Music Is… (Stephen T. Johnson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Music Is… by Stephen T. Johnson, an introduction and exploration of ten different music genres in visuals, prose, and lyrics.

Music is… so many things. It can be the “poignant stories” of country, the “boom box beats” of hip-hop, the “rainbow of emotions” in rhythm and blues. It’s the sophisticated yet scattered sounds of jazz, the mix of soft and thunderous intensities in classical, or the catchy, evergreen melodies of pop. But most of all, music is… you! Your sound, your interpretation, your style. If it speaks to you, it’s music – and from there, the possibilities are endless.

Fun. While comprehensive by no means (the genres represented are almost entirely western, as are the suggested-listening example songs in the backmatter), this is a cute crash course in some of the most popular genres of music. Johnson does a great job of marrying the scrapbook-style artwork to the wonderfully expressive, imagistic text (“Heavy Metal is… roughened steel blazing a trail of light out of the darkness of an abyss” has to be one of the best sentences I’ve EVER read in a children’s book). A wealth of backmatter further explains the history, subgenres and common instruments of each genre as well, making the length great for either a quick storytime or a lengthier perusal, depending on how in-depth one wants to go. My one complaint, from a purely practical standpoint, is the unusual concertina binding, which makes the heavy book difficult to hold and balance for small hands or adults hoping to share with groups of little bookworms. Otherwise, we enjoyed this one, and would definitely recommend it for music lovers. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story (Julia Alvarez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story, written by Julia Alvarez and illustrated by Raúl Colón, a magical tale of finding inner peace.

Mari is a very busy butterfly. Each day, she rises with the sun and spends every waking moment in motion. There are flowers to pollinate, nectars to gather, exercises to practice, to-do lists to consult, and the future to worry about. Yet even with all that work and worry, she still doesn’t feel like a real butterfly; she longs for the time she spent in her chrysalis, when she was warm and safe and had only her instincts to guide her. One day, she meets an unusual new friend: a flower bud named “Bud” who has embraced their transitional stage of life. Mari wonders how she may do the same, and Bud encourages her to quiet her mind, deepen her breaths, and find an inner safe place once more.

Truly unique. While most children’s books about meditation are more instructional, this title introduces the concepts of mindfulness and meditation through an original parable. Mari’s busy life will certainly strike a chord with older readers, and especially with adults, who will understand how quickly overwhelmed one can feel trying to get everything done in a day, and how one can often long for a quiet and safe place to decompress. And the resolution to Mari’s story is equally satisfying, as a few moments of meditation allow her to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the world around her long enough to untangle her mind and find her confidence. The artwork is similarly unique, and certainly filled with the ecstatic colors that a story of flowers and butterflies would want for. And while, purely personally, I was a little creeped out by the human/butterfly hybrids, the image of a brown-skinned girl in twists and wearing a golden crown as a beautiful butterfly will most certainly resonate with young readers of color. The length is best for slightly older bookworms, and JJ enjoyed this peaceful tale. A one-of-a-kind fable, and 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.)

Is Was (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Is Was by Deborah Freedman, a gorgeous meditation on impermanence and the quiet, overwhelming beauty of nature.

The sky that was blue and the sky that now falls with rain are one and the same. Just as that rain created puddles for little animals to sip; just as the soft whispering song of the wind has now become the buzz of a bumblebee in flight. Just as, in the silence of nature, we can hear the earth’s heart beat, in time with a child swinging back and forth on their swing. Just as the day fades to night, skies become orange, then purple-pink, then the deepest blue and filled with stars – the same stars we all see and share.

Absolutely beautiful. Freedman has a wonderful talent for creating sweeping, compelling narratives that center around finding beauty in the world around us (her books This House, Once and Shy are still favorites of ours), and this peaceful, enchanting title is another wonderful example of it. Weaving together simple, rich artwork that practically bursts with sunshine, with sparse yet effective text (which itself combines soft prose and an utterly flawless use of onomatopoeia), the story explores the themes of nature’s quiet beauty, and how the cycles of nature are essential to that beauty, perfectly. On its own, this is a lovely subject for any little bookworm; and yet, with the author’s dedication (“for you/and everyone you’ve loved/who is/or was”) as context, it can also be a beautiful way to explore grief, loss, and renewal in our personal lives as well. The length is perfect for a storytime or bedtime book, and JJ and I both loved it. Stunning, timeless, and Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Dad: The Man, The Myth, The Legend (Mifflin Lowe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dad: The Man, The Myth, The Legend, written by Mifflin Lowe and illustrated by Dani Torrent, a fun tribute to the unique awesomeness of dads.

A young bespectacled boy welcomes the reader by proudly presenting the one, the only – his Dad! A man of practically supernatural strength, genius intellect, the courage of a lion and a heart of pure gold. He does all manner of incredible things; for instance last week, when he saved the boy from the attack of a massive jungle python (afterwards necessitating the purchase of a new garden hose). He makes the boy’s favorite dinner: spaghetti with M&M’s, chocolate sauce and potato chips (Mom’s on standby with the takeout menu, no reason why). He can even FLY (sure, technically on a trampoline… that he technically broke during his landing). But perhaps best of all, he’s supportive, encouraging, nurturing, and an all-around great dad – and truly, that’s all he needs to be a hero in his son’s eyes.

Very sweet. Beginning with a comedically grandiose version of “superhero” dad, this sweet tale unfolds with humor and fondness, gradually moving past the more er, exaggerated escapades of Dad to the simple and sweet things that show his devotion to his family (a personal favorite was a scene in which the son, devastated by an embarrassingly bad haircut, is cheered up by his father proudly getting a matching one). There are plenty of nudges and winks to adults that make this a great tale for old and young bookworms to share, and the charming mid-century-inspired art is packed with personality. The length was fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the family’s antics. A delightful ode to an everyday superhero, and 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.)

Listen (Gabi Snyder)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Listen, written by Gabi Snyder and illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, a look at the sounds all around us and how they can help us focus, learn, and grow.

Sometimes, in the big wide world, there can be a lot of NOISE. But if we quiet our minds and really listen, we would find that noise is made up of individual sounds: a dog’s friendly bark, children playing jump-rope, wind rushing through trees. In fact, if we truly focus our attention, many of those noises can teach us things, like new words, or how to comfort a friend when they need to talk about their feelings, or even the voice inside ourselves has to say. It’s true, the world is full of noise – so it’s good to know how to take a breath, close our eyes, and truly listen.

Soothing and thought-provoking. In the grand tradition of children’s books encouraging young readers to slow down and take stock of the world around – and within – them, this one focuses specifically on the difference between hearing and listening. The benefits of active listening are well-explored, from providing comfort to others to calming one’s mind to the simple enjoyment of the symphony of life that surrounds us. This is richly brought to life by Graegin’s relaxing, blue-heavy visuals, using pops of color to focus the reader’s attention and allowing them to “hear” the expressive characters and environments. Backmatter briefly explains the mechanics of hearing and different types of listening, a welcome addition to the theme of the book. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this one. Overall, a soft and sweet reminder of the possibility in sound, and 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.)