Brave (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Brave, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, the second book of the pair’s trio of affirming kidlit.

Being brave is many things: having a courageous heart, leading the way, fighting the toughest battles. Brave kids have super-strength, they stand for justice, and they can save the world. But while these terms may sound lofty, they can be found in everyday actions, and in the challenges everyday kids overcome. Being brave doesn’t need to be big or loud – it can simply be when we take the time to steel ourselves and do the right thing.

Lovely. Fans of McAnulty’s and Lew-Vriethoff’s series – which also includes Beautiful and Love – will be familiar with the book’s formula: while the language is grandiose, the actions and situations depicted in the illustrations are simple, everyday acts of courage. “Super-strength” becomes a little girl facing off against a chess master in front of a rapt audience; “fighting the toughest battles” shows a young friend supporting another as they undergo cancer treatment; “stand for justice” features a boy with a crutch standing up for a bullied classmate, and so on. The art is also an opportunity to feature a welcome diversity of characters in a rainbow of skintones, builds, religious garb, and ability, showing that heroes come in every shape and size. It’s a great message for little ones, and told in a way that both reassures and encourages. The length is great, and JJ enjoyed the art immensely. An empowering book in a wonderful series, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!


If Animals Went To School (Ann Whitford Paul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Animals Went To School, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker, fourth in the pair’s series of animal what-ifs.

If animals went to school, Beaver would be nervous: “I don’t want to go!” he protests to his father, shuff-shuffling along as Kangaroo bounds by to be the first inside. As Beaver’s first day commences, the other animals in his class go about their activities, from stacking blocks, practicing letters, identifying shapes, sing-a-longs, and storytime, all under the watchful eye of Ms. Cheetah. As the day unfolds, Beaver begins to grow more comfortable with his friends, even joining in their play and learning. At last, when Papa comes to pick him up again, he protests once more: “I don’t want to go,” he whines, stuff-shuffling all the way home.

Very cute. The storyline is that of classic first-day-of-school jitters, with the menagerie of creatures providing gentle laughs and a celebration of all the things that make school fun for little learners. And while the animals’ characteristics are mostly anthropomorphized, there are a few nods to their beastly sides, such as goat chomping down on a book during reading time. The illustrations are light, colorful, and feature an adorable cast of cuddly young animals. The length is fine, and JJ had plenty of giggles for the animals’ antics. Overall, this one was very sweet, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

When Pencil Met Eraser (Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos, Jr.)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When Pencil Met Eraser, written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and illustrated by Germán Blanco.

There once was a pencil who loved to draw. His art was bold, well-shaded, and full of intricate detail. There was also once an eraser; he loved to create art as well, but through the use of negative space. Much to Pencil’s consternation, as he creates dark, brooding, and congested scenes, Eraser hops in to add levity and opportunities for lightness: a view of the sky in a crowded city, a path through a thick meadow of wildflowers, or stars in a forest sky. Pencil is unimpressed by his compatriot’s efforts, preferring to work alone. However, as he challenges Eraser’s creativity in an effort to drive him away, he begins to see the beauty and possibility in their teamwork… and in making a new friend.

Lovely! The story is a simple one that encourages working together and appreciating the talents of others, but there’s also a nice lesson in art and creative use of negative space hidden within. The characters are adorable, particularly Eraser’s unflappable cheerfulness, and the pencil artwork is quite stunning, providing loads of visual interest. The clever twist ending is also a treat, and drives home the importance and value of a diversity of talent when tackling projects. The length is great, and JJ loved the artwork and chipper dialogue. We liked this one a lot – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Not So Quiet Library (Zachariah OHora)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariah OHora, a delightfully offbeat tale about the joys of libraries and books.

In the home of brothers Theodore (a little boy) and Oskar (a bear), Saturdays are the best day of the week. After all, Dad starts the day by bringing them to the bakery for fresh donuts, and then it’s off to the library! Theodore and Oskar head straight for the kid’s section (Dad heads straight for the “Nap” section), and happily settle in for some quality storytime. That is until a five-headed monster named Seymour/Chuck/Winston/Pat/Bob interrupts by making a racket. And doing what, you ask? Why, EATING BOOKS! Unfortunately, they find the taste rather displeasing, even after loading the texts with condiments. When Theodore explains that books are for reading and not eating, the cranky monster decides that they will eat the brothers instead! It’s going to take some quick thinking and some leftover donuts to get out of this one! Or perhaps a storytime may do the trick instead…

Silly, quirky fun. OHora has a knack for creating stories that are filled with simple, original plots and the type of oddball humor that kids love. This tale is no different, somehow managing to capture the joy of spending a quiet day at the library in a story about monster(s) who pour sprinkles and mustard on books to improve their taste. And not to worry, SeChWiPaBo (my own abbreviation) does come to realize their bad manners(they blame low blood sugar), and become ardent library helpers and new friends. OHora’s signature block-color and heavy-lined illustrations are a treat as always, the length is fine, and JJ had plenty of giggles throughout. A treat, and Baby Bookworm approved!

Dress Like A Girl (Patricia Toht)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dress Like A Girl, written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean, a lovely lesson in self-expression and possibility.

As a group of friends gather for a sleepover, the text notes that when it comes to dressing like a girl, there are lots of rules: wearing white in the summer, keeping patterns subtle, and how to wear elegant black gowns. However, as the girls begin to pull out their costumes and play, the narrator encourages us to interpret these rules in new ways. After all, astronauts look great in white; jungle explorers can camouflage themselves with their subtle patterns, and you know who loves a flowing black robe? Orchestra conductors and judges, of course! And when it comes down to it, if the rules aren’t for you, well, sometimes rules are made to be broken. After all, there are plenty of ways to dress like a girl.

Marvelous. Any girl will tell you that when it comes to women’s fashion, the “rules” can be tough to navigate, so it’s nice that the ultimate message of the book it that girls should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable, creative, and like themselves. What makes this so special is the lead-up, and the clever juxtaposition between standard fashion rules and the limitless range of professions that girls can pursue. It reminds little ones that it’s okay for girls to have aspirations other than ballerinas or princesses (though those are fine too!). The art is splendid, featuring a diverse cast whose expressions and movements capture the joys of childhood and female friendship. The length is perfect, and JJ and I loved it. A great way to show readers that, be it in fashion or their future, girls should never be put in a box. Baby Bookworm approved!