Pride: The Story Of Harvey Milk And The Rainbow Flag (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pride: The Story Of Harvey Milk And The Rainbow Flag, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno, a beautiful and moving ode to the banner of the LGBTQ community.

Harvey Milk had a dream. He wanted all people to be treated equally under the law; to love who they loved, be free to be themselves, and not be discriminated against. In 1977, Harvey became one of the first openly gay elected officials. The next year, he and his friend Gilbert Baker came up with a symbol to unite their community and the people who supported it, and to show pride. They created the first rainbow Pride Flag, and introduced it at a march for equal rights. Then later that year, the unthinkable: Harvey was assassinated because of one man’s hatred and fear. Yet despite his life being cut short, the seed of hope, courage, and pride that Harvey and Gilbert had planted with their flag had already taken root, and was beginning to grow.

Beautiful and moving. Like many luminaries that have tragic – and often tragically short – lives, it’s hard to tell Harvey Milk’s story in a child-friendly way, but this book does so with grace and a sense of hope. As Milk’s life story ends, the story of the flag becomes the focus, elegantly showing how it grew across the nation, then the world, ending with the note that on the day gay marriage was finally legalized in the United States, the White House itself wore the colors of Pride. It’s a delicate balance of history, tragedy, then encouragement and possibility, and it all fits together perfectly. The art is colorful, and the cast has a few very nice moments of inclusion that show how diverse the LGBTQ community can be. The length is perfect, and JJ adored the rainbows. This is a fantastic book to introduce young readers to, not only the story of the flag and the man behind it, but the equality and love it represents. Stunning, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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The Little School Bus (Margery Cuyler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little School Bus, written by Margery Cuyler and illustrated by Bob Kolar, a cheerful look at the life of a school bus.

In bouncy rhyming text, the reader is introduced to the titular school bus and its driver, Bob. Early morning, the pair wake up and – after Bob’s coffee – head out to pick up kids for school. Rain or shine or snow, the school bus and Bob drive across towns, around bends, and through neighborhoods. Sometimes, Bob takes Bus to the mechanic for a tune-up: dents get fixed, squeaky hinges oiled. Then back to work, Bus’s favorite thing to do. At the end of the day, after safely getting the children to and from school, Bob and Bus head home to rest for the next day.

Very cute! Bright and jolly rhymes paired with adorable yet simple illustrations make for an easy and quick read. The layout of the rhymes is a bit confusing, as each page starts with “I’m a little school bus” which would lead me to believe that the rhymes should be read to the rhythm/tune of “I’m A Little Teapot”. This has pretty mixed results though, and I found it much easier to read aloud amelodically. Still, there’s a nice look at some of the duties of a school bus, and some wonderful and unexpected diversity: the characters are a rainbow of skintones, and there is a page and rhyme dedicated to wheelchair accessibility. The length was fine, and JJ really enjoyed the adventures of Bob and Bus. Delightfully uncomplicated yet absolutely entertaining for early readers, and we loved 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.)

Look At Me!: Wild Animal Show-Offs (Jim Arnosky)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Look At Me!: Wild Animal Show-Offs by Jim Arnosky, a colorful look at how animals of all kinds use color, sound, and other tricks to express, defend, and identify themselves.

The latest in his nature series for kids, Arnosky introduces readers to animals who like to “show off”. Dividing them into shared characteristics such as “Fanned Tails” (peacocks and turkeys) or “Noisemakers” (rattlesnakes, bullfrogs, beavers, etc.), the text touches on various ways that animals use auditory or visual displays to establish dominance, find mates, ward off predators, and so on. Beautiful, eye-catching art brings each creature to life in stunning detail.

This was definitely interesting. It’s the first of this series that I’ve looked at, and there were definitely some elements that stood out. First, the art is simply stunning – richly colored and exceptionally realistic pencil drawings and paintings were a huge treat for JJ. However, I would definitely say that this is not a book for very small bookworms – while the illustrations are exceptional, the first-person journal-style text is not particularly suited for younger readers. It does give the book a sense of paging through a naturalist’s field journal, which could be neat for older readers, but also left the information covered a bit too disjointed for JJ to follow. Also, while Arnosky’s hand-picked examples and first-hand observations are interesting, they limit the breadth of the material covered in what is a rather short book of this type. I would be interested to see how this volume fits among the set, rather than standing on its own. Still, this is a wonderfully personal look inside some incredible animal species and a noted expert’s take on them, and would absolutely interest older animal- and nature-loving kids. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Z Goes First (Sean Lamb)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Z Goes First, written by Sean Lamb and illustrated by Mike Perry, a look at the alphabet from the perspective of its last letter.

Being in the alphabet is fine, but Z is simply bored and frustrated with being last! How come she never gets to go first? With her friend Y tagging along, she decides to take a journey to the beginning of the alphabet. The pair meet all of the other letters along the way, from the wisecracking duo of J and K, the inseparable crowd of LMNOP, the narcissistic I, and the imperiously popular E. At last, Z and Y find themselves at the beginning of the alphabet… or where they really there all along?

This was pretty darn cute. In the tradition of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, the story humanizes the letters, even presenting each as having their own unique personality, down to the way they appear (fancy, colorful, emulating words that they begin such as “tree”, etc). Paired with clever wordplay and alphabet-related puns, this gives a simple alphabet book an engaging storyline and plenty of child- and adult-friendly humor, and makes for a fun read. The illustrations are madcap in color and design, but never in a way that feels overwhelming or dissonant. The ending is a bit confusing and abrupt however, and may fly over the heads of younger readers. Still, the length was good and JJ really enjoyed it. Definitely give this one a read (tip: look up the pronunciation for flocci­nauci­nihili­pilification beforehand). 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 Lying King (Alex Beard)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Lying King by Alex Beard, part political satire and part cautionary tale of what dishonesty can do when unchecked.

In the savanna, there is a king – a warthog who wears an ostentatious pointed crown and speaks in nothing but lies. His fibs are ridiculous: he claims that the rain is dry, that the nighttime is day, that he can fly (he cannot). It all started when he was just a piglet, the runt of the litter, who compensated for his size by lying. As he got older and his dishonesty went without repercussion, the lies got bigger. And when it came time to find a new ruler, the warthog ascended to office on the backs of lying to bully, lying to cause unrest, and or simply lying to make himself look better than he was. Now that he’s on the throne, the lies are only becoming more ludicrous and unsustainable. The Lying King may have broke the final straw… and his subjects are fed up.

So, yeah. I think we can all guess what figure from current events this is a rather cutting (and sadly accurate) parody of. But politics aside, this is a story about dishonesty that stands on its own. While most books about lying serve to teach children why lying is wrong, this is a great way to encourage them to recognize and stand against those who chose to be dishonest anyway. It reminds readers that the truth is not a subjective thing, and in an era in which those in power are all too willing to sow dissent and spread disinformation to stay in power, well… it’s a lesson that needs to be taught. The illustrations are good, featuring semi-realistic animals other than the King, who is exaggerated enough to highlight his antics. The length is good, the rhyming text flows well, and JJ seemed to enjoy it. A necessary lesson in questioning one’s leaders, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!