Beautifully Me (Nabela Noor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the Beautifully Me, written by Nabela Noor and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, a fantastic story about body positivity and what it means to be beautiful.

As young Zubi prepares for her first day of school, she greets the audience with confidence and exuberance. She dons a fabulous outfit that expresses her Bangladeshi culture and makes her feel unique and beautiful. But when she runs to her parents to show them her stylish look, Zubi overhears her mother complaining about her waistline. Then she finds that her slim sister Naya is dieting to “look pretty” for a school dance. Her father also bemoans his weight gain, and despite making new friends at school, she overhears one classmate bullying another by calling them fat. Full-figured Zubi is confused and distraught – does she have to be skinny to be beautiful? Announcing at dinner that she is now on a diet, her family is shocked. And when they realize that their offhand comments have damaged Zubi’s self-worth, they set about fixing things, for Zubi and for themselves.

In a word, BEAUTIFUL. This utterly unique take on body positivity not only emphasizes to kids the timeless message that beauty comes in more than one size and shape, but also deftly manages to tackle the internalized fatphobia that permeates most young adult and adult cultures. The fact that it shows how seemingly “harmless” comments by adults can reinforce these toxic ideas about body types to children is incredible, and makes this a teaching opportunity for readers of all ages. Combine these much-needed messages with gorgeous art that celebrates Zubi’s family’s Asian and Muslim culture and diversity at her school (one character uses they/them pronouns, another uses a wheelchair, a third wears a patka), all with warmth, energy, and yes, beauty. The length is great for elementary and older kids, and JJ and I absolutely loved it. A stunning reminder to embrace all that makes us beautiful, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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

My Hair Is A Garden (Cozbi A. Cabrera)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Hair Is A Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera, a lovely and empowering ode to black hair.

Mackenzie has always loved Miss Tillie’s home – a sanctuary as warm and inviting as the woman who inhabits it. So when Mack is humiliated once again for her short, unruly hair, she runs to Miss Tillie for a cry. Mack’s hair has always been especially hard to style – even her own mother doesn’t know what to do with it. Miss Tillie listens sagely, then agrees to teach Mack how to care for her hair. Excited, Mack asks if her hair will one day look like Miss Tillie’s smooth, elaborate style. But using her lush and lovingly-maintained garden as a metaphor, Tillie shows Mack that the style of the hair is not what matters, but that her hair is healthy, well cared-for and, most importantly, loved.

Absolutely. Fantastic. As many women of color can attest, the struggle of having “good hair” – and the social and body-image connotations therewith – starts early on. It’s what makes a book like this so vital: not only does Cabrera give practical tips on caring for black hair (including instructions and recipes in the backmatter), but also provides a affirming encouragement for young girls of color to love and take pride in their hair. This tone is further explored in the gorgeous illustrations that give rich, emotional connections to the text: a vignette of a boy dumping sand in Mack’s hair is heartbreaking, inside covers depicting girls of various skintones and hairstyles are heartwarming, and the cover/inner illustration of Mack’s hair growing healthy, natural, and strong is spellbinding. The length is great and JJ really enjoyed it. A beautiful read for any little bookworm, but a must-read for young girls of color, who will feel seen and celebrated. Baby Bookworm approved!

I Am Enough (Grace Byers)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the wonderfully empowering I Am Enough, written by Grace Byers and illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo, a girl-power celebration for all shapes, sizes, and skin tones.

“Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” the rhyming text begins, and each page that follows offers an affirmation of all the strength, talent, and promise that young girls have within them. While praising their inherent strengths and virtues, the text also encourages girls to show kindness, to be fighters, and to accept their fellow female for who she is, and embrace all the unique qualities that make her that way. And no matter what, to know that no matter what the world expects of her or tells her she must be, she needs only to remind herself of the truth: “I am enough.”

Oh, but we do love a great girl-power book, and this one is PHENOMENAL. The text does a great job of encouraging girls to embrace who they are, both physically and personally; to support other women; to not be afraid of their strength or their empathy. The illustrations then bring the message to another level; there are girls of every color, every build, every ability, girls with hijabs, girls in wheelchairs – an absolute rainbow of young women working together, showing each other as friends and supporters. The one thing often missing from female-empowerment kidlit is diversity, but not here, and there IS a girl that looks like your little bookworm in this book. The length was great, and JJ adored it. This is one that should be on every girl’s shelf, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Picture Day (Frances F. Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Picture Day by Frances F. Jones, a wonderful story about self-image and being proud of what makes you unique.

Cricket is a little girl with a big head of hair, lovely curls that she enjoys wearing in different ways. She likes when her curls are in big pigtails, or tightly braided with beads at the end, under a stylish hat, or just flowing free. As Cricket prepares for her school’s picture day, she takes time to pick out the perfect outfit – but what is the perfect way to wear her curls? Fortunately, her mom comes to the rescue, fixing Cricket’s curls into a fierce hairdo that will look perfect in her school photo.

This one is self-published, so it’s expectedly a little rough around the edges, especially where design is concerned. The illustrations are well-drawn in a cute style, but poorly colored in a way that is often distracting. The curlicue font, though a clever nod to the curl-positive theme of the story, makes reading the text difficult at times. However, the story is absolutely lovely – it’s a tale of a girl who loves the way she looks without question and takes pride in her ethnic hair, an important message for little ones of color who are bombarded with messages that encourage the opposite. The length is fine, and overall JJ enjoyed it, so it’s very easy to overlook its shortcomings. A rough aesthetic, but a great story about body/ethnic positivity that sticks the landing, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Tell Me A Tattoo Story (Alison McGhee)

13886875_1782937335286750_4932636270547117295_n

Summer Reading Day 58: Today’s book was Tell Me A Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee, and if you are a parent or parents who have tattoos, consider picking this one up. This is one of the very few children’s books I’ve ever seen that normalizes tattoos, much less celebrates them.

In the story, a little boy asks his father to tell him the stories of each of his tattoos, even though he’s heard them many times before. His dad explains each tattoo and who or what it signifies: his parents, the day he met the boy’s mother, his military services, etc. I liked this in particular, as it is a great way to explain to children that tattoos often have special significance to the wearer. The length is just about perfect for a baby bookworm, but the illustrations by Eliza Wheeler are intricate and detailed enough to appeal to older kids as well. JJ liked it, so all in all, this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

Be sure to subscribe to get your daily book review from the Baby Bookworm! Good night, everyone!