We’re going back to manga this week with a look at a title I’ve gone back to time and again, because it’s just so cute. Baby & Me explores the life of ten-year-old Takuya. His mother has recently died and his father is working hard to support the family, so much of the duty of looking after baby Minoru falls to Takuya. You wouldn’t think that you could fill 18 volumes with stories revolving around this situation, but the author does and the whole series is fantastic. This is also another great introduction to manga series because it explores a lot of daily life in Japan and the English translations generally explain things pretty well. Takuya and Minoru both mature throughout the series, and the author does very well exploring the complex feelings Takuya has toward his little brother and his situation.
I like that the books also really delve into not only the lives of Takuya’s family, but those of his friends and neighbors, as well. You see a lot of different family dynamics in this series, plus a lot of different dynamics in the friendships of all the kids, older and toddler alike. The father also gets a bit of an arc here and there, as he tries to relate to his younger work crew members and deal with the guilt of leaving his kids on their own so much. Plus, since it’s shojo manga, there’s a lot of fun dream sequences and comedic bits, so the series never gets truly heavy for too long. That being said, the ending is so perfect that it’s one of the few that’s made me tear up every time I’ve read it.
The art very much fits the shojo medium – it’s expressive and adorable. There’s a lot of drawing to the comedy bits, but there’s a lot of nice detail work, as well. While I think it more or less serves the story than would be something you’d want in like a print, I love the look of all the characters, and a lot of the illustrations make me laugh.
I’d definitely recommend this for middle school and above, mostly because there are some off and on jokes that are have a smidge of innuendo and there’s a neighbor with a gambling habit (nothing even touching anything that’s on network television), and a lot of the more subtle feelings Takuya has would probably go over younger kids’ heads. There’s also a later volume that explores the relationship of Takuya’s parents, and while it’s tame, it probably something that slightly older kids and above will be better off reading. Because this series is fairly episodic, though (until maybe the last few volumes), you could theoretically grab any volume, flip through it, and have all ages read the volumes that are preferable. Check out the first volume!
Catch Up With Selah
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