Bolivar (Sean Rubin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bolivar by Sean Rubin, a phenomenal modern fairy tale of a dinosaur in the big city.

Young Sybil, a school-age girl living in a New York brownstone apartment, has quite the dilemma. You see, despite numerous attempts, she can’t convince anyone in her life that her next door neighbor is a dinosaur. Even her mother scoffs at the idea – after all, everyone knows that dinosaurs are extinct. Except… they’re not. Bolivar, a mild-mannered, modestly-sized (though still quite large) theropod, is the last dinosaur anywhere. And since he prefers not to be noticed, he’s made his home in New York City, a place where everyone is far too busy to take note of a dinosaur. Bolivar goes about his day, getting his NEW YORKER from the newsstand, shopping for old books, dining on corned beef sandwiches in cafes, and no one notices, all too consumed in their own lives to spot the massive yet quiet dinosaur in their midst. Everyone except Sybil, of course. And in her quest to prove Bolivar’s existence, she ends up setting into motion a chain of events that brings them adventure, friendship, and parking tickets.

We. LOVED. This. Right off the bat, this mashup of picture book, early reader, and graphic novel is not a quick read; it took JJ and I about half an hour to cover the story, and twice as long to pour back over the gorgeously detailed illustrations of the city that never sleeps. But JJ was riveted, and so was I – this modern take on classic tropes like “fish out of water” and “a day in the city” are made delightful with a fresh, wonderfully funny story and a thoughtful commentary on the connections we make with others. Readers will immediately fall for the timid, gentle Bolivar and the tenacious yet kindly Sybil. And the art – intricate, lovingly and painstakingly illustrated scenes of the city and her people – is a marvel. This one may take a few sittings to get through for younger bookworms, but I promise – it’s well worth the ride. Baby Bookworm approved!

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If You Had Your Birthday Party On The Moon (Joyce Lapin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If You Had Your Birthday Party On The Moon, written by Joyce Lapin and illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli, an imaginative “what-if” for the ultimate destination celebration.

If you had your birthday party on the moon, you’d have your pick of unique birthday experiences: the day would last 709 hours, for one. You would get to experience weightlessness on the trip there, bounce around in 1/6 the gravity of earth, make “moondust-angels”, and dine on chocolate pudding cake from a pouch. With a focus on the science of astronomy and astronautics, the text takes the reader through detailed explanations of why the sky would be black rather than blue, why they wouldn’t be able to hear their guests singing happy birthday, and why playing baseball on the moon may be a little time-consuming – yet why a birthday party on the moon would be an adventure like no other.

Awesome! Lapin’s theoretical text does an amazing job of making the scientific concepts she explains accessible by cleverly framing it around familiar experiences; she uses things like piñatas and gymnastics to explain low gravity, and subtly weaves in the idea that party-goers would have plenty of time to revel on the three-day trips to and from the moon. Insets with more information, facts, and statistics give a more in-depth look without dragging the story down, also a smart choice. The illustrations are wonderful, populating majestic moonscapes with a pleasantly diverse cast of kids whose joy is practically palpable. The length may be better suited to older kids, but JJ sat through the main story and loved the illustrations. A wonderful imagining that succeeds in bringing STEM to life and adds birthday cake; who could resist? Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Blooming Beneath The Sun (Christina Rossetti & Ashley Bryan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Blooming Beneath The Sun, a picture book featuring the work of 19th century poet Christina Rossetti and illustrations by Ashley Bryan.

Who has seen the wind? What is pink? Including 13 poems by Rossetti (plus a bonus poem that accompanies an informational paragraph about the poet), these are the questions and contemplations posed to young readers. Kid-friendly poems, none more than 16 lines in length, invite them to ponder peacocks, reflect on roosters, and wonder at the waves of an angry sea. Each poem is accompanied by a colorful, layered paper collage that brings its subject to life, and encourages further consideration.

Admittedly, I was not familiar with Rossetti’s work prior to reading this, but both JJ and I really enjoyed some of the poems that this mini-anthology has to offer; “Color”, “Wrens and Robins in the Hedge”, and “Where Innocent Bright-Eyed Daisies Are” were particular favorites. And Bryan’s beautifully intricate paper art is a marvelous companion to the poems, especially his bold choices concerning color, movement, and layout. However, the often-counterintuitive rhythms of the 1800’s poems make more than a few of them challenging to read at first pass, especially where rhymes are far better suited to the British pronunciation of words. There’s also the vaguely sexist undertones of poems like “If I Were A Queen” and “Mother Shake The Cherry Tree”, indicative of the time period in which they were written, to consider. The length was fine for a single sitting, and JJ loved the colorful art. Not sure if this one will go down as a favorite of ours, but it definitely has some gems to offer, and as such, is worth a look. So overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Greetings!: A Poetic Romp Through The Seasons (Raven Howell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Greetings!: A Poetic Romp Through The Seasons, written by Raven Howell and illustrated by Ann Pilicer.

A little girl and her younger brother play, eat, and adventure their way through a year of seasons, enjoying all the activities and fun each has to offer. They begin spring by saying goodbye to winter, and marvel at the blossoming flowers, the hatching robin’s eggs, and rainy showers. Each subsequent season is similarly greeted as the previous is bade farewell, until the winter is over, and spring can begin once again.

This was delightful! Howell’s simple rhymes wisely stick to a consistent yet fun and engaging rhythm; for instance, the fifth and six line of each stanza features a separate 1-2-1 meter within them, such as “crack, egg, crack/sing, bird, sing!” that JJ loved. Some of the rhymes, such as “winter” and “peppermint-er” felt like a bit of a stretch, but never in a way that was clunky or stumbling. Driving the story alongside the poem are the gorgeously illustrated scenes of brother and sister – along with appearances by their puppy and friends – partaking in seasonal festivities. They trick-or-treat, swim in a stream, and frolic in the snow, their cherubic faces beaming with delight. In particular, Pilicer’s choices in regard to color and environment are lovely, and she creates scenes that capture the childhood fun of changing seasons. The length is great for any age and JJ loved it! An indie gem well-worth a read, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventures In The Big Apple (Allison Pataki & Marya Myers)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventures In The Big Apple, written by Allison Patacki and Marya Myers, and illustrated by Kristi Valiant.

Nelly wakes up in her West Village apartment bedroom to the familiar sounds of New York: the rumble of the subway, the beat of a street musician, the rattle of a shop gate being opened. Heading outside with her faithful beagle (named Bagel), she runs into Mr. Patel in his food truck. After telling him her morning plans, he replies enthusiastically: “The Big Apple is tons of fun!” Big Apple? Sounds exciting, and just the kind of thing she and Bagel would love to see. So Nelly and her pup set out on a Manhattan adventure that takes them from Union Square to the Museum of Natural History to the 9/11 Memorial; searching for the Big Apple, and finding it in the most unexpected of ways.

Native New Yorkers may chuckle at a few of the book’s premises and conventions – what school-age native New Yorker, old enough to traverse Manhattan unaccompanied, has never heard the phrase “Big Apple”? – but with a little suspension of disbelief, there still a lot to love here. While a few of the standard tourist landmarks – like Central Park and the Empire State Building – are highlighted, the story reads primarily as a love letter from a New Yorker’s perspective. Beats focus on the strong sense of community New Yorkers have and the unique beauty of the city; rich, gloriously detailed illustrations capture the famed architecture and unparalleled diversity of races, skintones, religions, and cultures. It’s a view of New York for both residents and non-residents, and overall does a lovely job of celebrating “the Big Apple”. The length was fine for a storytime, and JJ loved the illustrations especially the rascally Bagel. We really enjoyed it, so it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)