Next to You: A Book of Adorableness by Lori Haskins Houran is, to put it neatly, adorable. Like, really, really adorable.
Our narrator shares all sorts of really adorable animals, like a squirrel eating a doughnut with its tiny hands, or a piglet in a sweater, but reaffirms again and again that nothing is remotely as adorable as the reader.
The “nothing in the world is as special or wonderful as you” cliche is rampant in the picture book industry, and with good reason. New parents and caregivers are typically smitten with their precious bundles, and are prime targets for these kinds of sugary, syrupy messages.
What saves Next to You from becoming just another sickeningly sweet baby book is its very obvious sense of humour, and gentle hint of snark. The cute animals referenced in the book verge on the ridiculous, and are clearly inspired by the millions of cute animal videos on sites like Youtube that suck us in and devour hours of our precious time. Also, the narrator’s resolve is repeatedly tested by the increasing cuteness of the animals, which leads to a pretty funny few pages in which the adorableness of a baby giraffe nearly leads our narrator into a crisis of conviction.
This is a sweet book, no doubt about it, and it would still make a lovely gift for new parents. But with its gentle humour and knowing smile, it’s also a lot of fun for older children, and with the right delivery could make for a hilarious read aloud. I can just see some of the kids in my story times bursting from all the cuteness.
Next to You: a Book of Adorableness is indeed adorable, but thankfully it will fill your sugary cravings without leaving you with cavities.