Photo Ark ABC: An Animal Alphabet in Poetry and Pictures (Joel Sartore & Debbie Levy)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Photo Ark ABC: An Animal Alphabet in Poetry and Pictures, with photographs by Joel Sartore and poems by Debbie Levy, a playful alphabetical expedition through the animal kingdom.

Featuring original animal portrait photography from Sartore, creator of the National Geographic Photo Ark, this ambitious title combines striking high-quality photos of one (sometimes two) animal species per letter of the alphabet with an energetic kid-friendly poem dedicated to the critter in question. Young readers can learn about familiar favorites like frogs, lions, and walruses, plus a few lesser-known animals like groupers or urials.

A fun twist on animal alphabets! While perhaps not as educational as ABC books that explore animal species with factoids, Levy’s plucky poetry is wildly entertaining while still managing to include a few fun, if less-specific, facts about the animals in Sartore’s photography. Bright, illustrative typeset adds to the fun, emphasizing words like “squeezes” or “squirmy” or “Roar!” with text that reflects the word’s meaning. Sartore’s photography is striking, presenting the animals against black or white backgrounds to keep the focus on their unique and highly-detailed natural features. The poems themselves are lengthy, so younger readers may not be able to finish this one in a single sitting, but kids of all ages can enjoy the poems piecemeal and the photos independently, giving the book multi-age appeal. JJ definitely loved the photos and the few poems we read, and was excited to explore more later. Overall, a great way to explore the animal kingdom and the world of poetry at the same time, and we liked it a lot! Baby Bookworm approved!

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

ABC, Rise Up and Be! (Annemarie Riley Guertin & Sandie Sonke)

Hello, friends! Our book today is ABC, Rise Up and Be! by Annemarie Riley Guertin and Sandie Sonke, an inspirational alphabet book full of encouragement for little bookworms.

Opening on a playground full of youngsters, the reader follows as the diverse cast of kids are encouraged – by the text and by illustrated versions of famous role models from history – to adopt various virtues, listed in alphabetical order. Short affirmations accompany each of the twenty-six aspirational attributes, from “Accepting” to “Zestful”, with the final reminder that the most important thing to be is to simply be oneself.

Lots of style, less substance. This quick read is certainly beautiful to look at: the bright and cheery colors, eye-catching font, and folk-inspired artwork is very cute, featuring a diverse cast of central characters and sweet-faced versions of the historical figures meant to represent each of the alphabetical virtues. However, the affirmations that accompany them are mostly feel-good platitudes, momentarily heartwarming but fairly forgettable. And while the historical figures are noted by name and mini-bio in the front- and end-papers, it would have been far more edifying to have this information on the page where the person appeared; we ended up spending a lot of time flipping back and forth to identify luminaries who were not immediately recognizable in illustrated form. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ really did enjoy the artwork. So while it felt slightly lacking in emotional impact for an empowerment book, it’s worth a look for lovely illustrations, and we’re calling 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.)

H Is For Happy: An Emoji ABC Book Of Feelings (Evan Nimke)

Hello friends! Our book today is H Is For Happy: An Emoji ABC Book Of Feelings by Evan Nimke, a primer in emotions, the alphabet, and that favorite language of the texting generation, emoji.

Using the classic “smiley face” emoji icon set as its base, the book takes us through the alphabet, using a different emotion or feeling and its corresponding emoji for each letter. For instance, H is for happy (🙂), S is for sad (😢), L is for love (😍). Rhyming text describes each emotion, finishing with two lovely sentiments: reminding the reader that everyone has feelings, and asking the question, “what made you feel happy today?”

While this one was a little rough around the edges, there was still a lot to love. One drawback is that the rhyme scheme of the text is very inconsistent, making it tough to find a rhythm while reading aloud, and the ending – while having a nice sentiment – feels a bit tacked on. Still, the book does a fun job of describing each emotion, utilizing a fun and trendy concept very well. The length was fine, but the major reason this book is going to get a good review is that JJ LOVED IT. Be it the simple, easily-identifiable visuals or the letter-emotion combos, she wanted to flip through the book at least three times after we finished our initial read. I can’t argue with first-person data like that, so despite its hiccups, we’re happily (🙂) calling this one Baby Bookworm approved (👍)!

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

Star Wars ABC (Scholastic Inc.)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Star Wars ABC by Scholastic Inc., an oversized board book that takes an alphabetic look at the characters and things of a galaxy far, far away (and yes, I know this is the third Star Wars book this month, but we’ve been on a bit of a Star Wars kick here at the Baby Bookworm household). 

Starting with A is for Anakin, each page has a character (Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo), or thing (Millennium Falcon, the Force, Jedi) that corresponds to its letter of the alphabet. Accompanied by a photo of the subject and a one-sentence description, each page brings the Star Wars universe to life for little fans, helping them learn their alphabet along the way.

So, of the three Star Wars books we read this month, I have to say that this one was the most “meh.” There were plenty of well-recognizable characters, but there were also some pretty definite fillers that would likely leave even die-hard fans scratching their heads (IG-88? Kaminoans? Zam Wesell?). Also, many of the photos chosen were oddly grainy or out of focus, leading to an overall inconsistency in the visuals page to page. It was definitely a fun novelty read, and little Star Wars fans would likely get a kick out of it, but it definitely lacked a substance and polish that we’ve seen with other fandom children’s books. Overall, a bit disappointing but still enough fun for what it’s trying to be, so we’ll call this one Baby Bookworm approved.

ABC Questions (Christine Cruz)

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

Hello, friends! Today, we read ABC Questions, written by Christine Cruz and illustrated by Jason Buhagiar, an entertaining book that takes children on a tour of the alphabet by asking some rather silly questions.

Beverly is a clever little girl who is learning her alphabet. But she has a few questions: Has anyone ever scene an Alligator Balance a Cup? Or could a Giraffe Hide in an Igloo? Beverly makes her way through the alphabet thusly, and is hoping to have her questions answered soon, as she has to learn her numbers, too!

This book has a fun concept that is executed mostly well. The comical and imaginative scenarios that string together alphabetical words are fun and silly, and will surely get a giggle out of young readers. The length is fine, and while the text can be a little tripping at times (some pages have rhyme schemes and others don’t), it’s mostly an easy, enjoyable read. My only main complaint is the illustrations, which are somewhat inconsistent. Many of the imagined scenarios are well-done and very cute, but the expressions on Beverly’s face are… creepy. Sort of unsettling. Otherwise, JJ enjoyed it well enough, and it does have a great concept, so still Baby Bookworm approved!