and hidden items for kids to hunt for. This one is a bit unusual as the whole story is town in silhouette at sunset but don't let that turn you off - the illustrations are great!
2) It is really fun to read! As any parent knows, a great book will get read out loud a zillion times and it can get really tiresome for the reader. This one is so much fun to say out loud I never cringe when my little ones reach for it. Remember the day the babies crawled away? We Moms and Dads were eating pies, the babies saw some butterflies, and what do you know! Surprise Surprise! The Babies crawled away....
Really - whats not to love?
3) The story is delightful. Babies craw away from the fair and one intrepid little boy saves them from various perils with great ingenuity. What a hero!
Buy this for yourself. Buy a copy for friends with kids. Put it on your baby shower wish list. Seriously - a really great book that everybody will love!
on July 13, 2013
This book has really neat illustrations. The characters and scenery are all in silhouette against a late afternoon sky background, as shown on the cover. And the more times you read it, the more things you find going on. For instance, there is one baby who is always hanging upside down on every page. At the end, she and her mommy are both hanging upside down in their house. My daughter and I love reading it and trying to find new things going on in the pictures each time. The story is cute too, about a little boy chasing a group of wayward babies through swamps and caves and all over, trying to get them back home to their parents.
on May 22, 2013
I ran across the name of this book and bought it for my baby-crazy Kindergartner, because I just knew she would love the story. She does, and I love reading it to her. The text is just fun to read out loud, which is not true of so many picture books. And the artwork is a marvel. Others have mentioned the baby who is always hanging upside-down, but there is also a caterpillar to find in every frame. Lots of fun, and shows my daughter a different type of artwork, to examine and puzzle over.