Sam the Superhero and His Super Life (Kathryn F. Pearson & James T. Pearson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sam the Superhero and His Super Life, written by Kathryn F. Pearson and James T. Pearson, illus. by Lauren Jezierski, a look at the experience of a nuero-atypical child.

Sam is a happy, healthy boy who lives with his loving grandparents, Grandpa Dan and Grandma Lucy. In many ways, Sam is just like any other kid – he loves to learn, read, and play – but in others, Sam is different. He can feel overwhelmed that noises and bright lights, can be confused by social interactions with his classmates, and has trouble controlling his motor skills when holding a marker or hugging friends. These differences often make Sam feel angry, sad, or hurt, and when Sam is excluded by his peers for being different, these “big feelings” get even worse. After one such incident, Sam decides that he will never try to make friends again, and tells his Grandpa as much. Yet Grandpa Dan knows that Sam is much stronger and braver than even he knows – in fact, he’s a superhero, and it’s time he learned his origin story…

Earnest and sweet, if slightly uneven, this indie title looks at the challenges that children with developmental disabilities can face as they grow (Sam’s delays are broadly nuero-atypical, though his diagnosis is never explicitly stated; context within the story and backmatter suggest NAS and ASD). This core theme is well-explored, as is the affirming lesson that the things that make us “different” are often the same things that make us strong and special. Sam is an endearing and relatable character for readers of all abilities, assisted greatly by the simple yet tender pencil illustrations. As with many indies, there are some rougher edges: the text can be a little redundant, the pacing uneven, and the poor formatting of the dialogue makes reading it – especially aloud – a challenge. And while JJ was a bit wiggly through much of the text, she enjoyed the expressive illustrations and Sam’s interactions with his comfort toy, Hercules. So while rough around the edges, the charms of this title are definitely worth a look. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Do Not Go In There! (Ariel Horn)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Do Not Go In There!, written by Ariel Horn and illustrated by Izzy Burton, a delightful fantasy about the power of possibility.

Morton and Bogart, two colorful, oddly-constructed creatures, are playing with blocks when they encounter a most curious thing: a red door. A red door with a SHINY gold doorknob. A very TEMPTING door, to the excitable and optimistic Morton. A very FOREBODING door, to the nervous and fretful Bogart. The two begin to concoct a number of theories as to what could be behind the door: “Fireworks and party balloons!” insists Morton. “Bunny-eating wolves!” cries Bogart. Yet, as the two craft ever-more preposterous theories, the question remains: to go, or not to go?

A blast! Written primarily in conversational text, delineated by two different typefaces for Morton and Bogart, this wildly entertaining tale also teaches a sweet lesson in overcoming uncertainty, and thrill of possibility. The escalating fantasizing by the two monsters is hilarious and charming, as well as a delight to read aloud, and little bookworms will identify with how overwhelming both excitement and dread can feel in the face of anticipation. The art is just as engaging, from the unique and adorable design of the central characters and of their imaginings full of candy castles, astronautical wolves, and much more. The length is perfect for a quick storytime, but it’s appeal is endlessly repeatable (JJ has requested many readings already) – always a treat when a book has such a universal message as well. Simply put, this one’s great. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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

V is For Voting (Kate Farrell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is V is For Voting, written by Kate Farrell and illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald, a phenomenal, alphabetical look at the importance of voting.

With empowering rhyming text, bookworms are given the A to Z of responsibility and engagement in a democratic society. The reader follows the central character, a brown-skinned and afro-puffed girl bedecked in red, white, and blue, as she and her fellow citizens learn, investigate, protest, educate, and act.

Powerful and inspiring. While the central conceit is an alphabet book – and indeed, it performs this function admirably – the raw energy in both the art and text of this title is intended to inform and empower. And remarkably, this picture book of complex issues manages to distill them to their essence in a way that can speak to even the smallest of bookworms; it’s a communication so simple yet effective that it astounds. Bold, full-color art presents a marvelously diverse cast and depicts a wealth of political, governmental, and civil rights luminaries. Shirley Chisholm, Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk – to name but a few – are lovingly represented and introduced in the backmatter, along with facts about suffrage and voting; icons RBG and AOC are visually alluded to. Diversity is openly celebrated in rainbow flags, transgender symbols, and Black Lives Matter icons. Teachers, free press, and social activism are lauded. A subtle visual showing a garden being planted in hope, then later shown having its lone surviving flower determinedly being tended to by the girl (“W is working for change, win or lose”) brought tears to my eyes. The length is perfect, JJ loved the art and spirit of the text. This book is simply beautiful, and should be in every classroom, to show young readers from the very first that they have the power and responsibility to themselves and their fellow Americans to act, to change, to think, and to vote. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved.

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

I Love My Fangs! (Kelly Leigh Miller)

Hello friends, and Happy Halloween! Our book today is I Love My Fangs! by Kelly Leigh Miller, a monstrously enjoyable tale of toothy terror.

Little Dracula positively loves his fangs! They’re sharp and pointy, wonderfully useful, and part of his vampire heritage. He does his best to take good care of his fangs every day… until the day that one falls out! Panicking, Dracula tries to stick, tie, and tape his fang back into place, but to no avail. Sadly heading to bed (coffin), he is shocked to wake and find a fairy STEALING his FANG! The following chase through the house is stopped by Dracula’s parents, who introduce the Tooth Fairy and explain her aim. But will little Drac be able to let his beloved fang go?

Frightfully fun. A monster-mash-up of spooky characters puts a new spin on the very relatable theme of losing baby teeth and the nerves it can inspire. From there, details such as Dracula’s monstrous classmates (a delightful class photo is included on the back dust cover), his hooded bat pajamas, and creeptastic bedroom fill the story with tons of classic yet bloodless horror charm. The artwork work and text work together delightfully, using comic-book style dialogue and frames to tell a brisk and entertaining story in a economic yet exciting style. The length is perfect, and JJ loved the silly (not scary) vampire tale. This one is perfect for Halloween, but will also make a valuable resource for little monsters who may be nervous about losing their own teeth. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Little Kitten (Nicola Killen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen, an adorable autumn tale of feline friendship.

Little Ollie, clad in a playful catsuit, is ready to head outside to enjoy a fall day with her own pet cat, Pumpkin. Yet just as she’s about to jump into a pile of crunchy leaves, a gust of wind blows them all away – to reveal a shivering kitten hidden within! Ollie and Pumpkin welcome their new friend with a day of play and cuddles, but in all the excitement, Ollie and the new kitten run off and accidentally leave Pumpkin behind. Discovering some “Lost Kitten” flyers, Ollie realizes that her new friend is missed by his own person, and endeavors to help him find his way home. With a mysterious path, a missing Pumpkin, and a quickly-falling night, can Ollie get the kitten home… without becoming lost herself?

Delightful. This sweet-as-pumpkin-pie story is as gentle and cozy of an autumn tale as any reader could wish for. Themes of adventure and friendship (and just a hint of Halloween) are rich, yet the story itself is simple, making for a lovely and light storytime. Equally appealing is the soft yet striking artwork, which features adorable, endearing characters in shades of gray, white, and orange. The sporadic cutouts and gorgeous use of foil amongst the fall foliage is the cherry on top. The length is perfect, and JJ adored it. A modern fall classic-in-the-making that’s sure to please, 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.)