Lali’s Feather (Farhana Zia)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lali’s Feather, written by Farhana Zia and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, a delightful story of ingenuity and friendship.

Lali is playing in the field one day when she finds a feather. Wishing to return it to its owner, she asks Rooster, Crow, and Peacock if they are missing it. They all say no, pointing out the feather’s plainness (as opposed to Peacock’s fancy feathers) and pokeyness (as opposed to Crow’s perky feathers), and so on. So Lali decides to keep her feather to play with. Her friends Hen, Duck, Jay laugh at the little feather, but as Lali finds more and more ways to creatively play with the feather, all six of the birds become more excited and invested. Then, when a gust of wind blows the feather out of Lali’s grasp, she is left broken-hearted. Fortunately, her feathered friends are there, and eager to bring her feather back.

Wonderfully unique. Various themes are explored in this one (different species of birds, imaginative play, not judging by appearances, etc.), all weaving together to create a story that is rich with substance yet light and fun to read. Particularly enjoyable is Lali’s creative mind, which can find a hundred uses for a plain, small, pokey feather, such as tickling, sweeping, writing, and more. It shows little readers that any ordinary object can be a toy, and the very best games are often the ones we create ourselves. The illustrations are gorgeous, creating a lush country home setting and memorable characters. Lali’s Indian culture is flawlessly woven throughout, from her bindi and clothing to the Indian slang used in the dialogue (translations are not provided, yet easy to guess from context). The length is perfect, and JJ adored the colors and characters. A marvelously enjoyable 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.)

I Can Be Whatever I Want (Siana Lucero & Deborah Lucero)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Can Be Whatever I Want, written by Siana & Deborah Lucero and illustrated by Siana Lucero, an indie ode to the power of imagination.

When Siana (a self-insert by the young author-illustrator) is asked by her nana what she wants to be when she grows up, Siana replies easily: “A unicorn.” When nana points out that Siana is a person – and therefore unlikely to achieve her unicorn dreams – Siana challenges this and changes her grandmother’s mind. Feeling confident that she can truly become whatever she wants to be, Siana lets her imagination run wild, pretending to be a giraffe, a lioness, a butterfly, and more. In each fantasy, she focuses on her feelings and invents a world to inhabit. Concluding that anyone else can be what they want as well, Siana leaves the reader with her advice: believe, imagine, and feel, and you too can achieve your dreams.

Charming. While this self-published indie title has many of the earmarks of such (including slightly clunky text and illustrations), these are more readily excused by the author-illustrator being seven or eight. And in fact, beyond the title’s rough edges is a surprisingly sweet and earnest tale with a strong core message: our imaginations, and potential, are limitless. Siana’s sincere encouragement to her young peers is especially heartwarming, and the adorable details – straight from the mind of a child – of her fantasies make it an entertaining read. And while indie titles can tend to be long-winded, this one keeps things brisk and light, making it a fun and easy story to read aloud. JJ enjoyed this one, and other little bookworms will too; it’s a wonderful way to show that young people can do anything (even write and illustrate their own picture book), if they believe in themselves. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Just Because (Mac Barnett)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Just Because, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, a sweet tale of imagination.

As a little girl cuddles into bed for the night, she has a question for her father: “Why is the ocean blue?” Rather than replying with the titular phrase, dad instead answers with a more creative explanation: the fish like to take out their guitars and sing sad songs, which makes them cry blue tears. The little girl counters: why is the sky blue? Well, those are the tears of flying fish, naturally. With each question, her father spins a new imagining of the explanation, from why the leaves change color to what happened to all the dinosaurs. At last, the little girl wonders why she must go to sleep, and her father answers simply: “there are some things we can only see with our eyes closed.”

A sweet ode to creative storytelling, and especially to childhood curiosity and wonder. Each fantasy that the father constructs for his little one is illustrated in lovely detail on a two-page spread, bringing the dream to life in a phenomenal traditional art style, featuring largely grayscale features with explosive pops of color. The explanations themselves are wonderfully creative – especially the dinosaurs, which had JJ and I both giggling – and the ultimate lesson on the importance of dreams, and of fostering them in young and curious minds, is just perfect. The length is fine for a bedtime read, yet the art invites closer examination anytime. JJ enjoyed this one a lot, and so did I – Baby Bookworm approved!

A Tiger Like Me (Michael Engler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Tiger Like Me, written by Michael Engler, illustrated by Joëlle Tourlonias, and translated by Laura Watkinson.

From the time the first rays of sunlight hit his eyes to the time he tucks in again for bed, a little tiger – who is actually a little boy in a collection of tiger costumes – is on the move. First, he greets the day with his fearsome roar, on to a nourishing breakfast (tiger-themed cereal, naturally), then he’s ready for a day of exploring, adventuring, causing mischief, and learning. He hides in a basket of laundry that substitutes for jungle brush – that is, until he gets stuck and calls for help from his tiger-mom and tiger-dad. Hunting hapless toys, frolicking in the snow, even cozying into his tiger-parents’ “den” for snuggles at day’s end, there’s nothing this little tiger can’t handle.

Adorable. Originally written in German, this playful look at a child’s imagination in their daily routine is a treat, both for the silly and sometimes naughty antics of the tiger-boy that will delight little bookworms, and the winks and nods at the familiar frustrations and rewards of parenting for caregivers (whose child DOESN’T go through a phase like the boy’s?). The text can be a little dense, yet flows beautifully, with a poetic rhythm that punches up the dynamic moments and soothes during the quieter ones. The illustrations rely a little heavily on muddled browns and greens, and can be a bit busy at times; however, in spreads like the young tiger waking up in a forest of his own imagining, or snuggling in bed with his tired yet devoted parents, it’s downright beautiful. Better for slightly older bookworms in terms of length, though JJ enjoyed it immensely throughout. Overall, a sweet treat for little pretenders everywhere – 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.)

Happy Dreamer (Peter H. Reynolds)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds, an ode to creativity and imagination.

A little boy introduces himself to the reader as a happy dreamer: a creative soul who simply cannot help but let his mind wander, explore, create, and of course, dream. The world may tell him to sit down, be still, and keep quiet, but when his dreaming starts, he simply cannot. Whether they be quiet dreams, loud dreams, high-flying dreams, explosive dreams, colorful dreams, or a dozen other types of dreaming, he is proud that his mind is a doorway to the endless unknown, and that his dreamer’s spirit will guide him through.

Sweet. Reynolds’s meditation on the creative mind features colorful and appropriately expressive illustrations, and story that reads like a jazz song – each spread is a variation on the theme, culminating in a wonderful pull-out section that features dozens of diverse young dreamers expressing their creativity in their own ways (from art and music to community and civic service). There were a few moments that weren’t my cup of tea, such as the suggestion that a symptom of being creative is to also be disorganized – speaking from personal experience, this just isn’t true – or disobedient in the face of structure. But overall, for many imaginative kids who might share these qualities, it is a nice way of letting them know that they aren’t alone. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed the colorful art. This is a cute book that encourages the dreamer in all of us, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.