Between the Lines (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Between the Lines by Lindsay Ward, a story about the importance of community.

In a vibrant, diverse city neighborhood, the young boy who serves as narrator remembers when the colors were swept away from their street. They began fading slowly; then, after a violent storm one night, the neighborhood awoke the next morning to find that all the color had washed away entirely, and a great rift in the street had divided it right through the center. Time passes, and the colors never return. The boys dreams of them, but they begin to fade even from his memories and dreams. Finally, the boy decides something must be done – and if no one else will do it, he’ll just have to do it himself.

Slightly vague but still beautiful. The metaphors that the absent colors represent may be a little dense for younger readers; it took me some pondering to arrive at what I think the fading/reappearing colors and the rift were supposed to represent, and I’m still not 100% sure. However, the greater themes of togetherness and teamwork are more readily understood, and still create a stirring story about how initiative and working together can heal problems within communities. The artwork shines, using the literal lack of color to great effect; for instance, a spread where the boy dreams of color after he (and the reader) have been deprived of it for so long is a powerful jolt. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the intricate art and creative layouts, as well as the story’s message. This one is definitely worth the read; it may require a little consideration afterwards, but it’s a subject worth considering. 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.)

Baby Monster (Andrea Pfeiffer & Erin Barker)

Hello, friends! Spooky season has officially begun! To celebrate, we’ll be reviewing a spoooooky book every Friday for the month of October. First up: Baby Monster by Andrea Pfeiffer and Erin Barker, a hilarious spin on new parenthood.

On a dark and stormy night, a scientist couple decides that their next experiment should be the creation of a monster – a baby monster, complete with green scaly skin and a long pointy tail. They are successful in their endeavor, and briefly celebrate before quickly realizing the responsibility of having a baby monster: feedings, stinky diapers, overtired tantrums, and massive messes. Yet even as worn out and frazzled as they become, they find themselves enamored of their little monster, especially while cuddling and playing. And when they realize that, despite the stress, their dear little monster has made them a family, they ponder if they should move on the next experiment: a sibling.

Clever and cute. This delightful twist on the classic tale of “bringing home baby” is filled with outrageous comedy that will appeal to both younger readers and their adult caregivers, especially those who remember bringing home their own monster for the first time. The ink-and-watercolor-style illustrations fit the tone of the story perfectly; in particular, the
expressive main characters, from the positively adorable reptilian monster baby to the increasingly exhausted/satisfied parents, even to their possibly Frankenweenie-inspired pet dog, who provides one of the book’s sweetest jokes. There are two times that the phrase “make” is used to reference a baby rather than “have”; it’s not noticeable to young readers, but reading it as an adult elicited a slightly uncomfortable laugh, but that’s a minor quibble. The length is perfect for a storytime, the rhyming text is fun to read aloud, and JJ had a great time with it. This was a fun treat to start out spooky season, and we loved 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.)

The Happy Book: Understanding Your Feelings & The Calm Book: Understanding Your Busy Brain (Alex Allan & Anne Wilson)

Hello, friends! Our books today are The Happy Book: Understanding Your Feelings and The Calm Book: Understanding Your Busy Brain, by Alex Allan and Anne Wilson, two books to help young bookworms understand and manage their emotions.

Developed in consultation with child therapist Sarah Davis, both books break down major emotions, what can cause them, and ways to deal with them into child-friendly language. In The Happy Book, happiness, anger, fear, and sadness are explained not only in abstract terms, but also in terms of the biological science that causes them. Readers are given tips to deal with their big feelings in healthy ways. This lesson continues in The Calm Book, in which readers are given a crash course in how our brains affect our emotions, and tips on how to calm our brains through mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, and even a few therapeutic crafts like homemade slime and glitter jars.

A novel approach to dealing with big feelings. Rather than primer-style books on emotions, these more comprehensive titles aim to help kids understand and process their feelings in healthy ways, and they do a great job of it. Both books assure that feelings, even negative ones, are normal, and give simple yet effective tips to allow little ones to have agency over their own emotions. Both books handle their subjects nicely, with Happy covering a broader range of emotions, and Calm focusing on ways to decompress anxiety and stress. By taking the reader’s feelings seriously, it gives kids confirmation that their emotions and feelings are valid. Expressive, colorful illustrations featuring a cast of entertaining animals and kids give plenty of visual interest and sets the mood for each emotion and activity nicely. The length of these make them best for elementary-age readers and older, and JJ enjoyed the fun illustrations and expressive text. A unique way to help kids explore their emotions, and we liked 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.)

Dangerous Jane: The Life and Times of Jane Addams, Crusader for Peace (Suzanne Slade)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dangerous Jane: The Life and Times of Jane Addams, Crusader for Peace, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Alice Ratterree.

As a child, Jane had her fair share of sadness and pain; after losing her mother at age 2, she contracted spinal tuberculosis at age 4, leaving her with a twisted spine. Isolated from other children, she sought solace in books and her father’s love, and it was on a business trip with him that she first noted the dire conditions of the poor communities near her home. Resolving to dedicate her adulthood to helping those in need, Jane travelled the world, studying the conditions of those in poverty and the systems created to assist them. Returning home to Chicago, she and Ellen Starr founded Hull House, a settlement house that assisted the poor with education, childcare, and work. From there, Jane would turn her efforts to international peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts – efforts that led her to be seen as a controversial figure, winning a Nobel Peace Prize AND being declared the “most dangerous woman in America” by the FBI. Yet all that mattered to Jane was helping others, and she served the people of the world the rest of her life, advocating human rights and world peace.

An intriguing figure like Addams deserves attention from young readers, and this picture biography makes a great start. Covering Addams’s life in broad strokes, readers are given solid insight into her motivations and a portion of her activism, as well as the impact it had on her life. However, it’s what the biography doesn’t talk about that disappoints; Addams’ work in early feminism and woman’s suffrage is not mentioned, nor is the fact that she was a queer woman (her first partner, Starr, is referred to in the backmatter as her “college friend”). The artwork is detailed, and the illustrator distinguishes Addams from the sepias with a signature green. The length is best for older elementary and middle-grade readers; while JJ enjoyed the art, the story began to drag for her. Overall, this is a nice spotlight of a worthy subject – I only wish it had been a little more bright. Otherwise, Baby Bookworm approved.

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

I Love You, Baby Burrito (Angela Dominguez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominguez, a charming bilingual book for welcoming a family’s newest addition.

“¡Hola, bebé!” begins this adorable read, as the artwork shows a mother and father arriving home with their newborn baby. The parents address their little one directly, introducing the baby to their home, themselves, and fawning over the baby’s little carita, manitas, and deditos. After a quick meal and snuggles, bebé is swaddled for a nap – like a burrito – and wished buenas noches.

Cozy, comforting, and sweet. A universal experience of bringing baby home for the first time is given a very welcome bilingual update through the use of Spanglish in the text; while some Spanish words are followed immediately with English translations, many are not, leaving illustrations to give context clues for non-Spanish speakers. It’s a wonderful way to create a unique narrative for English-Spanish bilingual families without leaving monolinguals stumped, and there’s even a full glossary with pronunciations in the endpapers. Illustrations are bright and rich in color, yet simple and soothing enough for very young eyes, and the affection between the parent and baby characters is heartwarming. The length is perfect for a quick read, and JJ absolutely loved this one – she is learning Spanish in school and loved the seamless integration of the Spanish vocabulary. Overall, this one is a real treat for any reader, especially bilingual Latinx families. Baby Bookworm approved!

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