The Mirror Staged: Images of Babies in Baby Books

  • Perry Nodelman
Keywords: baby books, picture books, illustration, mirror stage, Lacan, child development


This essay focuses on the many "baby books" currently available that consist mainly of photographs of of other images of babies, and considers how these images might represent replications or restagings of the mirror stage and function as versions of the Ideal-I for their implied baby viewers. As images of actual children, the photographs in these books represent what most adult viewers take to be the most realistic representations of babyhood possible––the way babies actually look, which, in the context of Lacan's Ideal-I, might better be understood as the way babies are actually supposed to look as currently understood. In terms of conventional adult assumptions about how baby viewers might look at and understand these images in relation to themselves, these images quite literally restage the mirror stage––show the baby an image of a baby to identify with and see as what it ought to be itself. By considering the implications of a number of photographs and other images of of babies in baby books, the essay explores what these books tell their implied baby reader/viewers about what it means to be a baby, and about what is the right kind of baby to be.


DOI: 10.1353/jeu.2010.0030

Author Biography

Perry Nodelman

Formerly Editor of Jeunesse ’s predecessor, CCL/LCJ: Canadian Children’s  Literature/Littérature canadienne pour la jeunesse, Perry Nodelman is author of Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books, The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature, and (with Mavis Reimer) the third edition of The Pleasures of Children’s Literature. His texts for children include Not a Nickel to Spare: The Great Depression Diary of Sally Cohen in Scholastic Canada’s Dear Canada series and, in collaboration with Carol Matas, the Ghosthunters series: The Proof that Ghosts Exist,The Curse of the Evening Eye, and The Hunt for the Haunted Elephant.

How to Cite
Nodelman, P. (2010). The Mirror Staged: Images of Babies in Baby Books. Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures, 2(2). Retrieved from