Row, Row, Row Your Boat
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
Wee Willie Winkie
by Heather Collins
Published by Kids Can Press
10 pages, 2000
Buy it online
Books for Babes
Reviewed by Monica Stark
Though there's nothing startlingly new about the stories in Heather Collins' four newest books, Rock-A-Bye Baby; Row, Row, Row Your Boat; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Wee Willie Winkie, there is something reassuringly familiar about the standard rhymes she's borrowed here. And all is packaged into a happy format that's meant to be held comfortably and safely by teensy hands.
Collins' work has illustrated over 40 children's books including My First Look at Nature and The Last Safe House. If anything, Collins' work is characterized by a friendly gentleness that lends itself well to this newest project.
Categorized as "board books," each of the teeny tales is just 10 pages, but printed on very heavy cardboard (the "board" in "board book") that should prove to be reasonably indestructible even in non-book aware toddler hands. Rounded corners add to the baby-proofing.
The rhymes the books are based on are absolutely familiar ("row, row, row your boat gently down the stream," and so on) but Collins has brought happy baby-appropriate whimsy to her visual interpretation of the tales. In Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, for instance, a teddy bear rides a stuffed chicken towards the stars past a smiling green moon and over a world as perfecty pastoral as can be imagined.
In Rock-A-Bye Baby all of the stuffed toy pals are out for a picnic. A stuffed baby rabbit in diapers is hung in the tree in his cradle. The inevitable wind comes -- and it's a good one -- and the cradle is dislodged, but "baby" is apparently caught by all of the happy picnickers waiting below.
Collins' Wee Willie Winkie is a very friendly-looking stuffed elephant in a polka dot nightshirt, running through the town with a lantern on his trunk. When he raps on windows and peeks through locks, he sees two stuffed pigs who are having a great time not going to bed. They're laughing and generally goofing off and, rather than being annoyed, this particular Wee Willie seems to think it looks like rather a lot of fun. The final illustration shows him having a pillow fight with the two pigs. Everyone is laughing and pillow feathers are flying: you just have to smile.
While Collins' four new titles are not deeply dissimilar, with the same stuffed toy characters cropping up as necessary, they're also a great deal of fun. Absolutely appropriate reading material for tots who likely think this is the kind of highjinks their toys get up to when they're not around, anyway. | February 2000
Monica Stark is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and editor.