Are You Scared, Darth Vader? (Adam Rex)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Are You Scared, Darth Vader? by Adam Rex, a delightfully silly interactive book featuring Star Wars’ most notorious baddie.

What, if anything, is the deadly Sith Lord Darth Vader afraid of? A persistent narrator attempts to answer this question by presenting the mask-wearing master of the Dark Side with a number of traditionally spooky things, seemingly to no avail. Wolfman, vampire, ghost or witch? Not even a shudder. Spiders, black cats, public speaking? Nope, nope, and nope. The dark? Are you joking? Unable to find anything to spook the unflappable Vader, the narrator gives up, telling the monsters to remove their costumes. Wait, costumes? What were the monsters concealing – and is it enough to finally frighten a Sith Lord?

Goofy, clever fun. Creative dialogue, incredible design, and some truly funny humor for Star Wars fans young and old make this a great read from cover-to-cover. Little ones will delight in the final two forces that finally ruffle, then frighten, Vader, an especially nice way of turning the tables on the classic villain. And the wry humor is wonderfully expressive for kids but also peppers in some great Star Wars jokes for older fans, making it a blast to read aloud. The art is fabulous, especially the design of the bright yellow narrator’s text paired with the dour, white on black speech bubbles of Vader’s dialogue. The length is great, and JJ loved it. Brush up your Vader impression and share it with your little Star Wars fan – this one’s Baby Bookworm approved.

Top 5: Back To School

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Hello, friends! As summer winds down and we start heading towards fall, we wanted to bring you a new Top 5 list! This month’s theme: Back To School! We’re taking a look at some of our favorite books about school and education. We’ve chosen books that recognize the trepidation that little bookworms may be feeling as the first day grows near and celebrate all there is to love about going to school: new friends, new experiences, and the power of education.

So please enjoy our Top 5 list, in no particular order, of our favorite Back To School books:

1. School’s First Day Of School (Adam Rex, illus. Christian Robinson)

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One summer, a special building is built on an empty lot, and named Frederick Douglass Elementary. School thinks that’s a very nice name for himself, and he enjoys spending his days with Janitor, who comes to clean him. He tells Janitor as much, only to be surprised by his reply: soon, School will be filled with teachers and children who come to learn and play! How scary! Will they like School? Will they be nice to him? Will he make any friends like Janitor? The story follows School through his tumultuous first day and shows that even School gets first-day jitters.

“The illustrations are cute and colorful, and really bring School and his inhabitants to life, and the story is just great. It’s perfect for any child who might be feeling a bit unsure about heading to school.”

2. Dad’s First Day (Mike Wohnoutka)

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After an entire summer of playing with his dad, Oliver is ready to for the next adventure: his first day of school. But the first day of school can be a nerve-wracking thing… for Oliver’s dad! His dad complains of tummy aches and foreboding feelings, but Oliver reassures him: school will probably be lots of fun! The day that Oliver goes, dad gets left behind, and begins to worry more than ever. But after seeing Oliver happy with his new friends, we realizes that it’s time to let his little buddy strike out on his own.

“It’s enjoyable how the story flips expectations and has the father as the one most nervous about Oliver’s first day – not only is this humorous for little readers, but it’s a clever and subtle way of showing that nervousness about school is natural, and even parents can feel it. It also opens up the possibility for a discussion of these feelings so that parents and kids can help each other settle their nerves.”

3. I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act Of Kindness (Kerascoët)

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Vanessa, a new girl at school, is shy around her more boisterous classmates. When school ends, she walks home alone, where she is stopped by a bully who taunts her to the point of tears. Vanessa runs home crying, much to the dismay of another girl, who has watched the entire exchange. The girl worries over it all night, until she has an idea over breakfast. On her way to school, she stops by Vanessa’s house and offers to walk together. Vanessa accepts, and they chat as they go, until another friend joins them. Then another, then another, until a whole crowd of children is walking Vanessa to school, and she is protected from the chagrined bully. That day, Vanessa begins getting to know her new friends, finally feeling safe enough to come out of her shell.

“It speaks to the sheer perfection of Kerascoët’s art that words aren’t needed to tell a compelling, touching, and uplifting story; in the absence of text, the bully’s harsh words are still cutting and cruel, the downcast expressions of the two girls speaks volumes, and the reader can practically hear the chatter of friendly, supportive children during the final scenes. The simplicity of the story can speak to readers of any age: hatred and callousness always loses when good people come together to stand against it.”

