First Laugh Welcome, Baby!, by Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood/Illustrated by Jonathan Nelson, (Aug. 2018, Charlesbridge), $16.99, ISBN: 9781580897945
A Navajo family waits for baby’s first laugh. Who will be the first to hear it? Will nima-sami (grandmother) hear it, as she tucks Baby in for a nap? Will it be big sister (nadi), who cooks Baby a tasty meal? Maybe it will be nima (mama), who sits weaving while Baby rests in a papoose. Or will it be cheii (grandpa), who splashes Baby with water? Everyone in the family is waiting, kissing, tickling, hugging, and singing, as Baby squirms, yawns, frowns, until… suddenly… a smile! Let the First Laugh celebration begin!
First Laugh Welcome, Baby is a beautiful look at a Navajo tradition; the First Laugh Celebration is a child’s first formal welcome into a family and clans. The lyrical story is filled with Navajo words and glimpses of Navajo life, woven into a story about the joy of a baby’s first laugh and the celebration it brings to families and communities. Jonathan Nelson’s pencil, acrylic, and Photoshop artwork create a loving portrait of a family that spends time together both in the city and on a Navajo reservation; they eat together, enjoy nature together, and socialize together in settings primarily illustrated with earthy tones and bold lines.
Back matter includes author’s notes from the late Rose Ann Tahe and Nancy Bo Flood, and an illustrator’s note from Jonathan Nelson; a note about the First Laugh Celebration, and ceremonies in other cultures, including Muslim, Nigerian, and Jewish families.
Nancy Bo Flood’s Soldier Sister, Fly Home is a powerful middle grade story about a Navajo family; First Laugh is a wonderful picture book that introduces younger readers to First Nation families. Please, please, please, put these and other books by indigenous authors and illustrators in your bookshelves and in front of your readers.