Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow (Michelle Cuevas)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow, written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Sydney Smith, a fantastic fairy tale about having the courage to explore the world outside one’s comfort zone.

Smoot is a precocious little shadow with a curious nature and a yearning to be free. The boy he is attached to is nice enough, but lives a dull, colorless life – he never jumps or leaps or plays or even colors outside the lines. Wishing for a day when he could have a life of his own, Smoot is surprised to hear a POP! – and to find he is no longer attached to his boy! At last, Smoot can dance, sing, ride the carousel, jump rope, and go wherever his dreams take him. His carefree attitude inspires the other shadows around him, and suddenly they are making their own dreams a reality: a cricket’s and grasshopper’s shadows strike up a band, a frog’s shadow becomes a handsome prince, and a tiny rock makes himself into a towering castle. Knowing that the shadows’ freedoms could become problematic if unchecked, Smoot devises clever solutions to help them realize their dreams, then decides to return to his boy – only to find his old friend has been following him since he left, and has been inspired by his boldness to embrace the color in his life.

This was such a wonderful little fable! Smoot is a charmingly earnest protagonist, both a dreamer and a realist who knows the proper balance of both. He and the other shadows serve as a great metaphor for how we should let our dreams influence us: allowing them to drive us out of complacency, but not letting them get too carried away. The illustrations are magical, and create an imaginative world that feels both familiar and fanciful. The length is perfect, and JJ adored it. A lovely tale for dreamers of any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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Now (Antoinette Portis)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Now by Antoinette Portis, a lovely meditation on the simple pleasures of living in the moment.

An exhilarating breeze blows through a little girl’s hair; this is her favorite breeze. She holds a crimson autumn leaf the same span as her face; this is her favorite leaf. With each new object, sensation, or activity, the little girl proclaims each as her favorite – the tree because she is swinging from it, the mud because she is squishing it between her toes, the moon she is gazing up at. Each moment she is currently in is her favorite, because each is what she is experiencing right now… and because of who she is experiencing it with.

This is a simple story with a quiet and somewhat unassuming presence, but it will surprise you: it’s filled with quiet, guileless elegance and a phenomenally satisfying emotional payoff. While the tone definitely suggests themes of zen or mindfulness, the truth is that it does a great job of embodying the way little ones see the world – that each moment is their most important yet – and how we as adults impact this. It’s an enlightening perspective for both age groups to consider. Portis’s art echoes this, capturing both the trivial and the sublime, and examining the magical details that children notice and adults all too often overlook. The length is great, JJ adored the art, and the last page is a stunner for anyone who loves to read with their child. Thoughtful, warm, and full of wonder, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

I Am Enough (Grace Byers)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the wonderfully empowering I Am Enough, written by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, a girl-power celebration for all shapes, sizes, and skin tones.

“Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” the rhyming text begins, and each page that follows offers an affirmation of all the strength, talent, and promise that young girls have within them. While praising their inherent strengths and virtues, the text also encourages girls to show kindness, to be fighters, and to accept their fellow female for who she is, and embrace all the unique qualities that make her that way. And no matter what, to know that no matter what the world expects of her or tells her she must be, she needs only to remind herself of the truth: “I am enough.”

Oh, but we do love a great girl-power book, and this one is PHENOMENAL. The text does a great job of encouraging girls to embrace who they are, both physically and personally; to support other women; to not be afraid of their strength or their empathy. The illustrations then bring the message to another level; there are girls of every color, every build, every ability, girls with hijabs, girls in wheelchairs – an absolute rainbow of young women working together, showing each other as friends and supporters. The one thing often missing from female-empowerment kidlit is diversity, but not here, and there IS a girl that looks like your little bookworm in this book. The length was great, and JJ adored it. This is one that should be on every girl’s shelf, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Mama’s Belly (Kate Hosford)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mama’s Belly, written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Abigail Halpin, a vibrantly-colored, yet quiet and touching, look at a little girl as her family prepares for a new baby.

The unnamed young protagonist knows her baby sister is on the way – she can see the swell of her Mama’s belly like a rising sea. And she has a number of questions about the new arrival: Will her sister know her, when she arrives? Will she have freckles like her? Will the girl have to share her beloved blanket with the baby? And lastly, will her parents have enough love for her and the baby to share? Her patient parents answer each question, and the little girl helps to care for her Mama and prepare for the baby. Finally, the girl cuddles against her mother, stretching arms wide around her belly, so that she can hug her mother and the new baby all at once.

Gentle, warm, and simply lovely. There’s a sincere and almost meditative quality in which the narrative of the family’s day unfolds, inviting the reader into the mind of the curious, and perhaps a bit anxious, big-sister-to-be. Then, as her parents comfort her with reassuring and encouraging words, the soothing text and vivid, inviting illustrations wrap around the reader like a cozy blanket. The art is just beautiful, bringing the audience into a comfy house bursting with color in rich, warm tones. The multi-ethnic family is a nice choice, the length is great, and JJ loved it. A wonderful way to help prepare little readers for new siblings, and it’s 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.)

Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie (Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little People, Big Dreams: Marie Curie, written by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrated by Frau Isa, a gorgeous, inspiring and moving little book about the famed scientist.

Little Marie was never quite what people expected of girls in her time: instead of a princess, she longed to be a scientist. However, girls were not allowed to attend college in her country – but that wasn’t going to stop her. Marie moved to Paris to study physics and chemistry, becoming a top student, despite studying in a completely new language! Paris is also where she met Pierre Curie, who would become the love of her life. They both loved science, and even won a Nobel Prize for their work together, Marie being the first woman ever to do so. After losing Pierre to a tragic accident, Marie focused on her work, developed x-rays to help the injured and sick, and won another Nobel prize. Marie never let her hardships define her, and become one of the greatest female pioneers science has ever known.

This is our second Little People, Big Dreams book, and it is just as stirring and beautiful as the first. Marie’s life is condensed to its most crucial events and themes, creating a storybook-like narrative that moves at a brisk pace but is no less impactful. The art here is strikingly gorgeous, using a soft, muted palette to frame Marie’s life of passion, triumph, and loss, and there are a few spreads that are truly, heartbreakingly remarkable. The length is perfect for even tiny bookworms, and JJ absolutely adored it. These are a marvelous treat, and we love reading them. Baby Bookworm approved!