Mommy’s Khimar (Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mommy’s Khimar, written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn, a lovely story of family and love.

A little girl watches her mother closely as the woman affixes her khimar – a flowing scarf that covers her head and hair – with fascination. Her mommy has a whole closet of khimars in seemingly every color and pattern in the rainbow – including the girl’s favorite color, yellow. The girl tries on the too-large scarf and revels in the way it makes her feel: like a queen, a shining star, a nurturing mama bird, and a mighty superhero. Her mother helps her put it on properly, and the girl is comforted by the familiar scent of her mother’s beauty products on the garment. At mosque, her Arabic teacher calls it a “hijab”, and many of the other ladies, also in khimars, compliment her look. When her Christian grandmother stops by to visit after Sunday service, she sweeps the girl up in a bright hug and proclaims “Sweet Jesus!”. At the end of the day, her mother helps her remove the headpiece, and the girl lays down to bed, dreaming of a cozy nest of yellow, and her mother’s warm embrace.

Lovely. As much a celebration of hijabi pride, this tender story is about the connection between a mother and daughter that is relatable across cultures; what little girl didn’t try on her mommy’s coat or shoes or necklaces and feel a just a bit closer to her? But it is a celebration of the khimar as well, and dispels the myth that these headscarfs are symbols of oppression rather than culture or faith; wearing the khimar helps the girl feel empowered, beautiful, and free, rather than the opposite. With the addition of the beautiful, colorful illustrations, these elements fold together beautifully to tell a story that is a gift of representation for Muslim families and a touching story of mother and daughter for readers of any faith. The length was great, JJ loved it, and this one is emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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Computer Decoder: Dorothy Vaughn, Computer Scientist (Andi Diehn)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Computer Decoder: Dorothy Vaughn, Computer Scientist, written by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Katie Mazeika, a lovely portrait of the mathematician and computer expert.

Dorothy grew up in a time when it was unusual for any woman to go to college, much less an African-American woman; yet this never stopped Dorothy, who believed in the power of her intellect and the value of hard work. After graduating, she taught math in segregated school, but worried that her meager salary would not be able to provide for her children to attend college one day as she did. So when NASA (then Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory) advertised a need for human computers – people, mostly women, who solved complex mathematical equations for the mostly male engineers – Dorothy applied, and was hired. Through her dedication and work, Dorothy rose to a supervisory role and fought to end the segregation of the computer workforce at Langley. When the first mechanical computer was installed at NASA, Dorothy saw the future of her and her subordinates’ career, and taught herself, then others, how to read and write computer code, keeping their knowledge base up to date with the tech and becoming a computer expert in the process.

Inspiring. Vaughn, who was one of the women profiled in the Hidden Figures book and movie, was known for her phenomenal intellect, but also her forward thinking and dedication to her employees, and this book does a nice job of introducing those elements of her story. It’s not as in depth as some of the other recent materials about the NASA computers are, but it does focus specifically on Vaughn and her achievements, which sets it apart. The illustrations are colorful, if a little flat in the energy and expressions of the characters. There are some great materials in the backmatter, however, including a few inspiring quotes from Dorothy and her contemporaries of the time. The length is fine for even little bookworms, and JJ enjoyed it. So while this one has a few weak areas, there’s still a lot to love – primarily, the story of a brilliant and brave black female pioneer in STEM – 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.)

In The City (Dominika Lipniewska)

Hello, friends! Our book today In The City by Dominika Lipniewska, a colorful look at all the things a major city has to offer.

The city (unnamed and geographically ambiguous) wakes slowly, but soon begins to positively hum with life. Each spread explores a different aspect of city life – people, professions, vehicles, noises, foods, buildings, animals, etc. – and the myriad of diversity found therein. Little readers can interact with the text, which questions which sound in a page of city noises might be the loudest (the helicopter? the jackhammer?) or who might still be awake in a city once everyone else goes to sleep (such as the various denizens of a hospital). When the sun sets then rises again, the city’s day begins once more, a beautiful rainbow of life all living together in one place.

Simple yet sweet. Done in a distinctly Scandinavian modern art style, the colorful, abstract characters and settings are full of charm and visual interest without being overwhelming for little eyes. The simple, straightforward text keeps the story light and brisk while educating and encouraging reader participation. The length was fine, and JJ loved pointing out all the elements of each illustration, such as animals at the zoo or different foods on a table. A lovely trip to the city for beginner bookworms, and we enjoyed 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.)

We Toot! (Ashley Wheelock & Arwen Evans)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We Toot!, written by Ashley Wheelock and Arwen Evans, and illustrated by Sandie Sonke, a wonderfully empowering tale… about farting.

The sleepover has been a major hit: after playing games, singing songs, eating treats, and a good night’s sleep, the girls all wake up smiling – that is, until a loud sound cuts through the group, and a certain… pungent odor is smelled. The girls guess at what the sound and smell might be (an elephant? broccoli? a skunk?) until one girl exclaims the obvious: it was a fart. Another girl is scandalized – girls shouldn’t fart! It’s not ladylike or proper! But a third, redheaded girl laughs at this, claiming the gas as her own, and sets her friends straight: farting is completely natural, and nothing to be ashamed of. The girl points out that our bodies make lots of different sounds and smells, just like everyone else’s. In solidarity, the other girls admit that they all fart, burp, and have tummy rumbles as well! The redhead encourages her friends (and the reader) to love the body they have “just because”.

Silly and marvelous. Underneath a delightfully whimsical story that pokes fun at the stinky smells and funny sounds of passing gas lies an important message about the ridiculous standards girls and women are held to, down to their unavoidable natural functions. The message joyfully dispels the myth that there’s something wrong about girls’ bodies behaving like anyone else’s, and gives little readers permission to own their bodies (and bodily functions) with pride and a healthy sense of humor. It elevates a simple book about farting – a timeless element of kid humor – into an empowering feminist parable, and was a blast (har-har) to read. JJ loved the repeated catchphrase of “We/I Toot!” And the bright, carefree illustrations. The length is perfect, and we definitely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Operation Photobomb (Tara Luebbe & Becky Cattie)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Operation Photobomb, written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, and illustrated by Matthew Rivera, a clever tale of consideration.

Whenever a tour group comes through Chameleon and Monkey’s neck of the jungle, it means one thing: new toys! Monkey is especially taken with his find, a Polaroid camera (lifted from an unsuspecting tourist’s backpack). He quickly develops his skill and passion for photography, taking pictures of all his jungle friends – the colorful birds, the powerful big cats, the Capybaras’ family portrait, baby Sloth’s newborn portrait, Grandpa Macaw’s 75th birthday party, etc. But Chameleon, feeling left out, has discovered a new hobby of his own – photobombing! Jumping in and stealing focus from everyone’s photo last minute is a great amusement to him, but makes his friends increasingly angry. How can the other animals show Chameleon how inconsiderate his actions are?

What a clever little tale! Using a classic “taste of one’s own medicine” story of considering others’ feelings, the authors deftly weave in both a modern theme and some adorable animal antics. The localized wildlife of a specific habitat – a South American rainforest – provides an additional educational opportunity. The story is just right in tone and pacing, and the ending is a delightful twist that brings things full circle. Rivera’s charming illustrations are colorful and energetic, and little ones will have fun searching for Chameleon throughout the photos, as well as his silent tree frog pal throughout the story itself. JJ and I both had a blast with this one, and we highly recommend 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.)