I just couldn't wait to meet you by Kate Ritchie
Ill. by Hannah Sommerville. Random House Australia, 2016. ISBN
(Ages: 3-7) Family. Babies. Love. Kate Ritchie, of 'Home and away' fame, began work on this as a letter to her infant daughter. It talks directly to the reader, reminiscing on what it was like waiting for her baby to be born ('Would you grow up big and strong? What would be your favourite toy?') before reflecting on life with her baby ('and although you challenge me, I know we will be okay'). The sex of the baby, through the use of neutral colours and careful wording, is unidentified. This means that all young children will be able to relate to the baby in the story.
The text rhymes and flows quite well. The verse only occasionally seems clunky - particularly the last page ('I am so lucky that I met you. I just couldn't wait to meet you!'), or not reflective of how a parent actually speaks to a child ('Each day my glad heart sings'). Otherwise, it is tender, reassuring and well phrased ('So I'll be here to watch you grow, and guide you on your way').
Hannah Sommerville has done a wonderful job illustrating this with warm, earthy tones and rounded, comforting lines that add to the welcoming, caring feel of the story. The front endpapers have illustrations of things that might be stuck in a baby scrapbook: ultrasound photos, lists of names, baby shower invitations and belly photographs and the back endpapers show artefacts and photographs of the new baby's milestones: first smile, footprint, lock of hair, first painting, etc. These will provide talking points for parents and children as they discuss these things within their own family context (What would I have been called if I was a boy/girl? When did I first smile?). It might even prompt the pulling out of their baby book or photo album.
This book, to be shared between parents and children, could be used to reinforce how special and loved a child is, particularly if a new sibling has or is joining the family. It will also be reassuring and touching for new parents and seems to be written as much for them as for children.