'What to Expect' author takes up kiddy books

Tuesday, July 18th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Writing with her sister and her mother, Heidi Murkoff helped women everywhere know what to eat while pregnant, how to make it through those nine worrisome months of pregnancy, what to do during that new baby's first year and how to get through the toddler years. Those four concise, user-friendly books, which sold more than 18 million copies, are known as the What to Expect books and have become classics.

Now Ms. Murkoff turns to a new point of view with the What to Expect Kids series. Geared to ages 2-5 and meant to be enjoyed by children, the books are still parenting books, designed to spark questions and help with answers. Notes to parents are included in the front, and games and ideas for children are on each page.

The first four books in the forthcoming 20-book series were released in June - What to Expect When You Go to the Doctor, What to Expect When Mommy's Having a Baby, What to Expect When the Babysitter Comes and What to Expect When You Use the Potty; illustrated by Laura Rader (HarperFestival, $7.99). October will bring a book on bedtime, February one on the new baby coming home, spring's book will help youngsters with play dates and the two books released in fall 2001 will deal with dentists and school.

The author says she realized that all of her subjects were covered with a good book here or there but that she could never find a good series of picture books.

"Familiarity breeds comfort," she says.

"We want every child to identify," so the boys and girls are pleasingly multicultural.

But one character remains the same in every book: a cuddly, floppy-eared Yorkie named Angus (stuffed toy available through HarperCollins, $7.99).

Angus adds consistency to the books, and offers a friendly face.

"Hearing it from a friend," says Ms. Murkoff, "is easier than hearing it from a parent."

Angus gives advice beside his paw prints on the bottom of each page. He tells little ones to pretend they are baby-sitting a stuffed animal or doll to get used to having a baby sitter come, or to blow out as if they are blowing bubbles during shots to make visiting the doctor more bearable.

"These books are meant to serve as a springboard for more questions," says Ms. Murkoff.

"If you talk to your children when they are small, children will come back. If not, they will go elsewhere."

HarperCollins Publishers is donating a portion of the proceeds from the sales to the What to Expect Foundation, whose mission is to help disadvantaged families expect happy, healthy babies.