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'Laugh therapy for new parents': Vancouverites create sassy baby book

It's a book with pictures for the babies and words for the parents.

Many new parents read their newborns bedtime stories but, as two Vancouver creatives point out in their new book, babies can’t read. 

Cam Spires and Grace Cho, Creative Directors at Rethink ad agency, have just published a sassy new board book that combines baby-friendly pictures with relatable parenting content, you know, how difficult it is to find daycare, afford a mortgage, jabs at sleeping schedules. 

But it’s okay, because babies don’t understand words yet.

What Were You Expecting?: First Words for New Parents is available at Indigo and on Amazon and Spires and Cho like to think of it as “laugh-therapy for new parents - because they need it.”

“The concept struck me one day as I read one of our dozens of baby books to my then-infant daughter,” recalls Spires. “She was loving the pictures but the words were whizzing right past her little baby brain. I felt like that was a bit of a waste.”

He decided to follow the example of Pixar movies which creates entertainment that young people and their parents can enjoy.

“I decided to write a book with pictures aimed at babies and words aimed at parents,” he says.

In many ways, Spires wrote the words he needed to hear in those moments of new parenthood to let people know that they aren’t alone in their struggles.

“I focused on pain points that any parent could relate to, like getting woken up at 4 a.m., drinking a tiny bit too much wine to cope, and getting spit up down your shirt,” he says. “I also touched on a few that any Vancouverite could relate to, like unaffordable housing, and lack of daycare.”

Spires also manages a very successful comic strip Instagram account (over 100K followers) which pokes fun at other ridiculous mundane aspects of adult life, like death and taxes.


A post shared by Cameron spires (@goattoself)

“When I first read the manuscript Cam wrote, I laughed out loud at the hilarious copy, and then was moved almost to tears by the beautiful and heartfelt ending,” says Cho, a sought-after illustrator in her own right.  “I knew I wanted to collaborate with him on it right away. I was so excited to express it visually and loved the creative challenge.”

Cho felt it was important that the illustrations were bright, friendly, and cute for babies to enjoy, but says she also wanted to include cheeky details and subtle humour for adults to appreciate. She sketched out multiple versions of the animals' facial expressions to make sure she got them just right.

“I even went to the library to draw surrounded by children’s books for inspiration,” she says.

While the book is largely sarcastic, it ends on a sweet note which Spires felt was necessary because as frustrating as parenthood can be. “In the end, it's the greatest source of love in the universe,” he says. “Even when it's been a tough day, you look at your little one drifting off to sleep and your frustrations tend to drift off too.”