The Witches Three Count On Me! (Yates Davis & Lynda Bouchard)

Hello, friends! Our spooky series book today is The Witches Three Count On Me!, written by Yates Davis and Lynda Bouchard, and illustrated by Kody Kratzer.

During dinner on Halloween, a little boy misbehaves and is sent to his room, but he decides to “play a trick” by climbing out the window and running into the woods. There, he comes upon a group of three witches casting spells by moonlight, who quickly capture the boy and fly him on broomstick back to their lair. Knowing the witches plan to eat him, the boy uses his trickery skills to confuse the witches with a math riddle, fooling them and winning his freedom. The witches flee, and the boy runs home to his waiting mother and Halloween superhero costume.

Frightfully uneven. The unnamed protagonist doesn’t get off on a very good foot by beginning the story by calling his little sister ugly, something that makes her cry (the illustration is mildly devastating). From there, while he experiences some minor moments of peril, he does not seem to learn anything from his experiences, and shows no growth or remorse by the end. The rhyming text is well-balanced for the most part, with a few inscrutable verses that are difficult to read aloud, but the story itself drags, and the word problem during the climax causes an abrupt and jarring tonal shift. The artwork is similarly inconsistent, with some spreads nicely balancing autumnal hues and cinematic framing while others have noticeably flat features or oddly-exaggerated character expressions. This would definitely be better for older elementary children, owing to the difficulty the math problem and the length; JJ enjoyed the first few pages of witches, but lost interest quickly. Overall, this ambitious indie lacked the polish and direction that could have made for a better Halloween tale, and it wasn’t for us.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by a representative of the author 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.)

If Dominican Were A Color (Sili Recio)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Dominican Were A Color, written by Sili Recio and illustrated by Brianna McCarthy, an ode to Dominican culture and the people who embody it.

What is the color of “Dominican”? Is it the blazing reds and orange of a setting sun, the deep green tints of shady palm leaves, or the neutral browns of café con leche? Or would it be the sounds of drumbeats, the sway of hips dancing the merengue, or the roar of a moonlight ocean? In truth, Dominican is no color, but all colors at once, and all the places and people the word represents.

Beautiful yet uneven. Recio writes with a clear passion for the Dominican Republic, and describes cultural and physical aspects of the island with beautiful, rich language that reflects this. However, when the story veers into commentary on colorism (something the DR has a long and particularly complicated experience with), it begins to stumble. Language surrounding skintones reads as slightly more divisive than was likely intended, especially in confusing lines like “If Dominican were a color it would be the shades of orange in the sunrise’s hue, the Haitian black on my Dominican back.” In the author’s afterward, she expresses a wish to affirm Dominican identities in all skin tones, hair types, and ethnic backgrounds; and in fact, McCarthy’s illustrations accomplish this particularly well, in addition to capturing the themes of bright color and lively energy. And while the text makes an effort to celebrate darker skintones and kinkier hairstyles, the effect is hit or miss. Otherwise, the length was fine for a storytime, and JJ did enjoy the beautiful illustrations and lyrical text. A few rough patches, but still worth a look, especially as a celebration of Dominican culture. Overall, 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’m a Feel-o-saur (Lezlie Evans)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’m a Feel-o-saur, written by Lezlie Evans and illustrated by Kate Chappell, an adorable look at emotions and how we manage them.

Starring a cast of “dino-kids” – a group of children in colorful full-body dinosaur costumes – the upbeat rhyming text introduces young readers to a wide range of emotions, and how one might deal with them. Each dino-kid embodies a different feeling, from Happy-saurus to Shy-o-saurus to Scared-o-saurus to Brave-o-saurus. For negative feelings, strategies like deep breathing, counting, and seeking comfort are suggested; for positive feelings, kids are encouraged to embrace their energy and use it for good.

Absolutely fantastic. Precious, warm, and endearing illustrations paired with bouncy yet heartfelt rhyming text express a variety of moods and emotions in ways that kids can connect with. Each emotion is handled with tact and sensitivity; kids are told that it’s okay to go through many emotions in a day, and that there’s nothing wrong with having sad or mad or scared feelings. The tips on the last spread, such as drawing a picture of overcoming one’s fears or using bravery to stand up for someone else, are especially wonderful. And the diverse cast of dino-kids are simply delightful. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ absolutely loved this one. Overall, a great way to talk about feelings and coping strategies with little ones, and it’s a 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 Secret of the Magic Pearl (Elisa Sabatinelli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Secret of the Magic Pearl, written by Elisa Sabatinelli and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, a stunning chapter book about courage, family, and the sea.

Young Hector lives in a small seaside town in Italy, one that is not particularly noteworthy to the outside world, but to Hector, is the most beautiful in the world. His dream is to become a deep sea diver like his father and grandfather before him, but his dream is interrupted by Amedeo Limonta (“the bad guy in this story”) building the tourist destination Rivadoro nearby and putting the marina where his family operate their tours out of business. Hector knows Limonta seeks a fabled pearl – the purest in the world – and he plans to find the pearl first and discover its secrets. Along the way, he and the other characters will discover more secrets as well: of family, of community, and of the living sea.

Spellbinding. Sabatinelli creates an energetic and guileless voice in Hector, as he describes the settings and unique characters surrounding him with beautiful, evocative language; readers are transported to windswept coastal Italy, witness to small town shenanigans and stormy sea journeys with the turn of each page. Bruno’s illustrations are equally immersive, seamlessly weaving through the chapters with spreads and margin artwork that is sometimes educational, sometimes comical, and always captivating. This chapter book is best for elementary-age and older bookworms, but can easily be read aloud in sections; JJ adored the story, even if it took us a few days to cover it entirely. Overall, this is a longer read that it utterly worth it, and we definitely 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.)