1I'm going to beg them to let me take the class again'; Oh, Boy! Babies!, by Alison Cragin Herzig and Jane Lawrence Mali. Photographs by Katrina Thomas. Boston: Little, Brown & Co. $9.95.

Oh, boy! What a fun book! "Oh, Boy! Babies!" is the account of a pioneering group of fifth- and sixth-grade boys who take an elective class in infant care at school.

"Girls' stuff," says one sixth-grader in the book after the principal announces that the participants will learn how to bathe, dress, feed, diaper, play with, and handle infants. "Who in his right mind would want to take 'Babies'?"

Ten boys brave this type of scorn and sign up for the course. The "textbooks" are a group of babies all under two years old, and the teacher, Beth Maher, is the mother of one of the infants.

"Oh, Boy! Babies!" gives both a written and photographic tour of the six weekly classes where the boys learn to care for babies and feel comfortable around them. The book is instructional in explaining how the boys learned each new task -- and in illustrating how much they enjoyed bathing, feeding, and diapering. The amusing pictures and dialogue offer good advice for boys and parents, since child care and baby-sitting are no longer the domain of females. This book shows how easily boys can dismiss being called a sissy just because they want to cuddle a baby.

The photos in the book could almost tell the whole story. The unaffected curiosity, happiness, and occasional puzzlement on the students' faces evidence their progress. There is no lack of interest in this course.

The dialogue in the book, which is basically a running account of the class, is also delightful. Several boys attempting to diaper Andrew find that babies have a mind of their own. The conversation begins rather frantically:

"Hurry up," calls Dylan. "Help us get him down."

"Hey, come on, Andrew. Don't kick me, please," says Joey. "He tries to kick and turn over in little parts."

"I can't hold him," says Dylan.

"He's escaping. Don't let him run away," says Luke. "Good, Joey. Now, I stay up here near his head with toys. You get down by his bottom with wipes."

"Diaper changing, baby changing, accomplished," Joey announces to Mrs. Maher. "It's backbreaking work."

The text and photos show how cautious the students are during their first class, when they learn how to pick up babies. The next week, they act as old pros as they tackle diapering. During another class, they feed the infants while the instructor explains about babies' eating habits. One class is devoted to giving several of the infants baths. Mrs. Maher shows the students how to support the babies as they lower them into the bath, and how to wash them carefully. When one child is in the water, he begins to kick vigorously.

"Good grief, he's doing calisthenics. Or laps," says one boy in the book.

Babies and toys is the topic of another class. As it first gets under way, the students play with most of the available toys. Mrs. Maher attracts the boys away from the toys and get them to think by explaining that play is a baby's work. She points out that toys have to be appropriate to a baby's age. While the boys give the babies the toys, they talk. Mrs. Maher asks the boys what they think the absolute best toy for a baby is. They answer:

"A rag doll?"

"Something creative?"

"A ball," says Michael. "Definitely a ball."

"All good. But not the best. . . . Look at Smith playing peek-a-boo with Brooke," hints Mrs. Maher. "What kind of toy is he using?"

"He isn't using anything," says Gordon.

"Hands?" says Rick.

"I know. Himself! Another person," says Seth.

"Yeah. Me. You. A friend. That's super!" says Luke.

The last chapter of the book deals with the final class. the boys tend the babies while they talk about the precautions they should take while bay-sitting. They should know important phone numbers and watch for hazards such as items on the floor that babies might try to eat, for example.

When the class is done, each boy is given a certificate stating that he is prepared to be a good baby sitter. One boy just doesn't want to stop:

"I'm going to beg and beg them to let me take the class again," Forrest says. "I'm going to sign up again if I have to get down on my knees. I just love babies. I mean, I'm going to get down on my knees and beg them."

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