The Little Kitten (Nicola Killen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little Kitten by Nicola Killen, an adorable autumn tale of feline friendship.

Little Ollie, clad in a playful catsuit, is ready to head outside to enjoy a fall day with her own pet cat, Pumpkin. Yet just as she’s about to jump into a pile of crunchy leaves, a gust of wind blows them all away – to reveal a shivering kitten hidden within! Ollie and Pumpkin welcome their new friend with a day of play and cuddles, but in all the excitement, Ollie and the new kitten run off and accidentally leave Pumpkin behind. Discovering some “Lost Kitten” flyers, Ollie realizes that her new friend is missed by his own person, and endeavors to help him find his way home. With a mysterious path, a missing Pumpkin, and a quickly-falling night, can Ollie get the kitten home… without becoming lost herself?

Delightful. This sweet-as-pumpkin-pie story is as gentle and cozy of an autumn tale as any reader could wish for. Themes of adventure and friendship (and just a hint of Halloween) are rich, yet the story itself is simple, making for a lovely and light storytime. Equally appealing is the soft yet striking artwork, which features adorable, endearing characters in shades of gray, white, and orange. The sporadic cutouts and gorgeous use of foil amongst the fall foliage is the cherry on top. The length is perfect, and JJ adored it. A modern fall classic-in-the-making that’s sure to please, 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.)

Clueless: A Totally Classic Picture Book (G. M. Berrow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Clueless: A Totally Classic Picture Book, adapted by G. M. Berrow and illustrated by Heather Burns, a kidlit tribute to the popular teen movie of the same name.

Cher and Dionne are the most popular, fashionable girls at Bronson Alcott Elementary – they know all the right looks, all the cool people, and all the trendiest hobbies. So when new girl Tai comes to school and they notice how nervous, out of place, and “clueless” she feels, Cher and Dionne decide to help her out. They take Tai shopping to help her find a new look, then they and their friends show her all the hobbies that the cool kids do. And while Tai appreciates their efforts, she still feels out of place, preferring her old style and hobbies. Perhaps Cher and Dionne need a makeover of their own, and learn how to accept their friend for who she is…

There’s been a fun trend of picture book adaptations of adult media lately, with admittedly mixed results. Some work spectacularly, some not as much; this effort falls somewhere in middle. There’s a distinct oddity to the VERY teenage themes of the Clueless film being shoehorned into elementary-age characters, especially for adult readers who are familiar with the source material. However, Cher and Dionne’s obsession with fashion and popularity is not much different than other kidlit characters geared towards little girls, and the main themes of this adaptation are surprisingly sound. There’s a nice lesson in appreciating people for who they are and the things they love, regardless of how different or unfashionable they may be (Tai is far more comfortable with her flannels and skateboarding than the trendier activities, but is happy to spend time with her new friends once they realize and embrace this). The cartoon illustrations are colorful and fun, and feature plenty of nods and winks to older fans of the movie. The length is fine, though the pace is uneven; it took a while for JJ to invest in the story, but she enjoyed the ending. An uneven adaptation, but one that’s full of heart. Overall, we liked it – like, totally Baby Bookworm approved.

(TM & © 2020 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Letizia Rizzo, a primer for young readers on how to be an ally.

Blaine loves all things sparkly: spangles, sequins, glitter, and shine – it can never be too much for him. His love of glitz brings light into the lives of his friends at Freedom Elementary School (as does his motto, “throw glitter, not shade!”). So when questioning kids – and adults – express confusion at Blaine’s particularity, his pals are there to explain that Blaine simply enjoys sparkles they way that they enjoy hoodies or high tops. However, the cruel looks and comments of his detractors upset Blaine, and he decides to leave his sparkles at home. Without his glitter, both literal and metaphorical, school becomes a far drearier place. What can Blaine’s friends do to restore his shine?

A smart and welcome look at allyship for little bookworms. Blaine is not specifically stated to be LGBTQ+, but rather gender-nonconforming, which works in both the metaphor of LGBTQ+ allyship and the very real consideration of the prejudice that gender-nonconforming children often face. Also impactful is the fact that Blaine suffers the derision of both children AND adults, a painful yet honest real-life truth. Blaine’s friends eventually show their support by “blinging” themselves out as well, and tackling the difficult conversations with Blaine’s critics on why their behavior is wrong and hurtful. This, along with the backmatter that provides tips on being an ally, is the best of the book, as it encourages young allies to support, listen, and adjust based on the emotional needs of the person they are supporting. And while the resolution of the book is a little lacking (Blaine DEFINITELY deserved some sincere apologies, especially from the adult library volunteer), the core message is strong and extremely welcome. Diverse, colorful art fits the tone perfectly, especially as the brightness of the art ebbs and flows with Blaine’s emotions. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ and I enjoyed it thoroughly. A great way to introduce allyship to kids, 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.)

Duck & Penguin Do Not Like Sleepovers (Julia Woolf)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Duck & Penguin Do Not Like Sleepovers by Julia Woolf, the return to the reluctant playmates from Duck & Penguin Are Not Friends.

Bestest pals Betty and Maud are back… along with their beleaguered stuffies (Duck and Penguin, respectively). While Betty and Maud adore each other’s company, Duck and Penguin are no closer than they were in the first title – to be blunt, they despise one another. So as Betty and Maud prepare for a camping sleepover by setting up their tent, cozying into pajamas, and sipping fizzy sodas, Duck and Penguin are busy silently fighting, scowling, and sabotaging each other. Yet when the girls need to run inside for a potty break – leaving the toys behind – the noises and darkness of the night cause them to cuddle a little closer, despite their differences.

Silly fun. Once again, this unique tale of anti-friendship draws a great deal of comedy from the animosity between the titular characters. The matter-of-fact narration, infectiously joyful voices of the girls, and expressive illustrations of the toys work together perfectly to sell Duck and Penguin’s predicament, as well as the scary (but not too scary) nighttime elements that help bring them together – including a genuinely hilarious final spread. This one is less a lesson in unlikely friendship and more a straightforward comedy, and it works all the better for it; Duck and Penguin’s reconciliation is hinted at on the endpapers, but isn’t included in the narrative. The length is perfect, JJ was giggling all the way through, and this was just a lovely, entertaining read – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

You Are A Beautiful Beginning (Nina Laden)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Are A Beautiful Beginning, written by Nina Laden and illustrated by Kelsey Garrett-Riley, a colorful and self-affirming fantasy tale.

A group of three friends venture out into their neighboring forest one day, intent on building a very special project together. As the children gather supplies, consult plans, and enjoy each other’s company, the very forest comes to life around them; from flowers to acorns to hedgehogs to gnomes and fairies, new little companions seem to be around every corner and under every leaf. The friends complete their masterpiece – a clubhouse under a fairy tree – and enjoy the fruits of their labor until the sun sets, at which point they head to their homes… and the creatures of the forest keep the clubhouse in their absence.

Delightful. As the soft and endearing artwork – filled with comforting colors and warmth – tells the story of the friends and their enterprise, the gentle rhyming text offers affirmations of self, friendship, and feelings to the reader. These reminders are simple, yet arranged into soothing rhythm and lovely words to accompany the illustrations; it allows both to compliment each other, building a rich narrative that anyone can relate to and take something from. The length is perfect for a storytime, and the soothing tone ideal for the bedtime book; JJ enjoyed the playful illustrations especially. A magical tale that’s sure to please, 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.)