Hey Grandude! (Paul McCartney)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hey Grandude!, written by Paul McCartney (yes, THAT one) and illustrated by Kathryn Durst, a playful adventure tale with a magical twist.

On a dreary, humdrum day, Lucy, Tom, Em, and Bob are bored and listless. That is, until their grandpa – affectionately called “Grandude” – appears with a handful of postcards and a compass. Inviting his “Chillers” (grandkids) along for an adventure, Grandude is able to use the compass to whisk all five of them away to a sunny tropical beach, to play and sun the day away by the shore. That is, until an invasion of punchy crabs appears. Staying positive, Grandude uses postcard-and-compass to transport them to a dusty cowboy frontier, but it’s not long until their adventure there is interrupted as well! Third time’s the charm? Or perhaps not! No matter though – Grandude is there to get the kids back home safely and get them settled in for bed after a day of adventure and peril… before taking a well-earned rest himself.

Strange yet sweet. The legendary McCartney’s first children’s book hits the mark in a lot of ways: the series of misadventures are entertaining for little ones, and the gentle care of Grandude towards his Chillers at the end will warm adult hearts. A few of the jokes fall flat, but the dialogue and text is paced well and fun to read. The illustrations are especially standout, including the nice choice to make the family members racially diverse; a small detail, but a wonderfully welcome one. The action scenes are particularly well-done, managing to be exciting and compelling without veering scary. The length is okay; better for slightly more patient bookworms, but not overly long. JJ enjoyed this one, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Along The Tapajós (Fernando Vilela)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Along The Tapajós by Fernando Vilela, translated by Daniel Hahn, a riveting tale of riverside life in the Amazon.

Cauã, our narrator, and his little sister Inaê wake in their stilt home on the Tapajós River in Brazil, one of the largest in the Amazon rainforest. They eat breakfast with their parents, then head to school by motorboat. Along the way, they “play” with the alligators and remark on a priest traveling to town to perform many weddings in a single weekend. At school, however, the weather begins to turn dark and stormy, and it’s clear that the yearly rains have arrived. The siblings race home to help their parents pack up everything in their home and move it to their boat; they will head to a safer part of the river for the season, where the entire village will construct temporary shelter and continue their lives. But once they arrive and set up their new home, Inaê makes a heartbreaking discovery: in the commotion, the family’s pet tortoise Titi has been left behind! She pleads with her parents to go back, but they say it is not possible. Unwilling to leave Titi to the mercy of the river, Cauã and Inaê come up with a rescue plan – but it will pit them against great dangers, the like of which they’ve never faced before…

Fascinating! Taking a peek into a culture that little (or big) readers may not be familiar with, this tale of life on the river takes a rather gripping turn into an adventure that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a clever tactic that allows the reader to learn and connect with Cauã and Inaê, rather than simply observing their life in a clinical way. The sequences at the end during Titi’s rescue may be a little intense for the youngest readers, but older kids will be riveted (JJ and I certainly were). The artwork, which blends classic illustration with hints of traditional South American art, is simply beautiful; spreads showing the torrential downpours, friendly porpoises, and the reflections of flooded structures against still waters transport the reader to this unique part of the world. The length is good, and we loved it – 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.)

Deep Underwater (Irene Luxbacher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deep Underwater by Irene Luxbacher, a dreamy and surreal adventure to the ocean floor.

A young girl named Sophia invites the reader along as she dives down deep into the sea. She knows all the ocean’s secrets, and she’s glad to share them. Down into the dark, where bubbles swirl and creatures swim and sunken ships hide their treasure. There’s all that and more: mysterious shapes and colors, beings and possibilities. It seems almost to be the stuff of dreams, and perhaps it is…

Unique and lovely. The first thing that strikes me is the unusual color scheme – while many undersea books opt for bright blues and whitish sand, this one paints its setting in the deep blue-greens and shadows of the actual ocean, a far more natural and realistic choice. This works perfectly for the elements of fantasy to come, providing a more familiar background to te mixed-media imaginings of first real marine life, then more odd and otherworldly lifeforms and scenes as the story progresses. The final page gives a lovely bit of context for the preceding adventures in a heartwarming illustration. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A weird and beautiful adventure that celebrates curiousity, courage, and imagination. Baby Bookworm approved!

Jacob’s Toys (Claudia Woods)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jacob’s Toys by Claudia Woods, the tale of six cuddly toys going on a backyard adventure.

Jake decides that since he is a big boy now, he no longer needs his stuffed animals to play with. His mother agrees, promising to give the toys a wash then find them a new home. Put in the spin cycle then hung out to dry on a line, the six friends – Ted and Dupree, Tessa Turtle, Poncho and Mousy Dundee, and tiny reindeer Paul – contemplate their uncertain future. Just then, a huge storm kicks up, separating little Paul from the group. Unwilling to lose their friend, the group manages to follow Paul, kicking off a thrilling sequences of perils, cat chases, flying umbrellas and more. Where will their journey lead them? To a new home… or perhaps to a surprisingly familiar friend?

Very cute. Rhyming text leads the reader through a gentle yet engaging adventure story, featuring circumstances that are dire enough to be exciting without being truly scary. Quirky mixed-media illustrations are colorful and unique, and make each of the fluffy friends quite endearing. The ending is a bit abrupt, but a seek-and-find in the backmatter make rereading a treat. Even the rhyme scheme and repeating refrain are fun to read aloud, though American readers may puzzle at why “weather” and “umbrella” are paired as rhyming words (the book hails from Australia). The length was great, and JJ enjoyed it – overall, a fun romp. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Ocean Meets Sky (The Fan Brothers)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers, a stunning seafaring fantasy about family, loss, and love.

Finn lives by the sea, and the sea lives by him. He loves the ocean, a love he once shared with his grandpa; he would have been 90 today. In honor of his grandpa, he has built a ship from scraps and flotsam – he hopes to one day take it on a voyage of his own, to find the mythical place his grandfather once spoke of, a place where ocean meets sky. After nodding off in his boat, he awakes to find that he has been swept out to sea – the journey has begun! He meets a giant, beautiful golden fish who acts as his guide, and together they cross vast oceans and see many wondrous things. At last, they find it: the place where ocean meets sky, where ships and whales float through the air with zeppelins and balloons. The golden fish swims up into the moon, and Finn sees the kind face of his grandpa smiling down on him. As he hears his mother calling for him, he and his boat are swept back to their spot on the shore, where Finn follows his mother in for a dinner of dumplings – his grandpa’s favorite.

Breathtaking yet touching and intimate. Once again, the Fan Brothers have created a detailed world straight out of a child’s imagination, with sights, landscapes, and creatures that fascinate and amuse. Every page is beautiful and inviting, and inspires the reader to share Finn’s wanderlust. The story is soft and gentle, but filled with meaning, working in concert with the art to explore themes of remembrance, family, and even Chinese culture. The length is great, and JJ and I both adored it. A beautiful and meaningful voyage across the sea and sky, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!