Amara and the Bats (Emma Reynolds)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Amara and the Bats by Emma Reynolds, a wonderful tale of one girl’s efforts to save her under-appreciated favorite animal.

Since a close-encounter as a little girl, Amara has loved bats – their fluffy faces and beady eyes are adorable to her, and she loves learning about their habits, biology, and special abilities. Her mom and older brother Samir are happy to hear the encyclopedic collection of bat facts she has memorized, and when the family moves to a new town, they take Amara out to look for the local bats first thing. But, to Amara’s disappointment, there are no bats in the area; a park ranger explains that development has destroyed the bat habitats in the area. Amara is broken-hearted at first, but after taking inspiration from other young environmental activists, she decides to start a campaign to build a bat reserve. It takes a lot of work, but Amara has friends and determination on her side – but will her efforts bring back the bats?

Marvelous. Bats are often-misunderstood creatures whose populations – and important place in ecosystems – have been increasingly threatened, especially in urban and suburban areas. This lovely tale of conservation, activism, and appreciation for nature does a wonderful job of showing the importance of bats, as well as telling a compelling story of one girl’s fight for a cause she believes in, and the community she builds by doing so. Charming and emotive illustrations feature lovable and diverse characters, plus some adorable bats. Well-crafted and informative backmatter teaches more about bats and their conservation in an entertaining style, and while the length may be stretching it for very young bookworms, JJ was riveted. This one is a delight, and we absolutely recommend it – it may even turn you into a bat-lover too. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

100 Endangered Species (Rachel Hudson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is 100 Endangered Species by Rachel Hudson, an awesome compendium of creatures from around the world who are in need of protection.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the orangutan, but have you ever heard of a Moscardón? Did you know whooping cranes mated for life? Or that there are only 200 to 300 Cross River gorillas left in the wild? Each page of this wildly comprehensive book features an animal on the IUCN Red List, ranging from low risk to critically endangered, and is classified as a “conservation priority”. In addition to information about their habitats, locations, and threats to the species, each animal is accompanied by a colorful and charming illustration to bring them to life. Readers can learn about animals they know, ones they may not have known of before, and what they can do to help these unique creatures thrive.

Fascinating! Hutton does a fantastic job of condensing information about each animal in two or three paragraphs, giving young bookworms just enough information to engage, not overwhelm. The animals themselves are a great mix of the familiar (African elephants, giant pandas, polar bears, etc.) and the more esoteric (purple-faced langurs, Danube clouded yellows, hirolas, and many more). Backmatter includes a glossary and a thorough list of conservation organizations, and the illustrated table of contents provides a clever visual treat. Overall, this is an interesting little book that provides a great deal of educational material for older elementary to middle-grade bookworms. It was obviously a little dense for JJ to get through in one sitting, but she loved the animal artwork. A wonderful way to get little ones invested in wildlife conservation, 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.)

Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife (Meeg Pincus)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife, written by Meeg Pincus and illustrated by Alexander Vidal, the true story of P-22, the famous mountain lion of Los Angeles’s Griffith Park.

P-22 (P for “puma”, 22 for his ID number) found himself in a quandary when it came time to establish his territory as an adult male cougar. All of the available territory near his birthplace had already been claimed by other cougars, and the crowded city of Los Angeles had cut him off from more space. After managing to cross 20(!) lanes of LA traffic, P-22 finds himself in a wooded area far smaller than a typical mountain lion territory – but it will have to do. And so, P-22 became the “Hollywood cougar” of Griffith Park, a mascot for urban wildlife and prime example of the need for wildlife bridges – structures that span highways to allow for safe, natural animal crossings – in cities.

Informative. The narrative follows P-22’s life story, including a few somewhat serious misadventures – such as getting trapped in the crawl space of a house and eating one of the LA Zoo’s koalas – creating empathy with P-22 while emphasizing that he is a WILD animal. Interspersed are comments from Miguel Ordeñana and Jeff Sikich, wildlife experts who worked on P-22’s study, on how the cougar’s life was affected by humans and how he, in turn, inspired the public to support the funding of a LA wildlife bridge project. It’s an informative and educational tale, but please note, there’s no Hollywood ending for P-22: he never found the mate he sought in the story, and will likely pass on before the wildlife bridge is finished, making for a bittersweet ending. However, for older kids learning about wildlife conservation, it’s a compelling look at how urban encroachment affected one creature’s life. The illustrations are lovely, letting the reader view the world through the nocturnal cat’s eyes, with a clever seek-and-find element that features 20 species native to Southern California. The length is best for older bookworms and JJ enjoyed it. Overall, a unique story with an important message, 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.)

We Are Water Protectors (Carole Lindstrom)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, a conservational call to action and celebration of Indigenous pride.

A young girl of Ojibwe descent recounts a lesson her grandmother imparted to her: “Water is the first medicine.” She points out that we come from water, from the earliest days in our mothers’ wombs; once born, the planet we all share nurtures us with water in the same way. Her people talk of a black snake that will spoil the water and destroy the land, and in the form of high-volume oil pipelines, the black snake has arrived. So the girl and her people make a stand, fighting for their rights… and protecting the sacred safety of the water.

Beautiful. This deeply passionate and original tale, written and illustrated by Indigenous creators, is part historical account, part rallying cry, and part unabashed expression of cultural pride. Drawing inspiration from the Standing Rock protests and ongoing fight to prevent oil pipelines from being built on tribal nations’ lands and waterways, the text reads like flowing, free-form poetry, yet manages to incorporate themes like stewardship of nature, community, and heritage throughout. The dreamy, rich artwork is absolutely stunning, and JJ and I found ourselves marveling at every page. This length is great for any storytime, and the message within is a critical one for right now and always: we must rise to protect life and what sustains it from those who would destroy it – it is our responsibility to the planet, and to each other. A fantastic title, and we adored 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.)

Notch, The Rescued Dolphin (Martina Wing)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Notch, The Rescued Dolphin, written by Martina Wing and illustrated by Jackie Mask, a story inspired by the viral video of Notch’s rescue.

Off the coast of the big island of Hawaii, Notch – a Bottlenose dolphin named for a distinctive scar on his back – swims happily with his pod. Notch is a daredevil, spending his days catching fish and showing off with his best friend Honi. One day, while Notch is chasing a fish for supper, he becomes caught on a fishing hook and helplessly tangled in the attached line. Unable to fully open his mouth or properly use his left flipper, he is terrified. Despite the best efforts of his family and friends, Notch remains trapped in the line, and begins to panic. Yet, with the advice of some notable and rare sea creatures of the Kona Coast, Notch will find that his salvation may lie in the hands of the very creatures who caused his problems: humans.

Based on a video of Notch’s rescue, taken by the author during a SCUBA Manta Ray encounter, this imagining of Notch’s life and what led him to approach human divers for assistance is equally heartwarming and informative. Readers are introduced to notable, real-life creatures that call the Hawaiian Pacific their home, such as a friendly tiger shark named Laverne and a ray named Big Bertha; photographs and short bios of the animals in the backmatter give a unique sense of realism to the fictional story. The narrative is filled with a calm sense of wonder and respectful admiration of the ocean and its ecosystem, and explores themes of conservation. These elements are furthered by the gorgeously detailed and realistic artwork, which deftly manages to convey emotion and scale. However, the text can often be repetitive and slow, making for a lengthy read that younger bookworms may not appreciate; though JJ adored the illustrations, she was getting fairly tired of the story about halfway though. Lastly, a pronunciation guide for the beautiful Hawaiian names and phrases would have been a welcome addition for haole readers such as myself. But otherwise, this fascinating tale is worth a read, and 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.)