Hope And Freckles: Fleeing To A Better Forest (Bill Kiley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hope And Freckles: Fleeing To A Better Forest, written by Bill Kiley and illustrated by Mary Manning.

Mother deer Hope and her fawn Freckles have lived in the Olden Forest all their life, but the time has come for them to leave; food is growing scarce and the number of predators are increasing. Fearing for her baby’s future, Hope decides to head to the Big Pine Forest. Together, the two walk for many days, meeting other deer who have also been forced from their homes and traveling beside them. At last, they reach to Big Pine Forest, only to find a big wall and two rangers barring their entrance. Initially combative, the rangers listen to the deers’ pleas for refuge and decide to let them in, but under a few conditions: they will have to be separated from the other deer, fenced in until the higher-ups decide if they can stay. Most frighteningly, they declare the adult deer must be separated from their fawns. Freckles cries at the thought of being separated from his mother, and Hope tries her best to comfort him by promising they’ll see each other again soon. Yet as the days go by with no word or sign of Freckles, Hope begins to wonder: will she ever see her baby again?

Whew, this one is heavy. Essentially a storybook retelling of the current immigration crisis at the United States’ southern border, this animal-fable is striking honest. Hope and Freckles are eventually reunited, but other refugee deer are suddenly loaded into trucks that take them back to their origins – without their fawns (there is a vague promise that the fawns will be brought to them later, but this is never shown and left ambiguous). It’s sad, and could potentially be upsetting for younger readers, yet does a commendable job of making such complicated subject accessible and understandable. The digital art is exceptionally good for an indie, with expressive characters that inspire empathy. The length and subject matter are better for older readers, though JJ was very invested throughout. A challenging tale to be sure, but one that may help little ones find sympathy for those seeking better lives. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

A Different Pond (Bao Phi)

Hello, friends! Today, we’re reviewing A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, a quietly powerful story of family and fortitude.

A young boy wakes early with his father, both moving quietly so as not to wake the rest of the family. He helps his father load the car with their fishing supplies. They drive to the bait shop, where the owner remarks that they are up very early this morning. The boy’s father explains that he got a second job, and when he and the boy arrive at the lake, the boy wonders aloud: if his father has two jobs now, why must they still fish for food? The father explains that in America, everything is very expensive, and the boy helps him ready his line and light a fire for warmth. In the quiet solitude of the dark morning, the boy’s father tells him about the pond he would fish in when he was the boy’s age, with the brother he lost in the war. The boy and father catch enough fish, and return home to an apartment filled with the warmth and love of their family. The boy takes great pride in their bounty – he helped to provide dinner.

Wow. This was an incredible book. The story of father and son and their early-morning fishing trip is moving on many levels, but what makes it remarkable is its broad appeal across ages. The text on each page is chosen carefully, openly appealing and interesting to little ones yet conveying meaningful subtext to older readers in an economy of words. It’s beautiful and powerful, and leaves those of any age with much to think about. The art is perfect, capturing the mood and and emotions of the characters and environments in soft, soothing tones, making the reader feel as safe and at home as the little boy in the story. The length was fine for JJ, and we both loved it. This is a piece of art in picture book form, and a must-read for all ages. Baby Bookworm approved!

We Came To America (Faith Ringgold)

Hello friends, and happy Independence Day! We wanted to read a special book for the occasion, so we chose We Came To America by Faith Ringgold, an illustrated poem in picture book form that celebrates the diversity that founded our nation and our culture.

“We came to America, every color, race, and religion, from every country in the world,” the rhyming text of We Came To America repeats, accompanying a folk-style portrait of a person, group or family from a different corner of the Earth. Some came in chains, some came escaping persecution, some came hoping for opportunity, even a very few have always been here. Most important, they all came together to form the United States, a country built from voyagers, migrants and dreamers who came here and gave of themselves to create the land we all call home.

Lovely book with a fantastic message. I love that the diversity of America, and Americans, is explored with tact but still honest (for instance, it’s important that slavery is not shied away from as one of ways people came to be in the US). But ultimately, it’s a celebration of the great multitudes of cultures, religions, and communities that built the nation and continue to make up it’s very fabric. The folk art is colorful and vibrant, and JJ enjoyed it a lot. The length was great, and the message is as timeless as it is timely: no matter our origins or appearances, we are ALL Americans. Baby Bookworm approved!