February 01, 1988 12:00 PM

by David Byrne, illustrated by Maira Kalman

Composer, singer, photographer and writer David Byrne is, let’s face it, avant-garde personified. And he knows how to milk a project for everything it’s worth. First there was the 1984 Talking Heads album, Stop Making Sense. Then there was the 1984 movie, directed by Jonathan Demme, Stop Making Sense. His movie, True Stories, also came out in book and record form. Now a song from the Talking Heads album Little Creatures has become this book—maybe aimed at children, maybe at their ’60s-spawned parents: “Baby, baby, please let me hold him,” it reads, “I want to make him stay up all night/ Sister, sister, he’s just a plaything. We want to make him stay up all night.” Maira Kalman’s wild illustrations give an idea of the ecstatic chaos that whips through a family when baby is brought home. Her brightly colored pictures are filled with off-kilter faces and oddly placed objects. In keeping with her subject matter and her audience, they have a kindergartener’s sense of perspective—i.e., none. Little baby looks a lot like a green spiral with a face. Sister’s red pony tails, unhindered by gravity, fly gamely out and upwards. Father looks a tad sinister in his heavy, black rectangular glasses—or maybe it’s the sun-yellow face against that black-and-white checked suit—and Mom has definite strains of the flamenco dancer about her. Sometimes, Kalman’s grown-ups are giants. Sometimes they’re tiny. Often they are duplicated—in different sizes—on the same page. Is postpartum life really so scrambled? Maybe Byrne and Kalman have uncovered something in everyone’s childhood past that the rest of us have sensibly blocked. Without stopping to make sense of them, kids may just be fascinated by these scenes of domestic anarchy. And peace may be had by all. (Viking Kestrel, $14.95)

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