Robin Robin (Dan Ojari & Mikey Please)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Robin Robin, written by Dan Ojari and Mikey Please, and illustrated by Briony May Smith, an adorable picture book retelling of the new holiday Netflix special of the same name.

When little Robin’s egg is found by a family of mice, they decide to raise the little bird as a part of their family. Robin loves her parents and siblings, and tries everything she can to be an excellent mouse, especially when the family ventures into the “Who-man” house to stealthily search for crumbs. Unfortunately, Robin isn’t particularly skilled at being stealthy, and the family nearly gets caught by a ferocious cat. Feeling out-of-sorts about the incident, Robin tries once more to be a sneaky as a mouse, a choice that will lead her on an adventure of discovery – about “Chrim-Cross” stars, about a clever collector magpie friend, and most importantly, about herself.

A lovely tale of blended family and self-identity. Robin eventually learns how to embrace her strengths as a bird to help her magpie pal and her beloved mouse family achieve their dreams; it’s a satisfying and affirming outcome, and a lovely message for readers who may themselves feel out of place or stuck between two worlds. The text features some fun repetitive lines that make the story entertaining to read aloud, and the rich artwork has a nice blended of traditional and modern storybook aesthetics. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ really liked this one – so much so that she wanted to watch the special afterward. Overall, a sweet holiday treat that is light on the Christmas but heavy on themes of familial love and self-acceptance, and we loved. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A Christmas Too Big (Colleen Madden)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Christmas Too Big by Colleen Madden, a heartwarming look at what makes the holidays special.

The day after Thanksgiving, Kerry’s family goes into mega-Christmas-mode. Dad is obsessed with lights, Mom turns into a Christmas-song-jukebox, grandma becomes a cookie-baking tornado, and her little brother hides elves in every corner of the house. The whole neighborhood seems to be overtaken by this oversized, flashing, jingling, headache-inducing version of Christmas… except Mrs. Flores. After assisting her elder neighbor, Kerry is invited in for cocoa and learns about some of Mrs. Flores’s holiday traditions from Mexico The two make crafts, sing songs, and talk of faraway family. As a thank you, Kerry helps Mrs. Flores set up a tablet to video chat with her son’s family in Mexico. While walking home, Kerry decides that it’s fun to explore different kinds of Christmas, and brings home her lessons from Mrs. Flores to share with her own familia.

Wonderful. This sweet holiday story starts with humor and ends with heart, all the while incorporating lovely lessons in kindness, friendship, and cultural appreciation. The story is sure to note that, while Kerry’s family can be overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with their enthusiasm for Christmas; it only suggests that there are lots of ways to celebrate, and all of them can be special. The Spanish/Spanglish dialogue is another treat, especially for bilingual readers; context clues keep monolingual English speakers from getting lost, and some moments – such as when Mrs. Flores and her son weep tears of joy upon seeing each other over video chat – are universal enough to not need translation. The artwork is perfect, visually reflecting the chaos of the initial scenes, the calm and exuberance of Mrs. Flores’s house, and the festive balance of the two in the final act; details are numerous and often hilarious. Backmatter includes instructions on making the flores de Navidad featured in the story and a very cool visual Spanish vocabulary page. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I loved it. This is a great read to start off the holiday season, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

If Animals Celebrated Christmas (Ann Whitford Paul)

Hello, friends! We’re finishing up our slightly belated Christmas reviews today with the sweet board book version of If Animals Celebrated Christmas, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker.

This holiday-themed addition to the author-illustrator pair’s popular series begins with the Koala family, with the youngest of the bunch counting down the days until Christmas comes. More animal families from around the globe are introduced, each with their own special way of celebrating the season: the cranes go caroling, mother hedgehog knits a silly sweater for her little hoglet, the buffalo give nosey kisses under a sprig of mistletoe. The action periodically swings back to the young Koala helping to bake a leafy eucalyptus cake and drape their tree with strands of berries and grapes. At last, everyone is ready for the big night, and the arrival of Santa… Polar Bear Santa that is (naturally)!

Very cute. Each installment of the If Animals series is a sweet treat, and this holiday-centric one is no exception. The cuddly, cartoony animals are lovable, especially decked in winter attire and participating in popular (human) Christmas traditions. The rhyme scheme of the text can be a little unexpected at times, but never so much that it loses the innocent, inoffensive and gentle charm of the tone. JJ enjoyed this one, especially learning a few new or less familiar animal names, such as Oryx or Tortoise (though it’s a bit of a bummer that a fascinating creature like the narwhal was depicted but not named). Overall, this is enjoyable holiday fun, and worth a read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

How To Hide A Lion At Christmas (Helen Stephens)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How To Hide A Lion At Christmas by Helen Stephens, a sweet tale of friendship at the holidays.

Iris has a rather unusual best friend: the friendly lion who lives with her and her family. The two are inseparable, which means they are saddened to hear that when the family goes to visit her Auntie Sarah in another town, the lion must stay behind; though the gentle giant is a popular figure in their hometown, Iris’s parents fear the lion will scare the people on the train and of the town in which they’re staying. Seeing that Iris is broken-hearted to leave him (and missing his friend), the lion decides to follow the family, sneaking onto the train and hiding in the overhead luggage. As the train rumbles through snowy hills, the lion is lulled into a peaceful sleep… only to wake in an empty trainyard with no idea of where he is! Can he find his way back to his friend in time for Christmas?

Adorable. While the story doesn’t provide a lot of exposition as to why Iris’s family has a pet lion (being a sequel to Stephens’s How To Hide A Lion), it’s not really needed; the warm and endearing illustrations immediately establish the love between little Iris and her large pet. What follows is a delightful story with a few gentle misadventures, a happy ending, and even a cute cameo from Santa, all unfolding with a sort of holiday magic that makes it immensely lovable. The length was great for a Christmas storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this one, especially the lion’s harmless antics. A fun holiday read for little ones, 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.)

God Is With Us (Amy Parker)

Hello, friends! Unfortunately, Santa brought The Baby Bookworm family a nasty flu for Christmas, so we’re having to play catch-up with some of our holiday titles. But that’s okay – books are fun to read anytime! Our review today is of God Is With Us, written by Amy Parker, and illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki.

The first in the pair’s new God Is series, this biblical-themed board book begins by introducing the reader to different families of animals – mostly parent(s) and child – enjoying a crisp winter evening. An owl clad in a scarf flies with its be-hatted offspring; two mice make snow angels; a mother cat snuggles in with her kitten. Over these scenes, the text informs that God is with us always, not always in ways that we can see, but always in ways that we feel. The story ends on the scene of Jesus’s birth in the manger, showing one of the major ways that God gifted the world with love.

We don’t review a lot of Christian faith-based books (and full disclosure, we are not a religious family), but this one was enjoyable. The primary message – that a higher power is with us in sadness, fear, joy, and everything in between – is comforting and gentle for young readers, and the eventual lead-in to the nativity fits well with the smoothly rhyming text. The adorable animal illustrations are the standout, especially the animals with their tiny hats, coats, mittens, and/or earmuffs, and JJ loved pointing out the different creatures. There is some question on the specific species and even a snowy night being plausible during the birth of Jesus, but that opens a theological can of worms that’s not worth nitpicking over. The book itself has a sweet, kind, gentle tone that can be enjoyed with kids year-round at bedtime. The length is great, and we can definitely recommend this to our followers who are fans of Christian kidlit. Baby Bookworm approved!

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