When I Draw A Panda (Amy June Bates)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When I Draw A Panda by Amy June Bates, a delightful tale of imagination, creativity, and expression.

A girl in white overalls and messy bun introduces herself to the reader as simply as possible: “I love to draw,” she states, gazing at a blank chalkboard wall with excitement. However, she points out that she is often encouraged to draw things “perfectly” or “the right way”. This does not appeal to the young artist, who prefers to create in her own way, such as swirling her chalk in circles until her own unique panda appears. She and the panda both enjoy drawing their own way, by giving their instruments free reign and allowing their imagination to fill in the blanks. So while their style may be a little “too crazy” for some, they don’t mind – not when their art makes them happy.

Adorable. This sweet tale reminds kids (and adults) that when it comes to art, there is no “right way” or “wrong way” to do things. This is both a nice encouragement for blossoming artists to let their creativity rule their efforts, as well as a good reminder to adults that children should be allowed to create in whatever way suits them personally. Bates’s charming illustrations and cheerfully irreverent text are a great match; the girl and her panda are both immediately lovable, and their imaginative illustrations are very entertaining; our favorite page gives a quick and fun tip for drawing dragons that we couldn’t wait to try out. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ loved it. A lovely ode to imagination, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead (Evan Turk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead by Evan Turk.

As a young girl, Marietta longed to learn the art of glass-blowing, her father’s trade and one considered exclusive to men. Yet despite her brothers’ teasing, her father was supportive and patient, and Marietta bravely faced the hot and exhausting work of learning how to craft the beautiful glass. Visiting a wealthy patron with her father, she views a rare piece of Roman millefiori glass, a technique lost centuries earlier. Years later, she is reflecting on her childhood experiences with her father and the art he shared with her, and she attempts to recreate the intricate glass she once saw, inventing the rosetta bead, which would go on to become a valuable global trade of the Renaissance era.

Fascinating. I had never heard of Marietta or the history of the rosetta bead before, and felt incredibly enlightened to hear about such an incredibly influential female artist. Particularly appreciated is the focus on Marietta’s courage in learning glasswork, not only because it was not considered a suitable trade for women at the time, but because of the physical fortitude and skill it took to master. The artwork – inspired by the subject’s time and the glasswork she created – is warm and its subjects compelling, though the soft focus of the glassworks make it difficult to appreciate the details that made them so famous. Also, the length is best for patient bookworms; JJ started getting the wiggles near the end. Yet this is a fascinating story to be sure, especially for lovers of art and women’s history; Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Lost For Words (Natalie Russell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lost For Words by Natalie Russell, an adorable tale about the talents that make us special.

Tapir is flummoxed. He has a brand new notebook with fresh blank pages and a new set of sharpened pencils at the ready. Yet when he sets pencil to paper, he cannot think of a single thing to put down; his brain feels as empty as the page. His friends aren’t having any trouble: Giraffe has composed a poetic ode to his favorite tree; Hippo, a thrilling story about a brave (and handsome) hippo; Flamingo, beautiful song about the bright, warm sun. Tapir is proud of his friends, yet wishes he could figure out how to express himself as well. Retreating to a hill, he looks out over the place and creatures he loves, and reflects… and suddenly, he knows just how to express the feelings within.

Lovely. This gentle, sweet tale covers some pretty classic kidlit subject matter: individual talents and skill, artistic block, frustration, and friendship. The lovely ending sees Tapir not only finding his talent, but using it to show appreciation for the ones he cares about, dovetailing the themes smoothly and with considerable warmth. The art manages to create the cuddliest-looking creatures out of simple lines and colors; JJ was especially fascinated by Tapir, an animal who rarely gets a starring role in kidlit. The length is perfect for a short storytime, and we both loved it. A loveable cast and an encouraging tale, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bob Ross: My First Book of Colors (Robb Pearlman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bob Ross: My First Book of Colors, written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Bob Ross, a look at the thirteen signature paint colors of the beloved artist.

“This is your world,” the text begins over a lakeside mountain vista, immediately capturing the soothing timbre and tone of iconic artist Bob Ross. The narrator describes each color – accompanied by a Bob Ross original that showcases it – as though leading the reader through a painting lesson. Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue – each of the thirteen paint colors that Ross favored is brought to life through his work, described with familiar phrases such as “happy little” tree trunks and “it’s just that easy”. After all, this is your world, and you can make it anything you want.

Peaceful and sweet. A love letter to Ross and the fans who grew up with him, a majority of the references may fly over the heads of younger readers. However, for those parents and caregivers who remember Ross so fondly, it’s easy to see how the narration and tone of the book capture his voice and style: soothing, inspiring, and comforting. So while younger readers may not get the same hit of nostalgia, they can still enjoy the lovely colors and serene nature scenes. JJ’s never seen a Bob Ross episode in her life, but she very much enjoyed the artwork and the quietude of the text. The length is perfect for a short storytime, especially for young nature and art lovers. A sweet title that serves as a fine tribute to Ross and his work. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment (Parker Curry & Jessica Curry)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment, written by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry, and illustrated by Brittany Jackson.

One rainy day, Parker’s mom suggests that they take a trip to the museum. Along with her little sister Ava, her best friend Gia, and Gia’s mom, the group spends a few hours looking at the beautiful art. The imaginations of the three young girls allows the art to come alive, leaping from the canvas in games of make-believe. Just as they are about to leave, Parker notices a portrait she’s never seen before: a beautiful black woman in a vibrant gown. She has warm eyes that remind Parker of all the precious women in her life, and even of herself. Parker is mesmerized by the painting – who is this woman? A queen? Her mom explains that the woman is Michelle Obama, an accomplished lawyer, activist, writer, leader, mother, First Lady and more. Parker marvels at this, and just as the other portraits had came alive, so does this one – with the endless possibilities open to her, and all that she can achieve… all with a little inspiration.

Fantastic. Based on the viral photos of the real-life Parker’s reaction to Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama, the coauthors do a phenomenal job of not only capturing this adorable moment, but illustrating exactly why it was so much more than only that. More than a cute anecdote, the story explores the importance of representation and how it can inspire and motivate young people in incomparable ways. The buildup of the girls imagining paintings to life is charming and fun, and dovetails perfectly when Parker, seeing Obama and hearing of all her achievements (perfectly illustrated on a spread that literally surrounds Parker in titles and adjectives the former First Lady has embodied), is inspired to view herself capable of achieving all of her own goals. Jackson’s artwork has the magic of a modern fairy tale, featuring wide-eyed, playful characters and stunning interpretations of the National Portrait gallery and the works housed within. The length is perfect, and JJ and I loved it. A lovely tale that captures a moment, cementing it for future dreamers. Baby Bookworm approved!

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