Over The River And Through The Wood (Emma Randall)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Over The River And Through The Wood, a storybook version of the classic song as illustrated by Emma Randall.

A young pair of siblings, brother and sister, set off on a journey across a winter wonderland to grandmother’s house, as the song describes. The text/lyrics describe the pair’s destination, reason for the journey (it’s Thanksgiving Day), and their surroundings as they travel. Along the way, a collection of adorable woodland critters smile cheerfully at the children and follow their sleigh through the snowdrifts. Arriving at Grandmother’s House, everyone settles in for a delicious feast.

Very cute. A new spin on some classic text, which is laid out perfectly so that it can be read as rhyming stanzas or, for those familiar with the tune, sung (I was able to sing it for JJ and she was delighted). The illustrations feature bright and colorful human and animal characters against a beautiful backdrop of winter woods, and are engaging and warm. The length was great, and we enjoyed it. A great way to celebrate the traditional song in a fresh yet classic way. Baby Bookworm approved!

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Merry Christmas, Little Elliot (Mike Curato)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Merry Christmas, Little Elliot by Mike Curato, the latest in the heartwarming Little Elliot series.

Waiting in line at a department store to see Santa, Little Elliot (a precious polka-dotted elephant) and his best friend/roommate Mouse discuss what they’ll ask for. Elliot has a surprising request – he wishes for Christmas spirit, as he is having trouble finding it on his own. Santa explains that it’s something everyone must find for themselves, so Elliot and Mouse set out into New York City to search. They attend the ballet, visit Rockefeller Center, go sledding – but due to some mishaps, Elliot is just not finding the feeling he’s hoped for. Just then, a red envelope (teased in the title page) flutters onto Elliot, addressed to Santa himself. Unable to deliver it to the jolly elf, Elliot reads the letter and is touched by the earnest request inside. He and Mouse hop in a cab and rush to make the sender’s Christmas wish come true… and maybe find some Christmas spirit for themselves as well.

You simply cannot go wrong with a Little Elliot book. I have yet to find a book series that has the same consistently fantastic quality in story, art, and message. As much of the series does, this one focuses on friendship and togetherness, here as the true spirit of the holidays. Elliot and Mouse are indescribably adorable, and the vintage-inspired city they inhabit inspires a warm and cozy nostalgia, perfect for a Christmas tale. The length is great, and JJ and I adored it. A touching and wonderful story to share with the one you love, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Queen Of The Hanukkah Dosas (Pamela Ehrenberg)

Hello, friends! Our review today is the festive and fun Queen Of The Hanukkah Dosas, written by Pamela Ehrenberg and illustrated by Anjan Sarkar.

A young boy is concerned about his family’s tradition. See, every year, his mixed-race family blends their traditions together, making Indian dosas to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. But this year, he is worried that his toddler-aged sister Sadie, who has recently taken up a major interesting in climbing, will ruin everything. He voices his concerns to his mom, his dad, his Amma-Amma, but no one seems to take it too seriously. Then just as the boy predicted, Sadie creates a ruckus at the Indian market by climbing a tower of caned coconut milk. Thinking quickly, the boy makes up a ditty to the tune of the Dreidel Song: “I had a little dosa, I made it out of dal”. This delights Sadie, and she agrees to come down. Again and again, as the family makes the dosas together over the next two days, the boy uses his special song to help keep Sadie away from the dosas and out of harm’s way. That is until the whole family accidentally get locked out of the house – with the dosas still cooking! Suddenly, Sadie’s climbing may be their only hope – and the boy’s song be the best chance of helping.

Adorable. A wonderfully unique story and characters, an entertaining and engaging plot, and a lovely depiction of two cultures coming together with one family. The art is colorful, with friendly-faces characters yet fine attention to detail where the cooking and Hanukkah celebrations are concerned. There’s even recipes for dosas and sambar in the back. The length is perfect, JJ and I loved it, and we definitely recommend it. 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 Tail Of Max The Mindless Dog / Barry Bear’s Very Best / Welcome Home Daddy: Love, Lexi (Florenza Lee)

Hello, friends! Today, we’re reviewing three books by author Florenza Lee: The Tail Of Max The Mindless Dog and Barry Bear’s Very Best, both illustrated by Michelle Wynn, and Welcome Home Daddy: Love, Lexi, illustrated by Maria Guevara.

In The Tail Of Max, we are introduced to the titular pup, who spends all his time habitually chasing his tail until his friend Ross teaches him how to redirect his behavior through mindful meditation. In Barry Bear, the character, an exceptionally well-behaved young bear, is confronted will peers who are bad influences. And in Welcome Home Daddy, a soldier’s daughter deals with the difficulties of her dad’s deployment.

Our reactions to all three were mixed; while packed with well-intentioned and positive messages, there are areas where each falters to a degree. Max is the strongest of the group, offering a clever metaphor for the vicious cycle of stress and habit, and offering readers simple and effective tools for managing these. But while the illustrations are quite charming, the story simply drags on one act longer than it needs to. Barry Bear has good advice of what to do when confronted with peer-pressure (namely, talk to your parents), but Barry is so impeccably pious that it makes him difficult to relate to. There’s also very little rise and fall in action, so the story becomes a bit repetitive by the end. And while I applaud Welcome Home for highlighting the lives of military families, the story just tackles too much. Beginning as an introduction to the life of the loved ones of deployed soldiers, it takes a sharp left turn when Lexi’s father is severely wounded, and the issue is handled a little too cutely and neatly. So while Welcome Home and Barry were not for us, we can recommend Max, a sweet story with useful advice. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Santa Bruce (Ryan T. Higgins)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins, a festive adventure with the perennially grouchy bear Bruce and his unusual family of geese children and mouse roommates.

The geese and mice have decked the halls and trimmed the tree – much to Bruce’s irritation. The put-upon bear only wants to hibernate for Christmas, but his family wants to celebrate, so the old grump does what he must. He even shovels snow in his bright red coat and hat – and that’s where the trouble starts. Once again, Bruce becomes a victim of mistaken identity… but this time that identity is SANTA! Soon, young critters are lined up at the door to tell “Santa” their Christmas wishes. Quickly latching on to the opportunity for merrymaking, the mice and geese play along, even promising that Bruce will hand-deliver presents to all the kids for Christmas morning. Bruce just wants to sleep! Will he find it in him to spread some holiday cheer?

Another hilarious and wonderful Bruce & family tale. Bruce’s perpetual gruffness – and reluctant yet genuine affection for his family – is made for a Christmas story, and Higgin’s brand of deadpan humor and physical comedy pulls it off perfectly. The art is charming as always, especially Bruce’s doe-eyed young admirers and the bear’s hilarious body language. The length is great, and JJ and I loved it. A wonderful seasonal addition to the series, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!