Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure (Eva Chen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure, written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto, second in the pair’s series of girl-power fashion fantasies.

Picking up where Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes left off, we meet precocious fashionista Juno. In school, she learns that the next day will be picture day, and her teacher advises the class to wear something that makes them feel magical. But while her classmates all have special outfits in mind, Juno isn’t sure. Her friends and family have ideas, but none of them feel right. But when little brother Finn takes off into her closet – and disappears down the magical portal hidden there from the last book – Juno will have to race off to retrieve him. Along the way, she’ll meet fabulous feminist icons like Maya Lin and Josephine Baker, and listen to their advice for both catching Finn and solving her fashion conundrum. But can Juno make it back in time for picture day… and what will she wear?!

Delightful. While the premise is a little far out – and a little more exposition may have been helpful for readers who haven’t read the first book in the series – the tone and message of the book are both wonderful: fashion should make you feel your best, no matter what it looks like. Juno ends up with a mismatched outfit of Grace O’Malley’s pirate hat (“It’ll give you gumption!”), Grace Jones’ shoulder pads (“They’ll make you feel fierce!”), Michelle Obama’s ICONIC Balenciaga glitter boots (“I’m extra confident in them”), and more. Her parents momentarily balk, but Juno is celebrated for her unique style at school, and for the confidence it gives her. The illustrations, a cartoonish style with mixed-media elements deftly woven in, are charming, and feature real-life heroines of diverse races (though some different body types would also have been nice to see). The length was perfect, and JJ and I enjoyed the adventure. A fun tale for blossoming feminist fashionistas that shows it’s the person wearing the clothes that make an outfit fabulous. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Make Herstory (Giavanna Grein)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Make Herstory, written by Giavanna Grein and illustrated by Stephanie O’Donnell, a book of girl-power affirmations for young readers.

Welcome to the world, girl! It’s full of endless possibilities for you, even if you may have to fight sometimes to achieve them. See, oftentimes you will be told that, as a girl, you can’t – but don’t you believe it. Girls can do anything, from excelling in science and technology, creating beautiful pieces of art and music, being victorious athletes, lifesaving first responders, bold lawyers, or world-changing activists. So don’t be afraid to work hard, raise your voice, and chase your dreams; every girl has the power to make HERstory.

Readers will know that we love a book with a strong feminist message, and this one has decent concept. As the rhyming texts describes the many occupations and areas of expertise that girls can make their mark in – a healthy mix of science, government, the arts, athletics, and more – a single, red-haired young women is shown in one of the roles mentioned on the adjacent page. It’s a good concept, illustrating that each girl has the potential within her to be great in any number of things. However, this limited character focus is unfortunately to the book’s detriment as well: since a sole white character is the focus, the very few women of color depicted in the illustrations are limited to the background, and even then, they are noticeably scarce. Even in crowd scenes, such as the protest march shown both on the cover and within the book, it’s difficult to find a person of color in a sea of white faces. As intersectionality is still very much an issue in the current feminist movement, this lack of diversity is disappointing, especially in such otherwise visually dynamic artwork. The text also reads very well, despite a few rhythmic missteps. The length was fine, and JJ did enjoy being able to explore the various professions. This is a solid effort with a strong message and, despite its fumbles, worth a look for young feminists and their caregivers. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Princess Knight (Cornelia Funke)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Princess Knight, written by Cornelia Funke and illustrated by Kerstin Meyer, a classic tale of girl-power.

When Princess Violetta’s mother dies in childbirth, her father knows no other way to raise his daughter than just the same as her three older brothers; the princess is trained to fight, joust, and ride a horse. Vi is smaller than her brothers and struggles with the physical demands, much to her macho brothers’ amusement (and teasing). So the determined princess sneaks out at knight, practicing endlessly and learning how to adapt the skills to her own strengths, speed and agility. Her fierceness and capability earns her the admiration of her brothers, until her father declares that a jousting tournament will be held on her 16th birthday… with her hand in marriage as prize! Vi is furious, and concocts a plan to ensure that if anyone is going to win her hand, it’s HER.

Awesome. A perfect twist on the classic fairytale storyline that gives the beautiful princess agency over her own happily-ever-after. In particular, I like that none of the characters in the story are truly villains, only uninformed – until Vi proves them wrong, at which point they realize their mistakes and become allies. It also encourages princesses to find their own strengths and lean into them; they may not always be the biggest, but they CAN be the fastest or cleverest. The dainty illustrations fit the storybook setting perfectly, while still allowing for personalities to shine. One note: Vi’s mother’s death in childbirth is depicted, with the infant Vi being held next to her late mother; it’s not scary or gruesome, but may be tough to explain to younger readers. Otherwise, the length was great, and JJ loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around The World (Vashti Harrison)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around The World by Vashti Harrison, the dynamite sequel to Little Leaders.

Taking the same format as Leaders, Harrison introduces us to 35 more incredible women from history, this time broadening the focus to subjects from countries around the world, and from a myriad of ethnic backgrounds. Familiar feminist icons like Ada Lovelace, Hedy Lamarr, and Marie Curie join lesser known – yet no less impressive – trailblazers like Fatima Al-Firhi, founder of the oldest active university, and Esther Afua Ocloo, pioneer of the microlending movement to empower female entrepreneurs. Each woman was ahead of her time, courageous in her pursuits, and changed the world for the better, simply by being themselves and refusing to give up on their dreams.

Simply wonderful. Harrison has returned with a new crop of heroes for young girls (and boys), and we are glad for it. Where many of these anthologies can stumble with diversity, Dreamers has no such problem: the women presented are of a dizzying array of backgrounds, skintones, cultures, religions, and pursuits. Women of art, science, economics, politics, activism, philanthropy, and humanitarianism are each given brief yet thorough bios that do a great job of detailing their achievements while still giving a sense of their motivations and who they were/are as people. Harrison’s adorable figures, featuring open, serene faces and enigmatic smiles, are the perfect cherry on top. This is not a book for a single sitting, but can be broken into whatever-sized bites are right for your little bookworm. A wealth of mini-bios, glossary, and resource list complete the backmatter. JJ and I both learned from it, and loved it. An essential volume for every bookshelf, and Baby Bookworm approved!

Dress Like A Girl (Patricia Toht)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dress Like A Girl, written by Patricia Toht and illustrated by Lorian Tu-Dean, a lovely lesson in self-expression and possibility.

As a group of friends gather for a sleepover, the text notes that when it comes to dressing like a girl, there are lots of rules: wearing white in the summer, keeping patterns subtle, and how to wear elegant black gowns. However, as the girls begin to pull out their costumes and play, the narrator encourages us to interpret these rules in new ways. After all, astronauts look great in white; jungle explorers can camouflage themselves with their subtle patterns, and you know who loves a flowing black robe? Orchestra conductors and judges, of course! And when it comes down to it, if the rules aren’t for you, well, sometimes rules are made to be broken. After all, there are plenty of ways to dress like a girl.

Marvelous. Any girl will tell you that when it comes to women’s fashion, the “rules” can be tough to navigate, so it’s nice that the ultimate message of the book it that girls should wear whatever makes them feel comfortable, creative, and like themselves. What makes this so special is the lead-up, and the clever juxtaposition between standard fashion rules and the limitless range of professions that girls can pursue. It reminds little ones that it’s okay for girls to have aspirations other than ballerinas or princesses (though those are fine too!). The art is splendid, featuring a diverse cast whose expressions and movements capture the joys of childhood and female friendship. The length is perfect, and JJ and I loved it. A great way to show readers that, be it in fashion or their future, girls should never be put in a box. Baby Bookworm approved!