I'm Not a Baby!

I'm Not a Baby!

Published by Schwartz & Wade Books

Chosen as one of top three picture books of 2006 by Sue Corbett of The Miami Herald

I'm not a baby!" whines Leo Leotardi, but his family won't listen. Leo doesn't want oatmeal ("Poopie!" says Leo), he wants pancakes, like everyone else. But what the Leotardis don't seem to notice is that, while Leo may be the baby of the family, he isn't actually a baby anymore. His bonnet is getting too tight, his clothes are bursting at the seams, and he doesn't need to sit in a high-chair. Will the poor boy have to go to college wearing booties?


Leo Leotardi has a problem, and it's plainly stated by the title and cover art. I'm not a baby! declaims the indignant child in a fussy Victorian pram, preposterously attired in rompers, a ruffle-edged baby bonnet, and booties. As he progresses through life—from tricycling off to school in his rompers, to his graduation speech in which he declares independence from booties and blankies, to his entry into the workforce (his nanny tying his bonnet under his manly chin), to his marriage and fatherhood—Leo's family continues to call him the baby against all his protestations (framed by speech balloons). It is when his own infant calls Leo Dada that his aging family awakens to reality. It is left to Leo's doting nanny to toss off the final absurdity, Who ever said he was a baby? The story has a child-appealing arc: the visual humor escalates as poor Leo looks more and more ludicrous in his baby clothes, and the predictable patterning of his repeated objections will invite ever-louder participation from listeners. The gouache illustrations on cream-colored paper present Leo's feckless family in a kind of Victorian tableau. The universality of Leo's lament and its wonderfully silly treatment will elicit giggles of recognition and, no doubt, requests for repeated readings. — School Library Journal (starred review)

With a sense of theater borrowed from Maurice Sendak and McElmurry's own idiosyncratic approach to color, pattern, and story, the creator of Mad about Plaid (2000) introduces a memorable character: Leo Leotardi, whose distracted Edwardian family clings to the notion that their youngest remains a baby. The book opens as toddler Leo climbs from his flounced bassinet and asks for waffles, only to be sternly rebuffed and presented with porridge. Later episodes show him clad in infants' togs and enduring cooing remarks ("What a clever baby!") even as he attends school, gives a graduation speech, and starts his first job. McElmurry adds surreal touches to the ornate, period settings that suit the farce: odd colors dominate (pea green, salmon pink); word-bubbles introduce a comic-book informality into the stately compositions; and occasional, anachronistic elements appear, such as one character's high-top sneakers. Balancing the visual cacophony is a restrained text, evoking the calcified family dynamics in episodes that follow the same basic pattern, always ending with Leo's child-pleasing battle cry: "I am NOT a baby!" When a real baby--Leo's own--finally evaporates the myth, the resolution feels a bit abrupt; nonetheless, children will be deeply amused by the premise, and wholly sympathetic to the frustrations of being labeled, patronized, or willfully misunderstood. — Booklist (starred review)

With witty, Victorian illustrations and droll dialogue, McElmurry (Mad About Plaid ) tells the fairy tale story of a boy whose family will simply not believe that he has grown up until he has an infant of his own. ...The illustrations exude eccentric charm. The nanny's red high-tops peek out from underneath her proper Victorian maid's uniform, and Leo's brother appears with a pet white mouse on his shoulder. Most children will initially relate to Leo's frustration at not being seen for who he is, and laugh at the incongruity of a grown man being taken for a baby.— Publisher's Weekly

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© 2012 Jill McElmurry