My Heart Grows (Jeffrey Burton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Heart Grows, written by Jeffrey Burton and illustrated by Joanne Liu, a sweet board book about the bond between caregivers and their little ones.

First, a heart beats for one; but when that one heart welcomes a child into their life, it beats for two and just keeps growing. It grows as the child does – as they learn, as they laugh, as they cry, as they figure out how to be brave. With every adventure, every setback, and every life lesson, a heart grows and grows, and so do the other hearts that love it.

Heartwarming. A gentle look at the bond between a parent/caregiver and the child who makes their heart grow. Simple, earnest rhyming text is fairly easy to read aloud (though there were a few meter inconsistencies that tripped me up) and warmly tender in its tone. Brightly colored child-like illustrations are delightful and surprisingly atmospheric. One small disappointment was that while the parent/caregiver-child pairs depicted do feature some racial diversity, there is only one non-traditional caregiver (a grandparent) and no sign of blended families, which feels like a missed opportunity. However, everything else about the book is a delight, especially the clever use of the heart cutouts to fit the theme of a growing heart. The length was great for a quick and easy read, and JJ enjoyed it. 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.)

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.)

The Secret of the Magic Pearl (Elisa Sabatinelli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Secret of the Magic Pearl, written by Elisa Sabatinelli and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, a stunning chapter book about courage, family, and the sea.

Young Hector lives in a small seaside town in Italy, one that is not particularly noteworthy to the outside world, but to Hector, is the most beautiful in the world. His dream is to become a deep sea diver like his father and grandfather before him, but his dream is interrupted by Amedeo Limonta (“the bad guy in this story”) building the tourist destination Rivadoro nearby and putting the marina where his family operate their tours out of business. Hector knows Limonta seeks a fabled pearl – the purest in the world – and he plans to find the pearl first and discover its secrets. Along the way, he and the other characters will discover more secrets as well: of family, of community, and of the living sea.

Spellbinding. Sabatinelli creates an energetic and guileless voice in Hector, as he describes the settings and unique characters surrounding him with beautiful, evocative language; readers are transported to windswept coastal Italy, witness to small town shenanigans and stormy sea journeys with the turn of each page. Bruno’s illustrations are equally immersive, seamlessly weaving through the chapters with spreads and margin artwork that is sometimes educational, sometimes comical, and always captivating. This chapter book is best for elementary-age and older bookworms, but can easily be read aloud in sections; JJ adored the story, even if it took us a few days to cover it entirely. Overall, this is a longer read that it utterly worth it, and we definitely recommend 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.)

In My Life (John Lennon & Paul McCartney)

Hello, friends! Our book today is In My Life, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, illustrated by Genevieve Santos, a picture book interpretation of the classic Beatles song.

Following the lyrics of the timeless ballad “In My Life”, the artwork opens on a young curly-haired girl discovering a brand new bike with training wheels, and taking it for a spin with an older female character (their relationship is never explicitly defined, but context suggests she is the girl’s mother or caregiver). The girl is shown adventuring on her bike all over their seaside setting: exploring, playing, discovering; sometimes with her companion, sometimes alone. As she grows, her bike changes – losing training wheels, becoming a larger model, changing out colors and handlebars. The girl is shown attending college, commuting through city streets, then returning to the seaside town with her own young daughter in tow (on her bike’s new child seat, naturally). They have someone to visit… and a new bike to try out, so all three girls can begin exploring anew.

Heartwarming, if occasionally puzzling. While “In My Life” is quite possibly one of the most universally affecting Beatles songs, the lyrics do feature the word “lovers” repeatedly, a word which is, frankly, odd to read in a children’s book in its intended context (we chose to “sing” the book through, and I’m afraid it didn’t make those lines any less awkward). That being said, the sweet and gentle story told by the artwork is lovely to behold, as Santo’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and atmospheric, and the use of color to set each scene’s tone is stunning. The length is great for a storytime, JJ loved that we could sing it, and I won’t lie: the final few pages got me a little choked up and teary-eyed. A few hiccups, but overall a lovely and moving reimagining that music-lovers in particular will adore. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Sleep, My Baby (Dr. Lena Allen-Shore & Jacques J. M. Shore)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sleep, My Baby, written by Dr. Lena Allen-Shore and Jacques J. M. Shore, and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, an enormously sweet lullaby from parent to child in board book form.

This bedtime serenade, based on a lullaby written by the author’s mother, opens on a mother carrying her baby upstairs in preparation for sleep. From there, the windows of a neighborhood are shown, with more mother-and-child pairs in different skin tones. The lullaby and art then travels the world, showing more cultures and types of caregiver-child bonds, including fathers, multi-generational, blended, and LGBTQ+ families. At last, the story circles back to the first mother and child, showing that there is nothing more universal than the love between parent and child.

Touching and tender. As the author explains in the forward and afterward, Allen-Shore – a multi-talented creator and educator, as well as a Holocaust survivor – created “Sleep, My Baby” as a lullaby for her sons while endeavoring to promote unity and human compassion. The art and simple structure of the text in this interpretation do a lovely job of combining all these themes, creating a bedtime board book that is perfect for the littlest bookworms and their caregivers. While the tune of “Sleep, My Baby” is not familiar (though it can be found online), the lyrics still work fine in spoken-word form, and the diverse illustrations in soft, dreamy twilight colors are soothing yet packed with detail. The length is perfect for bedtime, and JJ and I both loved it. This one was a treat, and we highly recommend 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.)