Big Cat, Little Cat (Elisha Cooper)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper, a bittersweet yet moving tale of the friendship between two cats.

In a home in the city lives Big Cat. He is by himself for a while, doing things like eating, staring at the birds out the window, and napping in the sun. One day, Little Cat arrives. Big Cat knows what he must do, and he takes it upon himself to show Little Cat the way: when to eat and drink, when to sleep and play, and how to be. The days go by, and Little Cat grows and grows – until he is even bigger than Big Cat. The two cats spend all their days together as the years pass. Then comes the day that Big Cat is very old, and becomes tired and ill. He leaves and doesn’t come back, and this is hard for Little Cat and his family. He misses his friend. But soon, there is a new Little Cat, and so the older Little Cat knows what to do – it’s time for him to become Big Cat, and pass along all the wisdom his old friend had once shared with him.

This was a sweet, sad, but quite lovely story. First, the minimal black-and-white illustrations are gorgeous, and capture the personality, action and emotion perfectly, taking a small story of two cats and giving it a great deal of weight. I loved the simple, concise language – it seemed perfect for the no-nonsense air that cats seem to carry, giving dry humor to the funny parts and candid honesty to the sad moments. And the story is sad, but leaves the reader with a sense of hope and warmth, which – factoring in the text, art, and overall tone as well – make it a great book to introduce the delicate subject of death to young ones. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed the art and quiet story, and this one was a gentle, sad, yet beautiful story. Baby Bookworm approved.

Charlotte And The Rock (Stephen W. Martin)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Charlotte And The Rock, written by Stephen W. Martin and illustrated by Samantha Cotterill, a sweet and unexpected story of a girl and her pet rock.

Charlotte longs for a pet of her own; any kind will do. A dog or a cat would be nice, or even a bird, she doesn’t care, as long as she can love and take care of it. Still, when her parents give her a pet ROCK for her sixth birthday, she can’t help but be a bit surprised. Still, the pet rock has its positives (it’s hypoallergenic, for instance), and Charlotte grows to love her new best friend, caring for and playing with her pet rock, Dennis, as she would any beloved pet. She only wishes that Dennis could love her back. And one night, when Dennis begins to shake and move, Charlotte might just get her wish in a most surprising way… 

This one was simply delightful. The story was clever and sweet, and has several lovely messages for little readers, like being appreciative of what you are given, and being a caring and responsible pet owner and friend (even to a rock). The plot twist at the end is terrific as well. The illustrations are fantastic, using a minimal style reminiscent of older children’s books (the original Clifford The Big Red Dog comes to mind) to perfection. I especially liked that Charlotte was not an overly “beautified” little girl: round-cheeked, freckled and bespectacled, she has a unique look from many picture book protagonists that makes her a bit more relatable. The length was great, JJ loved it, and this one was just a joy to read. Baby Bookworm approved!

Many Moons (James Thurber)

Hello, friends! In honor of the solar eclipse, JJ and thought we’d pick a special book to celebrate, and we did so from our home library: Many Moons, written by James Thurber and illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, a clever tale of childhood innocence, hope, and wisdom.

The Princess Lenore had grown very ill, so her father the King offers to bring her anything in the world to comfort her. Lenore has one not-so-simple request: the moon. She assures her father that if she has the moon, she will be well again. The King is eager to help his daughter in any way, and so he calls upon his royal advisors who, despite being able to list their accomplishments at tedious length, all insist that the moon is too far, too large, and too unstable to bring to the princess. But the King’s clever yet kind court jester may have just the idea to bring the moon Lenore wishes for.

This is sort of an odd story, but it has such a sweet, innocent and optimistic resolution, and one that involves a child being far cleverer than the adults around her, that its charm cannot be denied. In doing a bit of research for our review, I found that the story has actually been illustrated by two different artists (there is another version with Marc Simont as illustrator), but I am partial to Slobodkin’s spare, squiggly art that captures the childlike tone perfectly. Now, a few downsides: this one is a bit too long for baby bookworms and, being published in 1943, there are some regrettable art and language choices (the two I noticed were use of the word “midget” and a racist depiction of a minstrel). These are very minor to the plot and story, but should be mentioned nonetheless. If you can get past them, though, this is an otherwise lovely story of young imagination, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Tough Chicks (Cece Meng)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tough Chicks, written by Cece Meng and illustrated by Melissa Suber, a wonderful allegory for choosing to be who you are instead of who people think you should be.

From the day Mama Hen hatches Penny, Polly and Molly, she can tell that they are different. They’re not content to fluff their feathers or peck quietly like chicks are supposed to do. Instead, they are filled with the urge to explore, learn, create and, yes, occasionally get into a bit of trouble. And while everyone on the farm insists that Mother Hen teach her daughters to be proper, “good” chicks, she insists that her girls are good – just different. And when Farmer Fred accidentally sends his broken tractor careening towards the barnyard, the tough chicks will have the opportunity to show everyone that being brave, intelligent and resourceful can often save the day.

Loved this one! Obviously, the story has a strong feminist message, using the double meaning of “chicks” to show how little (and big) girls are often expected to quiet, unobtrusive, and even meek. I especially loved how the three chicks show wonderfully well-rounded personalities: they’re not causing trouble by being cruel or disrespectful, instead being shown building, creating, experimenting, tinkering and learning (while still occasionally being a raucous just for the fun of it). The illustrations are great, playful and bright but full of personality, and the length is good too. JJ and I both really enjoyed this girl-power tale, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Kings Of The Castle (Victoria Turnbull)

Hello, friends! Today, we’re reviewing Kings Of The Castle by Victoria Turnbull, a lovely story of friendship breaking through barriers.

When night falls, young monster George is excited. He won’t waste a moment of the moonlight; tonight, his goal is to build the biggest sand castle ever. Unfortunately, his excitable dog Boris keeps impeding his progress. He is about to give up when a very strange and different-looking monster appears from the waves. George tries to say hello, but the monster, though friendly, doesn’t understand his language (though the new monster, Nepo, and Boris seem to understand each other’s yips and barks). George is ready to leave the new arrival, but Boris convinces him to give the newcomer a chance. And with a bit of creative thinking, George and Nepo find that they have much in common – including the desire to build a sandcastle more amazing than either could build alone.

This was a gorgeous story with a subtle yet powerful message. The adorable pair of George and Nepo, plus Boris, are illustrated in a gorgeous dreamlike style, with soft soothing colors that evoke a shoreline at night. But the story here is key: it’s a tale of reaching out, making connections, and showing kindness to those who may not look like you or even speak your language (to hear that Turnbull was drawing parallels to refugees is not a surprise). So while the characters and settings are firmly fantastical, the message of acceptance is as real and pertinent as it gets, and is imparted beautifully. The length is great, and JJ really enjoyed this one, so we are definitely calling it Baby Bookworm approved!