Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention (Pip Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention, written by Pip Jones and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, a clever tale of one ingenious girl.

Izzy Gizmo and her pet bird Fixer are working on her newest invention one day (a So-Sew to mend clothes), when an invitation arrives in the mail. Izzy has been invited to the Invention Convention, a contest amongst young inventors held on the ingeniously-engineered Technoff Isle. The Professor and Mick Marvel challenge Izzy and her four competitors to come up with an impressive invention, and while Izzy is gung-ho, her quests for tools and supplies are thwarted at every turn by the pompous and unsportsmanlike Abi von Lavish. Her frustrations lead to a string of failed inventions and engineering hurdles, and she even gets so frustrated that she lashes out at Fixer. But with sage advice from her Grandpa, an apology to her friend, and a spark of inspiration, Izzy’s gizmo may just win the day.

Very cute. While this title is a follow-up to Izzy’s 2017 debut, this is our first encounter with the young inventor, and we enjoyed it immensely. Much like Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere – a perennial favorite in our household- Izzy is both admirably brilliant yet emotionally relatable (in fact, Ogilvie’s exuberant artwork, filled with madcap energy and meticulous details, also shares a spirit with Rosie’s other creator, David Roberts; the girls would be good friends, I imagine). What’s more, Izzy wants to do well and play fair, and facing adversity on her efforts, she redirects and perseveres without compromising her beliefs – a great lesson for kiddos. The rhymes can occasionally have a tricky rhythm, but are mostly fun to read aloud, and JJ enjoyed the colorful and detailed artwork. This is a sweet story with a myriad of themes, and we liked it a lot! Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bo The Brave (Bethan Woollvin)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Bo The Brave by Bethan Woollvin, a lovely tale of a courageous young monster-hunter.

Young Bo lives in a castle, in a land of mountains and forests. Her older brothers, Ivar and Erik, are bold monster hunters, and Bo longs to be one too. Yet when she asks to accompany her brothers on their latest hunt, they laugh at and tease her. Determined, Bo decides to set off and catch a monster of her own – yet after a few chance encounters with friendly griffins, helpful krakens, and weepy dragons, Bo begins to question the monster-hunting lifestyle… and who the real monsters are.

Wonderful. Well-realized themes of tolerance, understanding, and compassion are explored in a story that stars a heroine for all little girls (and boys). Bo is indeed brave, but also clever, kind, inquisitive, and resolute. Upon realizing that the so-called “monsters” are only sweet beasts going about their lives, and that the true monsters are her baby dragon-kidnapping brothers, Bo fearlessly faces down her siblings and subdues the frightened, fiery tot. She then dedicates her time to learning about the beasts, rather than hunting them. It’s a wonderful message of judging by character rather than appearance, and thinking critically. The Scandinavian-style illustrations have a limited yet expressive palette, and feature some wonderfully designed characters, settings and creatures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved Bo and her monster friends. This is a wonderful story that explores what it truly means to be brave, and we enjoyed it immensely. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rosie: Stronger Than Steel (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rosie: Stronger Than Steel by Lindsay Ward, a fantastic tale of one eager little tractor and the women and men she helped when they needed it most.

There’s a war going on, and people have donated their scrap metal to build machines to help the effort. Some of those scraps are melted down and used to build Rosie, a bright green tractor built under FDR’s Lend-Lease Act. The all-female riveters, welders, and machinists who built Rosie inspire her to a sense of purpose, and she emerges the factory with a rose painted on her hood and an oath to work as hard as she can. Shipped to England to assist the Women’s Land Army: a collective of women who left their homes to, like the factory workers, take up the necessary work left behind by the men. Rosie helps them plow, haul, harvest, anything she can do. Together, she and her new friends keep the farms running, not only until the war is over but long beyond.

Phenomenal. This historical, girl-power tractor story is filled with a stunning sense of history, community, and humanity. From the jump, Rosie introduces the reader to the incredibly strong women of WWII, and all the ways they helped the war effort when they could not fight. Rosie’s story of steadfast loyalty and tenacity also showcases human women building, fixing, digging, felling trees, and more. And the ending, in which Rosie’s decades of tireless service are rewarded and recognized, brought a tear to the eye. Ward’s illustrations are friendly yet dynamic, and give Rosie herself an impossible amount of charm. Backmatter provides context for Rosie’s world and more in-depth information on women’s war efforts. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both fell in love with strong, faithful Rosie by the end. A lovely tale to end Women’s History Month, and a reminder to us all that in tough times, our willingness to help others is our greatest strength. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip (Sarah Glenn Marsh)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Alice Across America: The Story of the First Women’s Cross-Country Road Trip, written by Sarah Glenn Marsh and illustrated by Gilbert Ford.

From when Alice Ramsey was a little girl, she loved to go fast. Graduating from horses to the relatively-new invention of automobiles in her adulthood, she surprised many by becoming a skilled driver and racer, eventually being approached by an auto manufacturer. They had an offer: drive across the United States in one of their cars, to show that they were so easy to operate, “even a lady could do it”. Alice agreed, bringing three friends along for the nearly-4000 mile journey. Using mostly-unpaved roads and pathways in a vehicle lacking all modern convenience, the four girls rattled from New York to San Francisco over the course of two months, learning how to solve problems, whether storms, and rely on each other to keep the little car going.

Interesting! Alice’s story is certainly one I wasn’t aware of and, despite it’s mildly sexist impetus, was a pretty exciting tale of female fortitude, ingenuity, and friendship. Each spread gives an account of challenges the four ladies faced along the way, from broken or overheated parts, flooded rivers, bedbug-ridden hotels, and escaped criminals, making the reader feel like they are right beside the women on their exciting journey. Alice herself is portrayed as level-headed and no-nonsense, and she makes for a strong central figure. The folk-art style illustrations capture the scenic drive from city to mountains to redwoods forests beautifully, though the human characters occasionally sport unusual features or facial expressions. The length would be best for elementary-aged bookworms, but JJ enjoyed the ride. A warm and enjoyable girl-power tale, 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.)

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.)