Fly (Brittany J. Thurman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Fly, written by Brittany J. Thurman and illustrated by Anna Cunha, a joyful tale of a little girl ready to show the world what she’s made of.

On Africa’s inner arm is a birthmark in the shape of her name. It inspires and guides her; today it leads her outside, where she sees a sign advertising a double-Dutch competition. She decides she wants to compete, despite never having double-Dutched before, certain that she has the raw talent. She tries to learn on her own, to no avail. She spends the week asking friends to show her how, but none of them know either. However, they do show her their own talents: stepping, dancing, tumbling, etc. The day of the competition, Africa has plenty of new skills… but she’s still never double-Dutched. Will she still be able to show what she’s made of?

Jubilant and uplifting. Africa’s story is one of community and courage, told in a accessible style with compelling text and rich, gorgeous illustrations. Spoiler alert, Africa does do well at the competition, but more importantly, she was brave enough to try something new, with the support of her friends and family and the knowledge they bestowed, all of which allowed her feet to fly. It’s a subtle metaphor and one that works wonderfully, especially when combined with the metaphor of Africa’s name and birthmark celebrating her heritage and Black identity. Thurman’s text is both lyrical and conversational, and lovely to read aloud; the deep colors and joyful energy of Cunha’s illustrations are a delight for the eyes. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved this one. A wonderful story of tenacity, friendship, and pride, and we 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.)

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.)

Unicorns Are The Worst! (Alex Willan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Unicorns Are The Worst! by Alex Willan, a hilarious tale of mistaken impressions and the importance of overcoming them.

Life has simply been disastrous for the unnamed goblin narrator since the meadow next door was taken over by – ugh – unicorns. All their prancing and glitter and harp music is utterly unbearable to the serious and studious goblin, who prefers to spent his days quietly studying spells and sorting ingredients. And don’t get him started on the tea parties, the ones they never even INVITE him to – not that he’d want to go anyway! Yet when goblin finds himself in a jam, he might be surprised how useful those silly unicorn traits can be… and why he should know not to judge a book by its cover.

Adorable, funny, and with a great message. Goblin certainly seems to have it out for the mostly-innocuous unicorns, but his tirades begin to show the true motivation behind his ire: he feels left out and doesn’t know how to connect with his new neighbors. When the unicorns use their prancing and glitter to defend the goblin from a dragon attack, he realizes that their seemingly frivolous hobbies have value, just as his magical studies do. It’s a nice way to show that there is value in our differences, and that we shouldn’t judge the interests of others simply because they don’t align with our own. The illustrations are delightful, using bright colors and sparkles (naturally) to show a visual contrast between the carefree unicorns and the more drab and staid goblin, and creating tension and comedy with dramatic angles and visual gags. The length is perfect for a storytime, I loved reading the expressive and conversational dialogue aloud, and JJ was tickled pink by the humor. This one is a treat – a throughly entertaining title with a solid lesson, 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.)