A Small Kindness (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Small Kindness, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Wendy Leach, a sweet story about how even the smallest acts of goodwill can have a huge impact.

“It was like a game of tag”, our story begins, over a sepia-toned schoolyard where Ms. Jones’s new class has congregated; all the children are sepia-toned as well, with the exception of Alice. But when Alice smiles at Lucas, a bit of bright color spreads to him. When Lucas says hello to Jasmine, the color spreads to her as well. And on it goes, with every small act of kindness – a joke, a compliment, an act of service, a word of encouragement, etc. – bringing more and more pigments to the students, adults, and the school itself. By the time class lets out, the dullness has faded away and left a world of color – and it all started with one small act of kindness.

Lovely. McAnulty’s story is just perfect for young readers – the “game of tag” metaphor and the simple, short sentences to narrative the “movement” of the kindness create a concept that is as easily recognized as it is universal. Leach does a nice job with the illustrations, showing a diverse group of kids and giving them individual styles and expressions, helping to distinguish them from each other as the kindness moves through the class. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed it. This would be a great addition to any classroom or home library, 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.)

Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog (Lisa Papp)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog by Lisa W. Papp, third in the author’s sweet series on therapy dogs.

Readers once again join the timid yet kindhearted Madeline Finn and her young dog, Star (offspring of Bonnie, the titular library dog from the series’s first installment). Madeline has been training Star to be a therapy dog as well, and his final three tests are to take place at a retirement home, comforting the residents and showing the good canine manners he’s learned. While Madeline and Star’s efforts during the tests show promise, Madeline is troubled by one resident, Mr. Humphrey, who remains silent and withdrawn during their visits. After brainstorming ways to connect with the man – as well as conferring with her mother and Bonnie’s owner, Mrs. Dimple – Madeline decides on patience and kindness as her approach… with heartwarming results.

Lovely. Papp’s gentle story and soft illustrations fit in perfectly with the rest of her series, both an informative introduction to the training and value of therapy dogs, as well as a look at the merits of patience when overcoming a challenge. Newcomers to Madeline’s story may not understand some of the references to previous books, but these are quick moments that don’t distract from the main narrative, and that fans of the series will deeply appreciate (Madeline reading aloud to Mr. Humphrey is especially touching). Madeline, Star, and Bonnie are irresistibly cute in their illustrations, and the elderly residents are rightly humanized, if a little soft-focused to feel realistic (there is a distinct lack of wrinkles, age spots, or other physical signifiers of old age other than some white hair and wheelchairs). The story is a little longer, but worth the read, especially for patient readers; JJ loved the gentle pace and sweet artwork. A lovely continuation of a heartfelt series, 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.)

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).

Extraordinary Ordinary Ella (Amber Hendricks)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Extraordinary Ordinary Ella, written by Amber Hendricks, and illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell, a fantastic story of kindness.

Ella has an issue. Everyone she knows is talented at something: her sister Carmen is a graceful dancer, her cousin Kenji is a virtuoso pianist, her best friend Maria is a wizard at baking, and so on. In fact, it seems that everyone at Ella’s school is brilliantly talented at something… except for Ella. So when the school talent show is announced, Ella is excited to enter… but clueless as to what her talent will be. All week, she attempts different routines – ribbon dancing, juggling, knitting – but to no avail. Still, she can be there to support her friends, who often run into problems with their own performances that Ella is quick to assist with or solve. At last, the day of the big talent show arrives, and Ella eagerly watches all her friends perform from the audience. Yet, thanks to her grateful pals, Ella may still get her moment in the spotlight, and find that she’s extraordinarily talented after all.

Lovely. This sweet tale has a great message for little ones: we can’t all be great at everything, and sometimes a hobby or sport or artistic pursuit doesn’t work out. What we can all do, however, regardless of innate ability, is exercise “ordinary” talents: being kind, helpful, and generous with our time and resources. In fact, one of Ella’s most inspiring qualities is that she shows no jealousy or spite towards her peers, even as she struggles; they are her friends, and she wants them to succeed. It’s great modeling for young readers, showing that no matter what our individual talents are, we are all capable of being good to one another. The charming and diverse illustrations add to the warm tone, and the length is perfect for a storytime – JJ loved it. An earnest tale with a timeless lesson, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Someone New (Jill Twiss)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Someone New, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by E.G. Keller, a sweet tale of courage and kindness in the face of change.

Jitterbug the chipmunk wakes up with the rumble in her tummy – Something New is coming. See, Jitterbug’s tummy can always tell when things are about to change because Jitterbug is not a fan; she prefers that things stay the way they are, especially her peaceful forest home and the company of her friends (a butterfly named Toast, two otters named Duffles and Nudge, and a goose named Geezer). The nervous chipmunk checks in with her pals, but finds them going about their daily routines. With growing trepidation over the Something New, she turns to find that the something… is a someONE. Pudding the snail has travelled to the forest after a flood has destroyed her garden and left her alone, and she hopes to make a new home in the forest. Filled with swirling irrational thoughts of what MIGHT go wrong, Jitterbug dismisses the snail immediately. She instantly feels calm.. until her friends point out that her actions were cold and irrational. With the help of her friends, can Jitterbug come to understand the importance of compassion, even in the face of change?

Lovely. The main storyline features a lot of good lessons in empathy, especially Jitterbug being talked out of her kneejerk reaction; her friends patiently convince her that while change is unavoidable, kindness is a choice. Pudding’s story, and later some of the friends’ stories as well, give nods to the plight of refugees and other groups in need, gently showing how those in need can often have their lives upturned in a moment, and how the acceptance and goodwill of others can often be a life-changing gesture. Keller’s animals are an adorable mix of realism and anthropomorphized characteristics, and the language of the story is light, yet impactful exactly when it needs to be. The length was fine, and JJ loved it. A lovely tale of empathy, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!