Mr and Mrs Hargraves have two children and a baby on the way. They are not terribly strong, and are determined that the new little Hargraves should be a more impressive specimen. But when he arrives, he too is on the puny side. That is until Mrs Hargraves feeds him the avocado pear that has mysteriously appeared in the fruitbowl…
This is a great example of a book that takes an idea and exaggerates it to comic proportions. The baby becomes superhumanly strong; not content with breaking out from the high chair straps he will push the car when it doesn’t start and help carry the furniture – in an illustration reminiscent of a vintage cartoon he is seen shouldering the family piano! In the end, he even defends his (if we’re honest, rather pathetic) elder siblings from some local bullies by chucking them in the pond.
John Burningham wrote Avocado Baby in 1982, but is perhaps better known as the original illustrator of Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Older readers may also remember his book Borka: The Goose with No Feathers from primary school bookshelves. His drawings are scruffy but alive with movement, and the explosive finale of Avocado Baby as the bullies crash into the pond scattering ducks and fish is a delight.
Children will enjoy this for the extraordinary feats of the baby and for the fact that it is the youngest member of the family who has all the power. In a similar way to the ‘Popeye effect’, it may even encourage them to eat avocados!