Clever Zodiac Signs (Alyona Achilova)

Hello, friends! Our books today are Clever Publishing’s new series Clever Zodiac Signs, illustrated by Alyona Achilova, twelve board books that explore the astrological zodiac.

With each book featuring a different sign of the zodiac, little bookworms can learn about their astrological sign and some of the traits and symbols associated thereof. Bright, friendly illustrations, cutouts, and an interactive wheel help engage little eyes and hands, making these short yet sweet titles fun to read for all ages.

Delightful. Introducing astrology in a casual and fun way, these lighthearted books do a great job of simplifying and condensing zodiac trivia for little readers while still managing to be inclusive and encouraging. The illustrations are filled with a mega-diverse cast of characters in each book, and the spinning-wheel interactive element is a great addition (JJ was a huge fan). The text wisely focuses less on shared traits – though they are briefly touched on – and more on things like each sign’s constellation, symbol, colors, lucky trees and flowers, and ruling planets. Gemstones are also outlined, but this are the books’ main weak point – since signs can straddle months, the gemstone and zodiac sign often don’t line up correctly; JJ’s Cancer book declared her gemstone a ruby, when hers is in fact moonstone, since she was born in late June. It’s a frustrating oversight in an otherwise stellar little series. Each 8-page board book makes for a quick read, and JJ enjoyed exploring her signs as well as those of her family and friends. This would make a great birthday gift for new babies or beginning readers, and we loved them. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Somewhere Over The Rainbow (Mike Byrne)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Somewhere Over The Rainbow, illus. by Mike Byrne, a colorful board book with a musical twist.

Using popular song titles to introduce the names of colors to little bookworms, each spread begins with a block color and the title that name-drops that particular shade (“PINK Moon”, “BROWN-Eyed Girl”, “BLUE Suede Shoes”, etc). The opposite page shows an illustration dominated by the featured hue, starring some cute animals hanging out with or displaying the literal interpretation of the song title.

Colorful but disappointing. When I heard the concept for this one, I was excited, but with the exception of some very cute art, this mostly feels like a missed opportunity. The minimalist text is very limiting, especially for young (or even older) readers who are not familiar with with songs being named. In fact, since the song titles are not even identified by artist, readers would have to search outside the title to match the song to its band if they didn’t recognize it(with varied success; “Green Light” by Beyoncé? By Lorde? By John Legend?). The art is very sweet, but similarly feels detached from the songs, showing only the literal interpretation of the title with few exceptions, the most notable of which is a French poodle and its owner wearing some vaguely punk accoutrements for “White Wedding” (which, incidentally, was our favorite illustration). So while the idea of using pop songs to teach colors is a great one, this just feels like it missed the mark, in a way that does little to differentiate it from any other color-learning book. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ did enjoy the artwork. So while we weren’t blown away by the execution, this one is still Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Hide Seek Stinky Sweet / Happy Grumpy Loved / Wiggle Jump Tickle (Ruth Austin & Kanae Sato)

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Hello, friends! Our books today are a charming trio of board books by Ruth Austin and Kanae Sato: Hide Seek Stinky Sweet, Happy Grumpy Loved, and Wiggle Jump Tickle, books featuring lessons in opposites, feelings, and actions respectively.

Each book introduces us to it’s own cast of characters: a girl and her black cat, a brother and sister and their alligator friend, and a little boy and his oversized baby bird. Using simple, single-word concepts and matching illustrations, readers are shown the difference between happy and sad, asleep and awake, and a leap and a tickle, each concept woven into a simple story told through the art. Bright, vivid colors attract the eye while simple, mostly black-and-white characters allow the actions and emotions to be easily read.

Delightful! We had such a blast with these. Between the wonderful illustrations of basic concepts and the absolutely adorable characters, all three were quick, informative, and wildly fun to read together. JJ was positively enthralled by each book, all of which are built with sturdy hardcovers and water-resistant textured pages. These are a welcome addition to our board book collection, and would be a perfect gift for any budding bookworm. A great little trio to help build communication, and they’re Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

What Is Soft? (Susan Kantor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What Is Soft?, written by Susan Kantor and illustrated by Erin Barker, a charming examination at the ways the world can be soft for the littlest bookworms.

Soft can be a cloud, or a kitten, or a precious little lamb. It can be a whisper, or a feather, or a snuggly woolen sweater. There are lots of ways that things can be soft: quiet, or gentle, or cozy, or light. But the very best soft is when, all snuggled into your soft bed, the ones who love you give you a soft kiss good night.

Darling and sweet. Gently flowing rhyming text encourages a tranquil read-aloud, leading to an affectionate nighttime scene, making this for a great calm-down or bedtime book for little ones. The illustrations are just adorable, and feature a diverse cast of children and adults exploring the softness in the world around them. It’s a tender, quiet little book that creates a snug sense of calm, and we really enjoyed it. The length is just fine for even the smallest of readers, and we can definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a story to help busy bodies wind down. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Where’s Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? (Misti Kenison)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Where’s Your Hat, Abe Lincoln? by Misti Kenison, a board book that introduces notable Civil War-era figures to the smallest bookworms.

Abe Lincoln has lost his hat! He has a very important speech coming up, and he can’t do it without his trusty stovepipe hat. He asks some of his friends to help him look, but they are all very busy: Frederick Douglass is writing a book, Clara Barton is nursing soldiers. Sojourner Truth giving a speech herself, and Thaddeus Stevens is addressing congress. Will Abe find his hat in time to give his speech, and will his friends be there?

Very interesting! Forgiving some anachronistic meetings and timelines – this is a book meant for toddlers, after all, and a more accurate timeline is included in the back – this was a clever way to introduce some big and important names from history to very young readers. The main ideas are extremely simplified, which is occasionally strange (the Gettysburg Address, for instance, was in fact a pretty solemn speech about a gruesome battle and tragic loss of life, which doesn’t quite read here), but mostly does what it intends by introducing names like Harriet Tubman, William Seward, Ulysses S. Grant and so on to little ones. The illustrations are rudimentary, but offer easily visible block colors and simple faces, which can be good for developing visual skills. The length is fine, and JJ seemed mostly to enjoy it. If you’re looking for ways to introduce new topics like American history to your toddler’s library, this could be a fun one. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

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