Bear Says Thanks (Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman)

Hello, friends! We’re getting into the Thanksgiving spirit over here at The Baby Bookworm: today, we read Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, a delightful and sweet tale from the pair’s beloved Bear series.

Bear wants to invite his friends over for a delicious feast to show them how much he appreciates them, but alas, his cupboard is completely bare! As he is bemoaning this, his friend Mouse shows up with a delicious pie to share, and Bear says “Thanks!” From there, more of Bear’s woodland pals show up, each bringing a delicious treat to share with the others. Bear thanks his guests kindly, but is overwhelmed – they have all been so generous to bring food, but he has nothing to offer the group in return. But Bear’s friends say no matter; Bear can provide them with stories and the pleasure of his company, which is all they require for their friendship feast.

We have yet to read a Bear book that we didn’t love, and this one was no exception. The familiar cadence of the rhyming text from previous installments is back, making it a bouncy and fun read-aloud. The story brings a few wonderful lessons about generosity, kindness, community, and the true meaning of friendship, leaving the reader with a warm heart by the final page. Chapman’s illustrations are as darling as ever, bringing personality and emotion to each character. The length is great, and JJ always adores Bear and his friends, as you can see! A fantastic read year-round, and especially during the season of togetherness, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau (Andrea Beaty)

Hello friends! Our book today is Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, a touching tale of kindness.

In a small shop, a shy young woman makes the loveliest hats in the world, each meticulously crafted to fit its owner’s look and personality. Each day, Madame Chapeau makes her special hats, then returns to her apartment to eat a lonely dinner for one. The only exception is her birthday: she dresses in her finest couture, wears her own special hat (made for her by someone very dear), and heads to the fanciest restaurant in town to eat her birthday dinner alone. This year, as she is en route, she trips and knocks loose her special hat, which is then snatched away by a crow. Devastated, Madame Chapeau chases the bird through the streets, pleading for the return of her hat, to no avail. Passersby see the woman’s distress, and each offer their own hat to replace her lost one, but she cannot bear to ask the owners to part with their own special hats. Dejected, she returns to the restaurant, where a wonderful surprise awaits…

This one was so unexpectedly emotional, and it left the warmest feeling in my heart. On the surface, the tale of Madame Chapeau opening her heart after strangers show her the utmost kindness (and I won’t spoil the ending, which is devastatingly sweet), is a wonderful lesson for children in empathy. But through the use of subtle visual clues, and the hats as a metaphor for love, it also becomes a story about overcoming grief: though never explicitly stated, the illustrations reveal that Madame Chapeau is a widow, and her late love was the one who crafted her special hat. This detail makes the events of the story all the more devastating, then uplifting. Once again, Beaty and Roberts have crafted a quietly powerful story that stays with you long after the final page. The length is perfect, JJ and I both adored it, and this one is absolutely Baby Bookworm approved.

Butterfly Park (Elly MacKay)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the gorgeous Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay, a joyful story of a little girl and her love for butterflies bringing a town together.

A little girl is moving to a new town and is sad to leave her country home, especially the beautiful butterflies that live there. Moving to a house in the city, she feels lost at first – until she finds that she lives next to a Butterfly Park! When she visits the garden the next day, she finds that there are no butterflies in barren park. She goes searching, and find one in a neighbor boy’s yard. She asks for his help to catch it and bring it to the garden, but when they release it, it flies away. Enlisting more neighborhood children, they capture more butterflies, only to have them fly away as well. The kids begin to follow the last remaining butterfly, chasing it through town and attracting a parade of amused onlookers. At last, the butterfly leads them to a garden and the girl realizes her mistake: butterflies are attracted to flowers! She returns to the park with flowers, but still no butterflies arrive – until the park is suddenly filled with the townspeople, who happily help the girl build a flower garden that attracts her beloved bugs.

This was a wonderfully sweet story, filled with a guileless innocence that captures a feeling of childhood awe. But the absolute star of the show here are the gorgeous paper-cut illustrations, arranged and captured using tilt-shift photography, that give the art of the book a positively magical air. The reader can practically feel the movement, energy, and warmth of the characters within a three-dimensional space, and it’s really quite beautiful. The length was good as well, and JJ enjoyed it. This is a genuine feast for the eyes paired with a charming story about community, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa (Donna L. Washington)

Happy Holidays Week, Day 2: Hello, everyone! Our book today is Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa, written by Donna L. Washington and illustrated by Shane W. Evans, a sweet tale about a rabbit who learns the true meaning of the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles of Kwanzaa.

L’il Rabbit is not having the best Kwanzaa; he simply can’t find a good way to contribute to the celebrations like his parents or siblings. To make matters worse, his mother is busy caring for his sick Granna Rabbit, so she won’t have time to make the Karamu, a traditional Kwanzaa feast. Feeling sad, L’il Rabbit decides to place all his energy into finding a special gift to give his Granna, and sets off on a search for something that may make her feel better, along the way learning about the power of community, kindness, and faith.

Okay, to be frank, everything I knew about Kwanzaa I had learned from a half-forgotten episode of The Proud Family I watched when I was a kid, so I was looking forward to a refresher, and to encouraging JJ to learn about the holidays and traditions of others. Fortunately, this book is perfect for that! The story is sweet and has a wonderful message, all while showing the Seven Principles through the characters’ actions. The length is good for baby bookworms, perhaps bordering on a bit long for the youngest readers, but JJ had no problems, so not too bad. The simple illustrations are very cute and full of personality, and most importantly, the book embodies the principles and spirit of Kwanzaa while educating about the holiday itself. Baby Bookworm approved!