The First Laugh Ceremony is a celebration held to welcome a new member of the community. As everyone--from Baby's nima (mom) to nadi (big sister) to cheii (grandfather)--tries to elicit the joyous sound from Baby, readers are introduced to details about Navajo life and the Navajo names for family members. Back matter includes information about other cultural ceremonies that welcome new babies and children, including man yue celebration (China), sanskaras (Hindu) and aquiqa (Muslim).
In Navajo families, a baby's first laugh is more than a developmental milestone--it's an honor to be the first person who makes the baby laugh, and the event is commemorated with a joyous gathering called the First Laugh Ceremony. The baby in this story, however, is making the family work for his giggles. "Your mouth open wide... It stretches... A smile? Oh, no. It's a sleepy pink yawn," write Tahe (a Navajo educator who died in 2015) and Flood (Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo). Not even baby's ninaai (big brother), with his silly faces, can coax a grin. Then one day, cheii (grandfather) holds the baby high in the air, nima-sani (grandmother) whispers a traditional prayer, and "like babies everywhere--long ago and today--you laugh!" Debut illustrator Nelson, also of Navajo descent, contributes cartooning that captures an expansive, brilliantly hued outdoors and a close-knit family delighted with their newest addition. An extensive afterword gives more information on the ceremony as well as on baby celebrations in other cultures. Ages 2-5. (Aug.)Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.