Friends Are Friends, Forever (Dane Liu)

Hello friends, and Happy New Year! Our first book of 2022 is Friends Are Friends, Forever, written by Dane Liu and illustrated by Lynn Scurfield, a touching tale of tradition, immigration, and friendship.

Best friends Dandan and Yueyue are excited to spend another Lunar New Year celebrating their traditions: dumplings, making red paper-cut ice ornaments, and watching the fireworks. However, this year’s festivities are bittersweet – Dandan and her parents are moving to the United States the next day, and the girls must say goodbye. Yueyue gives Dandan a stack of red paper and a spool of string to make cutouts with new friends in America, and the girls tearfully hug one last time. Dandan struggles in her new country, feeling alienated by the unfamiliar surroundings, new language, and unfriendly classmates. Will she ever find a new friend to continue her traditions with?

Heartwarming and real. Dandan’s story, based on Liu’s own immigration experience, is told with raw authenticity and honestly, in a way that young readers can connect with. One can feel the pressure and isolation of adapting to a new culture and struggling with a new language while missing everything that once felt familiar and comforting, both through Liu’s frank, sincere text and Scurfield’s expressive and atmospheric illustrations. Fortunately, Dandan does find a new friend, and with some adjustments, is able to practice her Lunar New Year traditions, a resolution that encourages openness to other cultures and provides the promise of better days during transitional times. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the story and instructions on paper cutting in the backmatter. Overall, this one is a treasure, and a great way to start the year – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Before We Sleep (Giorgio Volpe & Paolo Proietti)

Hello, friends! Our book today Before We Sleep by Giorgio Volpe and Paolo Proietti, a soft and sweet tale of fall friendship.

Little Red the fox is excited for the change of seasons that brings fall – it means autumn colors to hide in and crunchy leaves to play with. The only thing that makes the fall even more fun is the time spent with Red’s best friend, Hazel the dormouse. The pair spend a marvelous fall frolicking and playing hide-and-seek. Yet as the air grows colder, Little Red begins to fret; soon winter will be here, and Hazel will go into hibernation, leaving Red all along until spring. Trying to think of ways to keep Hazel from hibernating, Red resorts to asking if Hazel will try to stay awake this year, but the dormouse gently replies that when spring has come again, they will be back together. Until then, they can enjoy the time they have by appreciating their best friend.

Very sweet. This Italian import explores themes of friendship, even through separation, in a gentle, tender, yet surprisingly honest fashion. And while the ending feels a little abrupt, it does leave the reader with the implication that even while Hazel hibernates, Red will be okay, if a little lonely, until spring. The text, with translation by Angus Yuen-Killick is filled with language that paints a beautiful autumnal story, and cleverly and subtly chooses not to gender either of the main characters. The soft, smoky lines of the pencil art is cozy yet moody, and captures the tone perfectly. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed it, even if she also felt the ending was a little unexpected. This is a different kind of tale, but one no less meaningful for it, and we liked 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.)

Good Night, Good Night (Sandra Boynton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Good Night, Good Night by Sandra Boynton, the original, longer version of the author/illustrator’s massively popular The Going To Bed Book.

After nearly 40 years in circulation, The Going To Bed Book gets an expansion based on Boynton’s original 1985 version, with redrawn illustrations to accompany the evergreen bedtime tale’s new layout. Fans of the story will enjoy the familiar rhyming text as it follows a motley group of animals at sea as they prepare for bedtime – brushing teeth, taking a bath, putting on jammies, and even working in a spot of exercise to get out that last minute energy. New scenes include cuddling into bed and a performance by two bunnies of a jaunty song about dreams of playing in the mud (including lyrics and musical notation). At last, the animals cut the lights and let the ocean gently rock them to sleep.

For nearly the entire first two years of JJ’s life, her bedtime routine included reading The Going To Bed Book, a perfectly paced and executed book that readers have been enjoying for decades. So naturally, we were excited to read this expanded version, and we weren’t disappointed! Boynton’s illustrations include all the fun and familiar visuals of the original, spaced out and with additional details to spot but otherwise effortlessly merging old with new. The addition of the song changes the story’s rhythm a bit, but JJ enjoyed the silly, simple tune immensely. Both versions are delightful in their own way, and present an opportunity to caregivers who can start with the board book version for very little bookworms, then introduce the expanded version as they grow. Overall, this was a treat – a fresh and fun new version of an undisputed classic. 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 Friend For Mole (Nancy Armo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Friend For Mole by Nancy Armo, a tale of an unlikely friendship.

Mole lives a quiet life in his underground burrow, where he enjoys the dark and the quiet. Still, he feels a bit lonely, which is why, when he hears the noises of other creatures above, he ventures out one day. However, the bright sun and loud noises are too disorienting for the little mole, and he stumbles into a bush to hide. When night falls, he is comfortable in the dark once more, but now he’s lost! Worse, there’s a mysterious noise nearby – another creature is near! Will it be a scary predator… or perhaps a new friend?

Sweet but slightly uneven. Mole is adorable, but his motivations and fears are a little inconsistent and therefore confusing. His budding friendship with Wolf is very sweet, though, and their night-time games to help Wolf with his fear of the dark are unique and fun. The ending is a little abrupt, and the illustrations a little simplistic yet still charming. The length is fine for a storytime, but JJ’s attention was definitely wavering. Overall, this one has pluses and minuses, but for a simple story of friendship and overcoming fears, it’s worth a look – 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 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.)