4. Ruby’s Wish (Shirin Yim Bridges, illus. Sophie Blackall)

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In a big house in China, a long time ago, there lived an enormous family. One of the grandchildren was Ruby, a little girl so called because she loved red and wore it every day. Ruby’s grandfather hired a teacher for the many grandchildren, and while it was unusual for the time, he allowed both the boys and the girls to attend lessons. Ruby loved school, and worked hard every day to master her subjects (harder even than the boys, because she had to spend her free time learning cooking and homemaking as well). One day, Ruby writes a poem for school  that expresses her sadness at being born a girl. Her grandfather is concerned: why does Ruby think that the boys of the home are treated better? Will Ruby have the courage to speak her mind, and tell her grandfather of the opportunities she longs for?

“This was a fantastic story, made all the more moving because it’s true. Ruby is a wonderful role model for little ones: she tells her grandfather of the special treatment the boys get, and expresses a desire to attend university. Moved by her passion, her grandfather secures her entrance to a school, both he and Ruby bucking the gender limitations of the time. It’s a triumphant ending, and teaches an important lesson: both men and women must fight for gender equality.”

5. Goodbye Brings Hello (Dianne White, illus. Daniel Wiseman)

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Changes can be daunting, especially the big ones. But it’s important to remember that when we say goodbye to the old, we say hello to the new. You may be sad that you’ve outgrown your beloved old sweater, but it makes room in your closet for a fresh new winter coat. It may be hard to give away your old tricycle, but it means that you’re ready to take your big girl bike out for a ride. Haircuts, new shoes, flying in a plane from home to go visit grandparents – leaving the old might be scary, but it allows to new into our lives. And after all that changing and growing, you might just be ready for the next step, and the one after that, knowing that for each goodbye, there’s a chance to say hello.

“This is a great way of discussing change with kids, and encourages them to find what’s exciting about what that change may bring. The simple yet adorable illustrations give plenty of examples – culminating in the children’s first day of school – but the lesson and language is broad enough to help little ones through any sort of major or minor life changes they may be dealing with. A cheerful, diverse cast of kids are featured in the art, which keeps things minimal but still manages to express emotion and humor wonderfully. […] A dose of encouraging words for the unsure that can help during difficult transitions, and we loved it.”

That’s our list! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!

The Legend Of Rock, Paper, Scissors (Drew Daywalt)

Hello, friends! Today book is The Legend Of Rock, Paper, Scissors, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex, a stupendously ridiculous origin story for the famous game.

Long ago, there were three great warriors, all hailing from a different land: Rock of the kingdom of Backgarden, Scissors from the village of Junk Drawer, and Paper from the empire of Mom’s Study. Having defeated the mightiest warriors of their own lands, they wander on in the hopes of finding a warrior who can best them and relieve them of their ennui. Then one day, in the mysterious land of Two-Car Garage, the three warriors meet. Who shall be victorious… or, will the mighty three discover that they are evenly matched?

What a fun book! With crazy king-fu film-inspired illustrations and some hilariously dramatic text and dialogue, this gives a fresh and silly look at a staple of play that everyone knows well, injecting it with some fun. It’s a great read-aloud, ESPECIALLY if you can get into the voices and the melodrama of the exchanges between adversaries – there are some jokes that had JJ squealing, and quite a few that gave me a chuckle as well. The ending is somewhat telegraphed, but it honestly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story – if anything, it makes many of the jokes and visuals of the final showdown even punchier. The length is fine, and we had a lot of fun with it. This is a great laugh to share with little bookworms, especially slightly older ones. Baby Bookworm approved!

Top 5: Books About Books

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Hi, friends! Well, it’s the end of April, so it’s time for another Top 5 list! Earlier this month, book lovers everywhere celebrated National Library Week from April 9th through the 15th (we did!), a recognition of public libraries and the important resources and services they provide. In addition, April 2nd was International Children’s Book Day, a celebration of children’s literature worldwide. So we thought we’d wrap up April with a Top 5 of books… about books! We’ve chosen five of our favorite stories that celebrate books, reading and literacy, and the impact they can have on baby bookworms just like JJ.

