* Prices may differ from that shown
Ok I'm going to upset some people I think with this review! Well ok, upset is a strong word and possibly I should just say that I am going to disagree with some people. I have looked at several reviews and know this has won awards etc etc. And to be fair, I enjoy the book myself and my kids love the book. Maybe I should get on with the review and explain why I disagree last?
Ok Baby Brains is a book by Simon James about a baby born with massive intelligence. This is mostly due, we believe, to his mother reading to the baby, and playing music and language tapes to him. So at the ripe old age of one day, Baby Brains begins to read the papers, and embarks on an adventure that sees him become a doctor and an astronaut!!
This story won the Red House Childrens Book Award in 2005, which is a competition judged solely by children. From what I gather, it is a fairly prestigious award.
My kids (5+7) both enjoy this story. The illustrations in the book remind me of Quentin Blake from the Roald Dahl books from my early years of reading.
The story is compelling enough, as the writer breezes through Baby Brains ascent through school to being an astronaut in the matter of a few days, before an ending that is not completely unexpected.
Ok, here's where I think I will disagree with people. This may be because I am a father and not a mother, I really can't give you my exact reason. I just believe that this story panders to too many stereotypes more so in the imagery than the words. Now please do not hate me for pointing these things out, but all the way through the story the mother is caring for the Baby and the father seems fairly useless when it comes to these things. The mother is the one putting the baby to bed, the one who makes the breakfast, the one who races to the baby when he is in need, who pushes the baby in his pram, the one who baths him etc . The dad holds the remote, reads his own book when the mother is reading to the baby and does very little.
I think that I notice the lack of male parental influence more because I am a dad who does his share of all the daily tasks. There, rant over!!
Overall it's a good book, but the fatherly omissions ruin it for me.
This newly famous childrens book is loved my my 2 year old, it appears a lot of other children agree. The book has won an award from the Red House Childrens Book Awards, which is the only major award judged by children.
The story is about a young mother and father (mrs and mr brains) who are having a baby and desperately want a "brainy" baby. They tried techniques such as when they "played music and languaes on headphones to her baby during the day" and "even turned up the television when the news came on".
All these techniques seemed to play of as when baby brains was born he was a very capable young boy. He was able to read a newspaper, go to school, become a doctor and even is able to travel to space. It is when he is in space he realises that he wants his mummy and is quickly returned home. Baby Brains and his parents decide to treat him more like a baby and not like the adult he has been previously.
I personally don't get the attraction to this book, its probably one of my least favourite from his collection. I find the sheer vase use of the term "mrs brains" or "mr brains" or "baby brains" exhausting to read and the actual storyline doesn't really relate to anything or have a moral ending.
The story has plently of large pictures which is great for children to interact with. I also purchased a DVD edition which includes a DVD of the story so that your child can watch and listen also. The RRP of this book is £7.99 however you can purchase from most book stores from about £5.00
'Baby Brains' is a Walker Books story, first published in 2004 and was the Overall Winner of the Red House Children's Book Award, the only major award judged by children.
The book is written by Simon James, it is 32 pages long and has a larger font that is suitable for reading with younger children. The cover is a lovely blue with twinkly silver stars, which has an amusing illustration of Baby Brains in full astronaut costume.
The story follows the the life of the Brains family. Mr and Mrs Brains are expecting a baby, and to make sure he would be extra clever, they (whilst he was inside Mrs Brains' tummy) read aloud to him every night, played music and languages to him through headphones and turned up the television when the news was on. Only...it worked too well, at one day old he reads newspapers, on day 2 he starts school, and by day 3 he is studying to be a doctor! This book is a very silly story to share with your little ones, and you'll love it just as much as they do. It's become a firm favourite in our house at bedtime.
The book is illustrated by Simon James too. The images are humourous and appealing to children, there are plenty of things to look at and lots to discuss with your child about what's happening. I particulary like an illustration of Baby Brains in an operating theatre performing surgery (whilst wearing a babygrow!)
