Beautifully Me (Nabela Noor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the Beautifully Me, written by Nabela Noor and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, a fantastic story about body positivity and what it means to be beautiful.

As young Zubi prepares for her first day of school, she greets the audience with confidence and exuberance. She dons a fabulous outfit that expresses her Bangladeshi culture and makes her feel unique and beautiful. But when she runs to her parents to show them her stylish look, Zubi overhears her mother complaining about her waistline. Then she finds that her slim sister Naya is dieting to “look pretty” for a school dance. Her father also bemoans his weight gain, and despite making new friends at school, she overhears one classmate bullying another by calling them fat. Full-figured Zubi is confused and distraught – does she have to be skinny to be beautiful? Announcing at dinner that she is now on a diet, her family is shocked. And when they realize that their offhand comments have damaged Zubi’s self-worth, they set about fixing things, for Zubi and for themselves.

In a word, BEAUTIFUL. This utterly unique take on body positivity not only emphasizes to kids the timeless message that beauty comes in more than one size and shape, but also deftly manages to tackle the internalized fatphobia that permeates most young adult and adult cultures. The fact that it shows how seemingly “harmless” comments by adults can reinforce these toxic ideas about body types to children is incredible, and makes this a teaching opportunity for readers of all ages. Combine these much-needed messages with gorgeous art that celebrates Zubi’s family’s Asian and Muslim culture and diversity at her school (one character uses they/them pronouns, another uses a wheelchair, a third wears a patka), all with warmth, energy, and yes, beauty. The length is great for elementary and older kids, and JJ and I absolutely loved it. A stunning reminder to embrace all that makes us beautiful, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Sugar in Milk (Thrity Umrigar)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sugar in Milk, written by Thrity Umrigar and illustrated by Khoa Le, a gorgeous and timeless tale of kindness and acceptance.

Told from the point of view of a young immigrant to the United States, the narrator recounts her feelings of loneliness and despair when she first arrived. While she was happy to have her Auntie and Uncle, who had done everything they could to make her feel welcome, she still missed her parents, friends, and cats. One day, her Auntie takes her for a walk and tells her an ancient story of a group of Persian refugees, forced to leave their home and cross the sea in search of a new one. Arriving on the shores of India, they are met by the local king who dismisses them, apologizing yet insisting that there is no room in their country for the newcomers. Since they share no common language, the king demonstrates this by filling a cup to the brim with milk. Yet the leader of the Persian refugees, a kind and clever man, begs for a moment more of the king’s attention – how can he convince the monarch to let his people stay?

Gorgeous. Based on an actual Persian parable, Umrigar’s deft storytelling and gentle prose does a wonderful job of showing the reader that acceptance and diversity are truly timeless concepts. Just as the Persian leader wins over the king by stirring sugar into the milk (showing that the addition of the refugees will only make the kingdom more interesting and sweet), the young modern immigrant is convinced by the tale that the diversity and “newness” of her new home is what makes it all the more special, something that she now brings her own unique sweetness to. With the addition of Le’s incredibly intricate and emotive illustrations, this is a tale that will inspire any young reader to understand the beauty and strength to be found in diversity. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ loved the beautiful artwork. A powerful tale for bookworms of any age, 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.)

Our Favorite Day of the Year (A. E. Ali)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Our Favorite Day of the Year, written by A. E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, a lovely tale of friendship and diversity.

On the first day of kindergarten, Ms. Gupta tells the class that by the end of the year, they will become close friends with their classmates – but Musa isn’t so sure. As a way to learn about their classmates, Ms. Gupta encourages them each to share their favorite day of the year. Discussing his own favorite, Eid, with his tablemates, Musa is surprised to find that they don’t celebrate Eid as well. As the year passes, each student shares their favorite day and how it is celebrated: Musa shares the many foods he eats during Eid from the members of his multicultural mosque; Mo shares the sweet treats of Rosh Hashanah; Moisés wishes “Feliz Navidad!” as he explains Las Posadas; Kevin recounts what his family learned on the science-centric Pi Day. By the end of the year, the class has learned about lots of different favorite days – and about their new best friends.

Wonderful. This rich look at cultural, religious, and racial diversity does a splendid job of introducing, through four highlighted holidays, the beauty and fun of immersing oneself in other cultures, as well as the friendships and respect for others it can build. In addition to the four holidays highlighted, many more are depicted in the warm and lovely artwork, as are other forms of diversity (Mo’s family is blended and LGBTQ+, Kevin’s ponytail and pink scrunchie suggest he is gender-nonconforming). So while the story on its own is a brief yet enriching read, these details encourage repeat readings and further research (the backmatter only features descriptions of the four holidays covered in the story). A fantastic tale of friendship, 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.)

A Vulture Came To Town (B•dice)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Vulture Came To Town by B•dice, a visually striking story of diversity.

The day a vulture came to town, the other animals were sent into a tizzy. Immediately, most are distrustful of the outsider; his bald skull, his oily black wings, and his diet of carcasses is enough to make every furred and feathered member pull away in disgust and fear. Confused, the vulture points out that he cannot help how he looks or what he eats; in fact, he shares many similarities with other animals in the group. This revelation causes the animals to splinter further, now looking at each other as enemies because of their differences. It’ll take one level-headed mouse and a bit of courage to convince the others that being different isn’t a crime, and one should never judge vulture by his feathers.

Very interesting. With a premise that is fairly straightforward – an always-welcome, well-argued lesson in diversity and acceptance – the tale of vulture and the other animals is one that hits the expected beats at first. A newcomer is ostracized for being unfamiliar or strange, until a brave voice stands up to defend the virtues of diversity – a resolution the narrative ties in nicely to a tale about the animal kingdom (for instance, Mink’s logical argument that Vulture eating Wolf’s leftovers is better than just leaving them there to rot). The rhyming text has a good rhythm and reads well, and the length is fine. What sets Vulture apart is its unique visuals – a black-and-white abstract geometric style that often depicts the animals and scenes in unexpected perspectives; a smile clawed foot, falling feather, or large text in stark white against a black background, or vice versa. It’s a challenging art style, but one that both very young readers and their older siblings might find stimulating. The book has some of the rough edges often found in indie titles, mostly in pacing, but JJ enjoyed the story (though she did find some of the illustrations confusing). Still, this quirky title is definitely worth a look, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

All The Ways To Be Smart (Davina Bell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is All The Ways To Be Smart, written by Davina Bell and illustrated by Allison Colpoys, a delightful ode to different types of intelligence.

Being smart is more than just one thing; it’s not just being good at taking tests or doing math or getting good grades in school. No, a person can be smart in lots of ways! They can be smart at making crafts or drawing pictures, or dancing, or being brave. They can be smart at caring for others, especially when that person is hurt or shy. They can be smart at imagination, play, music, tea parties, or even blowing bubbles. Even simply sitting still and being quiet; this is something smart, too. Rest assured, not everyone has to be smart in the same way – and sharing all the different ways we are smart makes the world better every day.

LOVED. THIS. From the bright, fluorescent illustrations featuring a diverse cast of children and imaginary creatures, to the comforting and important message about the values of emotional and technical intelligence, this is an adorably cute yet critically valuable lesson for young kids. In particular, the themes of how being smart in often-overlooked ways struck me; as the parent of a special-needs child, it’s wonderful to find stories that celebrate people who think differently, yet are no less intelligent. For neuro-atypical or otherwise differently-abled kids like JJ, a book like this can make them, and their caregivers, feel seen. It’s a perfect length for storytime, and well-worth a read by any young, developing mind. We adored this one, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!