So, for your enjoyment, here is our list of Top 5 Books About Books:

1. Books Always Everywhere (Jane Blatt)

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A perfect book for beginner bookworms, this book of opposites explores concepts like big and small, stop and start, scary and funny, etc., through the lens of books and reading. Delightful illustrations by Sarah Massini are colorful and expressive for little ones, and hide funny allusions and sly jokes for adults. This is a great twist on the theme of opposites, teaching young readers while encouraging a love of literacy and an appreciation for the great diversity of literature and stories.

2. The Snatchabook (Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty)

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A wonderful story about the power of reading together, The Snatchabook tells the tale of a brave, book-loving bunny named Eliza Brown who is determined to find out who has been stealing the stories of Burrow Down. When she discovers the culprit, a little creature called a Snatchabook, she finds that his motivations are not at all what she had thought, and it’s her love of sharing her favorite books that ends up saving the day. This is a great story: the rhyming text has a great flow and is fun to read aloud, the illustrations highlight both the spooky and joyful elements of the story, and the message about the importance of reading together is just wonderful.

3. How This Book Was Made (Mac Barnett)

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Books that are funny for kids are wonderful, but books that I can laugh along with JJ to are rare, and this is one that had us both rolling. The fractured, exaggerated, and extremely embellished tale of how books go from idea to actuality is filled with refreshing silliness, sly tongue-in-cheek humor, and wonderfully quirky art by Adam Rex. Plus, it’s message is ultimately a wonderful one: for all the many people, processes, and unexpected hurdles that a book has to go through to get published, a book is not a book until someone takes it home, opens it up, and reads.

4. The Highest Mountain Of Books In The World (Rocio Bonilla)

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A gorgeous fable about the power of stories to transport us, The Highest Mountain Of Books In The World tells the story of Lucas, a young boy who dreams of flying despite his numerous failed attempts to do so. One day, his mother places a book in his hands and says, “There are other ways to fly, Lucas.” This book is rich with metaphor in both the story and art, and all of the concepts explored are as well-executed as they are touching: that books can be our wings, that a great story is able to transport a reader into its world, and that fostering a love of reading in a child is an act of love.

5. A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston)

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This drop-dead gorgeous book uses a simple, timeless story and breathtaking mixed-media art to write a love letter to words. A little girl sets sail on her raft of imagination, built by the words she reads, and invites her young friend along. Together they explore mysterious lands, battle fierce creatures, and sleep among the clouds in the sky, transported by the text of the stories they read. The lesson is this: when you are a child of books, the entirety of the universe is right at your fingertips, and your imagination is your key to it. Sam Winston’s jaw-dropping illustrations build magical worlds using the very words of the books the children read, creating both apt metaphor and inviting the reader to closely examine each page. A wonderful story for readers of any age that celebrates the power of words to transport us to new horizons.

So there we are! A Top 5 of books perfect for the littlest readers in your life. Plus, we wanted to add one honorable mention: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce is a beautiful fable about our relationships with books and the value of a life lived in words, and the only reason we didn’t include it on this list is because we’ve used it in a Top 5 in the past (though honestly, it’s hard not to put this book on EVERY list we write; it’s that good). What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book about books you’d like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much, and happy reading!

How This Book Was Made (Mac Barnett)


Hey there, friends! Today, we read How This Book Was Made, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex, an informative yet hilarious story that explains how a book becomes a book.

Every book begins with an idea, including this one. Sometimes, an author can get an idea at the strangest times (arm-wrestling a tiger, for instance, as Barnett claimed to be). From there comes writing, editing, illustrating, printing, shipping, and a lot of silly, unexpected hurdles along the way. But even when the book has been through all of those steps, a book is not a book until someone takes it home, opens it up, and reads.

This book was hilarious! It’s not often I laugh out loud at a children’s book, but this story had me giggling along with JJ multiple times. And while the story is irreverent and often ridiculous, it was also extremely informative about the processes and people that all go into creating a book. The length was fine for baby bookworms, the text was full of quirkiness, excitement and tongue-in-cheek humor that made it a joy to read aloud, and the illustrations are colorful and chock full of character, and really bring the offbeat story to life. We loved this book, and you and your little readers absolutely will as well. Baby Bookworm approved!