All At Sea

All At Sea
Gerry Byrne and Faye Hanson
Walker Books

This wonderfully warm story is subtitled ‘There’s a new baby in the family’ and chief protagonist, young Liam certainly has his very own way of dealing with the arrival of a new brother.
He plays out his feelings using the small world hippo family – a daddy, a mammy, two little hippos and a tiny, baby hippo – his parents give him when they come back from the hospital bringing with them a new baby brother for him and his slightly older sister.

First he puts the baby hippo in the mouth of a hungry crocodile to be gobbled up. The following evening the tiny hippo is squashed under an elephant’s foot …

and on the third night it ends up down the loo, supposedly swept over a waterfall when out swimming with the rest of the hippo family.

All these actions however result in Liam having bad dreams …

and ending up sleeping in his parents’ bed with them.

On the third night though, something else happens too: Liam has a change of heart not only about the baby hippo, but more importantly concerning a certain Baby Brother.
The following night all is well both with the hippo family and Liam’s.

This is a fine addition to the new sibling genre and an ideal picture book for a young child with, or about to have, a new baby in the family.
It’s beautifully told, the dialogue both child and adult, is spot on and Faye Hanson captures the inherent warmth of Gerry Byrne’s tale, and the emotions of Liam and his mum in particular, in her superb, textured illustrations. Her colour palette – predominantly sepia, violet, inky blue – give the whole story a slightly dreamlike quality.

Few picture books I’ve seen – and that’s a lot – capture the mixed emotions of a young child with a new sibling so perfectly as this one.

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