Julius, the Baby of the World

by Henkes, Kevin. (Greenwillow, 1990 ISBN 0-688-08944-5) Picture Book. 32 pages. Grades K+.
This book was reviewed by Carol Otis Hurst in Teaching K-8 Magazine.


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Again, Henkes uses his gentle humor and his humanoid mice to look at common childhood fears and feelings. Although Lilly doesn't agree, her parents feel that Julius is the baby of the world. They think that he smells sweet, makes lovely noises and are absolutely delighted with their wonderful baby. Lilly thinks he stinks and that he's the worst thing that has ever happened in their house. She really hopes he will go away and never come back. She warns pregnant women she sees on the street, "You will live to regret that bump under your dress" and spends a lot of time in the "uncooperative" chair.

Then comes the party for Julius. All the relatives insist that Julius is the Baby of the World except for Cousin Garland. However, when he merely states what Lilly has been shouting for weeks, that Julius is less than wonderful, "Lilly's nose twitched. Her eyes narrowed. Her fur stood on end. And her tail quivered." Lilly insists that Garland kiss Julius' little pink nose, admire his tiny eyes and shout, "Julius is the Baby of the World!"

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Lilly, already established as an outspoken character in Chester's Way, really comes into her own in Julius. The illustrations show her many acts of spite directed at her baby brother -- leaning over the crib to recite a mixed-up alphabet and number sequence to him, suspended him from the swing set, for instance. When her family pride is at stake, however, Lilly's forceful presence works in Julius' favor, much to Garland's and maybe the reader's surprise.


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