Deep Underwater (Irene Luxbacher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deep Underwater by Irene Luxbacher, a dreamy and surreal adventure to the ocean floor.

A young girl named Sophia invites the reader along as she dives down deep into the sea. She knows all the ocean’s secrets, and she’s glad to share them. Down into the dark, where bubbles swirl and creatures swim and sunken ships hide their treasure. There’s all that and more: mysterious shapes and colors, beings and possibilities. It seems almost to be the stuff of dreams, and perhaps it is…

Unique and lovely. The first thing that strikes me is the unusual color scheme – while many undersea books opt for bright blues and whitish sand, this one paints its setting in the deep blue-greens and shadows of the actual ocean, a far more natural and realistic choice. This works perfectly for the elements of fantasy to come, providing a more familiar background to te mixed-media imaginings of first real marine life, then more odd and otherworldly lifeforms and scenes as the story progresses. The final page gives a lovely bit of context for the preceding adventures in a heartwarming illustration. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A weird and beautiful adventure that celebrates curiousity, courage, and imagination. Baby Bookworm approved!

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Rain (Anders Holmer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rain by Anders Holmer, a lovely look at nature and life in haiku form.

Using the format of the traditional poetry form, each spread offers an expanse of scenery from around the world and a glimpse into the lives of those that inhabit it. A group of humans and reindeer cross a tundra, the youngest calf stopping to discover fresh lichen. A song plays on a car radio, but no one hears it; the driver is changing the tire and his children are greeting a dog. As cherry blossom petals flutter down, two friends are struck by the beauty and quickly resolve a spat, enjoying moment together instead. The reader journeys around the world, showing how different the world can be, even when it often comes down to something we all share, like rain.

Soft, simple, and beautiful. This book had such a wonderfully calming look and tone, using the haiku format to tell each story richly yet with an economy of words. The art uses light and dark to perfectly set the stage while pops of color, details, and movement make the subjects come alive. It inspires the reader to examine each scene carefully, and allows the art and spare text to evoke the desired emotion. The length is great, and JJ and I really enjoyed it. A soothing meditation on a wider world, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

Dreamers (Yuyi Morales)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, a breathtakingly beautiful love letter to a Dreamer.

“I dreamed of you, then you appeared. Together we became Amor – Love – Amor.” So begins a love letter from a mother to her baby, and the story of their journey together. Bundling their only belongings on her back, the mother takes her infant across a bridge to a new land. Leaving all she knows behind and unable to go back, she places her faith in the promise their new home holds, of education and opportunity. The language spoken is unlike her own, but she tries, until the day when she stumbles upon another place of education and promise: a public library. She marvels that the library opens their arms, sharing books and language and trust and safety. As her son grows, she and he both use the books and resources to learn, to adapt, and to stretch their dreams ever higher. “We are stories. We are two languages. […] We are dreamers, soñadores of the world.”

Stunning. A deeply personal tale told in an ecstatically beautiful way, Morales channels her immigration experience into a factual story with a fantastical look. Every word of the quietly powerful text has intent, each element of the mixed media art a nod to the author’s past, present, and future (Morales details the story and items that inspired the book and its visuals in the backmatter). It’s not just one love letter, but many – from mother to son, from patron to library, from reader to book, from immigrant to both home countries – all folded into a story that inspires, relates, and deeply moves. The length was great, JJ and I adored it, and I can’t recommend it enough. Baby Bookworm approved.

No Boring Stories! (Julie Falatko)

Hello, friends! Our book today is No Boring Stories!, written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Charles Santoso, a hilarious yet poignant look at the creative process.

Bunny has a head full of wonderful and strange story ideas, but her fellow “cute and cuddly” creators just don’t seem to get what she’s about. Seeing a sign for a meeting of the International Society for Writers Of Odd and Weird, Bunny is sure she has finally found a collaborative group – unfortunately, the offbeat animals (a babirusa, a yeti crab, a star-nosed mole, and a giraffe-necked weevil), repeatedly turn her away due to her bunny-ness. She tries to blend into the scenery, listening to the group collab on a story about a fearless princess and her team of heroes, but gives herself away when she blurts our story ideas. The Society is unmoved – what could a bunny offer to the world of odd and weird? How can Bunny show them that all she wants is a chance to share her talents?

Absolutely fantastic. A wildly entertaining blend of hilarious dialogue, action-packed illustrations, a crash-course in story structure, and an important lesson about snap judgements, that somehow never feels overwhelming. Indeed, many of the lessons are subtle, wrapped in the over-the-top text (crazy fun to read aloud, btw). Readers will learn terms like “rising action” and the concept of “relatable characters”, and (most importantly) the idea that one’s talent or aptitude for something is not predetermined by their appearance or background. The art is colorful, fun, and endearing, the length is great, and we both had a blast reading it. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

Wendell The Narwhal (Emily Dove)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wendell The Narwhal by Emily Dove, a story about finding your talents and working together.

Wendell the narwhal has only one wish: to make beautiful music. His only problem is that the most melodious sound he can manage with his tusk is a flat “tap-tap” noise when he hits it against a rock. It’s a bummer, because all his friends can make beautiful noises: the whale sings, the jellyfish go “wubba-wub”, the octopus can pop his tentacles, etc. However, when all those sounds are going at once, they all drown each other out, and it becomes one loud cacophony! Wendell taps his tusk on the rock, calling them to order and silencing the lot. Then it’s TOO quiet. Wendell begins to take off, sorry to have interrupted his friends’ fun, but they quickly stop him. In fact, they might have the perfect position in their undersea orchestra for Wendell, one that could help his musical dreams come true.

Very sweet. There a few great lessons to be learned here, all of them wonderful for little readers: we all have our own special talents to share, that finding them may take a little practice and luck, and that working together and supporting each other is how we make beautiful music. The art is absolutely adorable, and the use of onomatopoeia as visual elements in the illustrations works well to infuse tension – plus, they’re mighty fun to sound out. The length was good, and JJ particularly liked this one. A sweet story with a lovely message, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!