To conclude, this is a delightful story that will have you all smiling at bedtime.
If a children's book has won a major award that is judged by children, that's a sure sign that its target audience will love it. Such is the case with Simon James's 'Baby Brains', the overall winner of the Red House Children's Book Award in 2004. Subtitled 'The smartest baby in the whole world', the book's front cover shows a baby in a space suit space-walking against a bright blue sky speckled with silver stars and yellow dots. He's smiling inside his huge space helmet, and we know that he is no ordinary baby.
Turning through to the frontispiece, little Baby Brains is lying on the floor in his nappy, sucking a dummy, but there is an open book in front of him and two more to one side. They don't look like picture books, either - there are plenty of pages and plenty of text. This baby can read.
The story starts when Mrs Brains is several months pregnant, and she and her husband are doing everything they can think of to ensure that their baby will be a clever one: they turn the volume up when the television news is on, and Mrs Brains plays music and languages to her baby through headphones as well as reading to him before she goes to sleep at night.
Mrs Brains gives birth to a boy which she and her husband call Baby Brains. On their first night home, Mrs Brains lays him in his cot and tells him to sleep tight - it seems he does, too, as she is not woken by him during the night. What a lucky mum. The next morning, however, Mrs Brains is in for a shock when she finds Baby Brains sitting on the sofa, reading the newspaper. That afternoon he helps his father mend the car, and then announces that he would like to attend school the following day. Having amazed the children there, Baby Brains goes on to study medicine at university. It's only two weeks until he is working as a doctor at a hospital. Not long after that, he is invited to take part in a space mission.
Will Baby Brains continue to go from strength to strength, or will he suddenly feel that he wants to be an ordinary baby doing normal baby things, like being tickled and going out in his pram? Will Mr and Mrs Brains feel that they went too far in their quest for a clever baby and long just to bath and cuddle Baby Brains?
This is obviously a story that will delight children and no doubt amuse the adults that read it to them. It's very imaginative and full of humour. Adults will probably have a good chuckle at the lengths to which prospective parents will go to try to produce brainy offspring. Children will love the idea of a baby mending a car or going up into space.
Simon James has filled his story with colourful illustrations, perhaps slightly reminiscent of the style of Quentin Blake. Sometimes they almost fill the page, whereas others are smaller and interspersed with short paragraphs of text.
All the text is set against a white background and is large enough for easy reading. There are never more than four or five sentences to a page, sometimes less, so very young listeners will not get bored and be anxious to turn the page. Because there is such a good balance of text and illustrations, this could be a suitable book for young independent readers who are gaining confidence. They will not be put off by long paragraphs but will be encouraged by visual clues. There are a few difficult words such as 'languages', 'photographers' or 'headphones', but on the whole a five- or six-year-old could get a great deal of enjoyment from tackling this story.
I borrowed the paperback edition from the library and found a page of stickers (intact) at the end of the book. There are nine in all, depicting Baby Brains undertaking various activities such as talking on the phone, sitting at a laptop, or space walking. Each has a slogan, ranging from "I want my Mummy' through 'I love school' to 'stupendous'. I suspect they help to sell the book.
I do definitely recommend this as both as an entertaining read-aloud book for children aged three to five, and as a story for young independent readers. Although I wouldn't choose it as my favourite picture book, I can see the attraction for children imagining a baby who can turn his hand to almost anything that takes his fancy.
The only other book by Simon James that I am familiar with is 'Leon and Bob', a Smarties Book Prize Silver Award Winner which I enjoyed immensely. Amongst his other titles is 'Days Like This', which was short-listed for the Kate Greenaway Medal. There is apparently a sequel to 'Baby Brains' entitled 'Baby Brains Superstar', so I must keep an eye out for that.
by Simon James
Walker Books, 2005
Paperback, 32 pages
Price £5.99 (Amazon £4.49)