Pretty Kitty (Karen Beaumont)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pretty Kitty, written by Karen Beaumont and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis, a delightful counting book with unexpected heart.

An elderly man alone in the big city comes upon a tiny kitty. He acknowledges the adorable kitten’s charm, but he makes it clear that he is not looking to adopt a cat. But as the first adorable kitten follows him home, another comes to join… then another… then ANOTHER. And over the course of two days, his front stoop fills up with a mother cat and her nine fluffy, irresistible babies. The man gives reason after reason that he cannot possibly adopt even a single one of them, even as he puts out food and gives them scratches. But as the snow begins to fall over the city and the furry family is left out in the cold, the man begins to wonder if his reasons, no matter how personal they may be, can really overcome his affection for his new friends…

This was ADORABLE. Going beyond just a standard counting book, the story is a touching one, especially for cat lovers big and small. The rhyming text is bouncy and flows easily while still creating some wonderful comedic and dramatic moments. The reveal of the true reason that the man is reluctant to adopt another cat is subtle and may fly over the heads of smaller readers, but it will surely tug at the heartstrings of anyone who has loved and lost a pet. I’m so impressed with this one because it attempts to cohere so many elements – comedy, pathos, numbers education, etc – and manages to tie them all together in a beautiful, heartwarming story that teaches as it entertains. Perfect length, JJ went WILD for precious and warm illustrations, and just a fantastic read 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.)

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Mighty Tug (Alyssa Satin Capucilli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mighty Tug, written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by David Mottram, a cute tale of a tiny yet tough boat.

As morning dawns over the harbor, Mighty Tug lets out a “CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG”, then gets to work. She has a busy job to do, guiding and towing the much larger boats safely around the docks and each other. She hauls great shipping boats and old fishing schooners, fast yachts and even a fireboat on its way to extinguish a blaze. And after a long day of hard work, she receives a wink from Lady Liberty, then looks out with pride over her busy, beloved harbor.

Simple yet sweet. The plot is very basic, looking mostly at a day in the life of a New York Harbor tugboat and the many different types of ships and boats that she interacts with, without much rising or falling tension. This isn’t a bad thing, and young fans of boats and other nautical craft will go wild over the adorable illustrations of Tug and her companions. In fact, I loved that Tug was given feminine pronouns; it’s nice for these “big vehicle” books to represent the machines as both male and female, and there’s something lovely about the metaphor of a little female ship having a ton of power to move around much bigger ships. The text is sweet, with plenty of onomatopoeia for little ones to enjoy, but the rhyme scheme was often very confusing and clunky, which made reading it aloud a bit difficult. Still, the length was good, and JJ seemed to enjoy it. This one had some choppy waters, but it would still be a treat for any young maritime enthusiast, so we’re calling it Baby Bookworm approved!

Tim’s Goodbye (Steven Salerno)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tim’s Goodbye by Steven Salerno, a story about how we deal with loss.

The day is bright and sunny, but Margot doesn’t feel it. Margot is sad because Tim is gone. She tries to feel happy with the sunshine, but she can’t, so she simply sits and feels. She leaves for a moment to be alone. Melinda arrives then, with her French horn, and Roger brings a box. Vincent holds balloons and Otto wears his best hat. Buddy the dog is there, faithful to Margot in her time of need. The friends contribute what they can – the box, the balloons, flowers, a song. Then Margot delicately places Tim – her late pet turtle, who has been slyly visible to the reader along – into the box with the flowers, and watches his balloon-powered rise into the sky. Later on, she thinks of Tim swimming among the stars, with warm sun to bask in and cool waters to swim, “forever a happy turtle”. She feels Tim’s peace, and it makes her happy too.

Oh, this was really quite something. Heartbreaking, uplifting, comforting, and dear all at once. The way the progression of Margot’s grief unfolds – first her sadness and need to be alone, then buoyed by the support her friends give, and at last her acceptance of Tim’s death – is a subtle and powerful way of letting kids know that mourning is just that: a process. Furthermore, in her friends’ gentle and thoughtful actions, it shows young children how they can be there for someone who is dealing with loss. Finally, the non-denominational depiction of Tim’s beautifully serene afterlife will give children comfort for their own losses. All of this is drawn in timeless, minimal, beautiful illustrations in black across soothing tones of yellow and blue. This is pure, powerful, and perfect in its simplicity and earnest heart. Wonderful, 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.)

Pet Dad (Elanna Allen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pet Dad by Elanna Allen, the story of a stubborn little girl and her equally stubborn dad.

Plum wants nothing more than a pet of her own. Her dad, however, wants nothing more than NO pets. So Plum decides to make do with what she’s got, and declares her dad to be her pet, renaming him Schnitzel. She attempts to feed him yard clippings (which resemble his boring grown-up salad) and paper train him (he prefers to READ the paper during potty time instead), but is met with his stubborn refusal at every turn. A day at the park is met with more conflict when Plum demands he “fetch” her an ice cream cone, and is instead punished with a time-out for her behavior. Given time to think, Plum realizes her training error: she never gave her “pet” a reward. And there’s not reward that pet dads like more than a hug.

Very mixed feelings. For one, the illustrations were so cute – Plum and her dad are both immensely expressive and endearing, and I loved the creative typesets for key dialogue and concepts. There’s also a sweet message about manners in there as well, but I don’t know. Overall, the story felt too odd to me. There was something very uncomfortable about a little girl pulling her shocked father on his hands and knees, using his necktie as a leash. And while I realize that the intent was to show children that it’s necessary to be polite and not overbearing on their parents, the message that hugs are “rewards” also hit a strangely sour note for me as well. Hugs should be given because they are wanted, not as a commodity or to get one’s way. It’s a shame, because the art is so precious, and the length is fine, but even JJ seemed puzzled with Plum’s behavior. Overall, not for us.

Princess For Hire (Kimberley M.)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Princess For Hire, written by Kimberley M. and illustrated by Mariel G., an unconventional princess tale.

Yuri is an orphan girl whose only dream is to become a princess – not for the pomp and sparkle, but so she can help people in need. She’s not sure such a dream could ever come true, but she dreams nonetheless. One day, she sees someone post a sign in the marketplace: “PRINCESS FOR HIRE”. The childless King and Queen are planning to retire, and want to find the perfect princess for take their place. Yuri knows that this is her destiny, and sets off to the palace to apply. When given her royal audience and is asked why she should be princess, she speaks from the heart: she is loyal, kind, intelligent, and she wants to help the people of her land. The King and Queen decide that Yuri is the perfect princess, and immediately welcome her into their family, giving Yuri not only her dream of a crown but a loving home as well.

Very sweet. It was nice to see a princess rise from humble beginnings through her courage, determination, and hope. I would have liked to have seen examples of her kindness and generosity in the art or text, as it would have further endeared Yuri to the reader, and to have seen more tension during the plot’s climax, which was fairly abrupt. But those and the somewhat inconsistent rhyme scheme of the text are my only complaints. This is still a wonderful story about a good-natured girl finding both a crown and a family, made all the more special by both Yuri and the royals being depicted as people of color, a rarity for princess stories. The kawaii-influenced art is sweet and bright, the length is good, and JJ and I enjoyed it. A wonderful story to show little princesses that, with a brave spirit and a kind heart, no dream is too big. Baby Bookworm approved!

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