The Someone New (Jill Twiss)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Someone New, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller, a sweet tale of courage and kindness in the face of change.

Jitterbug the chipmunk wakes up with the rumble in her tummy – Something New is coming. See, Jitterbug’s tummy can always tell when things are about to change because Jitterbug is not a fan; she prefers that things stay the way they are, especially her peaceful forest home and the company of her friends (a butterfly named Toast, two otters named Duffles and Nudge, and a goose named Geezer). The nervous chipmunk checks in with her pals, but finds them going about their daily routines. With growing trepidation over the Something New, she turns to find that the something… is a someONE. Pudding the snail has travelled to the forest after a flood has destroyed her garden and left her alone, and she hopes to make a new home in the forest. Filled with swirling irrational thoughts of what MIGHT go wrong, Jitterbug dismisses the snail immediately. She instantly feels calm.. until her friends point out that her actions were cold and irrational. With the help of her friends, can Jitterbug come to understand the importance of compassion, even in the face of change?

Lovely. The main storyline features a lot of good lessons in empathy, especially Jitterbug being talked out of her kneejerk reaction; her friends patiently convince her that while change is unavoidable, kindness is a choice. Pudding’s story, and later some of the friends’ stories as well, give nods to the plight of refugees and other groups in need, gently showing how those in need can often have their lives upturned in a moment, and how the acceptance and goodwill of others can often be a life-changing gesture. Keller’s animals are an adorable mix of realism and anthropomorphized characteristics, and the language of the story is light, yet impactful exactly when it needs to be. The length was fine, and JJ loved it. A lovely tale of empathy, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Who Wet My Pants? (Bob Shea)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Who Wet My Pants?, written by Bob Shea and illustrated by Zachariah OHora, a silly yet sweet tale of compassion.

Returning with Troop 73’s donut order for breakfast, Rueben the bear (the scout leader) is shocked to find that – gasp! – SOMEONE HAS WET HIS PANTS. Not THEIR pants, mind you; someone else has wet RUEBEN’S pants. Shocked by this act of vandalism, Rueben withholds the donuts as he interrogates his embarrassed friends, all of whom kindly attempt to tell Rueben that wetting one’s pants is nothing to be ashamed of. Unwilling to take the blame, Rueben continues his investigation, retracing his steps and even entertaining the possibility that the pants themselves are defective. Will Rueben find the dastardly culprit? Or was the answer closer to home all along…?

Adorable and sweet. From the outset, it’s obvious that Rueben’s wild accusations and denial are the result of his avoiding blame and a publicly embarrassing situation, something that both kids and adults can sympathize with. And while Rueben’s hilarious antics handle the comedic aspects of the book, it’s his friends’ quiet acceptance, understanding, and compassion that provides an unexpected serving of pathos. By reminding Rueben that he has nothing to be ashamed of and offering to help him get cleaned up, even in the face of his accusations and lashing out, this comedy also becomes a nice lesson in empathy. OHora’s signature art style of thick lines, bold block colors, and expressive characters is perfect for the tone, and the illustrations are filled with fun details and nods to adult readers. The length is perfect, and JJ and I were both giggling until the last page. A lovely tale of kindness wrapped in a silly outer shell, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Just Because (Mac Barnett)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Just Because, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, a sweet tale of imagination.

As a little girl cuddles into bed for the night, she has a question for her father: “Why is the ocean blue?” Rather than replying with the titular phrase, dad instead answers with a more creative explanation: the fish like to take out their guitars and sing sad songs, which makes them cry blue tears. The little girl counters: why is the sky blue? Well, those are the tears of flying fish, naturally. With each question, her father spins a new imagining of the explanation, from why the leaves change color to what happened to all the dinosaurs. At last, the little girl wonders why she must go to sleep, and her father answers simply: “there are some things we can only see with our eyes closed.”

A sweet ode to creative storytelling, and especially to childhood curiosity and wonder. Each fantasy that the father constructs for his little one is illustrated in lovely detail on a two-page spread, bringing the dream to life in a phenomenal traditional art style, featuring largely grayscale features with explosive pops of color. The explanations themselves are wonderfully creative – especially the dinosaurs, which had JJ and I both giggling – and the ultimate lesson on the importance of dreams, and of fostering them in young and curious minds, is just perfect. The length is fine for a bedtime read, yet the art invites closer examination anytime. JJ enjoyed this one a lot, and so did I – Baby Bookworm approved!

A is for Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies From A to Z (John Robert Allman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A is for Audra: Broadway’s Leading Ladies From A to Z, written by John Robert Allman and illustrated by Peter Emmerich, a stylish celebration of the greatest lady thespians of the Great White Way.

Told in appropriately lyrical rhyming text, this biographical alphabet book is packed to the gills with some of the most notable women to walk the boards. From household names like Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand, to breakout stars like Lea Salonga and Heather Headley, to Broadway royalty like Patti LuPone and Idina Menzel, nearly 70 women altogether are showcased.

Showstopping! This book was a gift from JJ’s aunt (we majored in theater together), and while I expected that I would love it, I was tickled to find that JJ adored it too! And it’s easy to see why: even kiddos and adults without a background in theater will be swept away by the colorful, dynamic illustrations and well-crafted text. There’s a decent attempt at diversity of the ladies; the women featured are largely white or black (though this also speaks to a larger issue of diversity casting in theater), but the creators are sure to include women of all ages and sizes, their likenesses celebrating unique physical features and expressions. Fosse and Sondheim get nods as well for their focus on spotlighting female talent and range. It’s a feast for the eyes and a delight to read aloud, and JJ has been enchanted with the divas’ faces and stories since we got it. It’s even a fairly quick read, yet adds brief bios (cleverly reminiscent of Playbill actor bios) for those hoping to learn more. This one can be enjoyed by anyone who celebrates the power and talent of female artists, but for fans of the theater, it is a must-have. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

How I Read (Jeff St. Germain)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How I Read, written by Jeff St. Germain and illustrated by Kate Papadaki, a look at all the diverse ways to enjoy books, and all the diverse readers who do.

Told in first person, the narrator introduces themselves as an avid reader; they read every day, and in every way! Inside or outside, poems and stories, for fun and for learning. They read about all different subjects, both fiction and nonfiction. And one of their favorite things to read is a toast to all the readers out there to love books just as much as they do.

Books about books are a perennial favorite of ours, and while there are a fair amount of areas in which this indie title falters, its intent and message is pure. One areas that exceeds is the simple artwork, which depicts a healthy diversity of readers: boys and girls of various skintones and ages, including one in a wheelchair, are all enjoying books and reading. This focus on diversity – both in the materials read and the readers themselves – is intentional, and works well. It serves as both a message of inclusivity and encourages beginning readers to find their passion for reading in whatever materials speak to them. However, the rhyming text leaves much to be desired: the frequent rhythm changes make it difficult to read aloud, and several rhymes are either lackluster (“history” & “story”) or awkwardly forced (“myths” & “ogres”). Otherwise, the length is fine, and JJ enjoyed the cute illustrations. A sweet, if fairly uneven offering that succeeds where it matters most: in promoting diversity and a passion for reading. Baby Bookworm approved!

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