The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish (Lil Miss Hot Mess)

Hello friends, and happy Pride month! Today, we’re reviewing the fantastically fabulous The Hips on the Drag Queen Go Swish, Swish, Swish, written by Lil Miss Hot Mess and illustrated by Olga de Dios!

In the world of drag, the hips go swish, the shoes go stomp, the shoulders go shimmy, and the fingers go snap. Introducing little bookworms to the magic, glamour, and fun of drag, this catchy reworking of “Wheels on the Bus” introduces some of the staple elements and moves of drag performers (hair also goes “up”, cheeks go “blush”) to young readers. Meanwhile, a kaleidoscope of fabulous and fierce queens twirl and kick their way through a neighborhood – context clues and Easter eggs make is easily recognizable as the Castro district of San Francisco – bringing energy, color, and joy in their wake.

Love it, love it, LOVE IT. In the grand tradition of drag storytimes, this gloriously LGBTQ+ picture book is a celebration of the art of drag that makes it accessible and entertaining for readers of any age. The lyrics are ridiculously fun to sing-along to, and even more so to dance to; drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess cleverly chooses actions that are synonymous with drag performance yet easy for kids to imitate (stomps, twirls, snaps, etc.), and JJ and I were both up and dancing by the end of the book. The queens themselves (introduced by their pun-tastic personas on the front- and end-pages) are beautifully diverse in skintone, body type, and gender expression. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ adored it, going back for several more rereads. This is a gem of representation and celebration that any drag fan (or future fan) will love, no matter the age. Baby bookworm approved!

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

Maiden & Princess (Daniel Haack & Isabel Galupo)

Hello, friends! Our books today is Maiden & Princess, written by Daniel Haack and Isabel Galupo, and illustrated by Becca Human.

In this follow-up to Haack’s previous title, Prince & Knight (illustrated by Stevie Lewis), we are introduced to a young maiden as she overhears a royal announcement: the king and queen shall hold a ball so that their son, the prince, can find a suitable wife. The maiden is deeply conflicted about this; she is celebrated both for her beauty and courage in battle, and many of the royal subjects insist that the prince will choose her. She, however, only thinks of the prince as a friend and brother-in-arms. Not wanting to miss the ball, she dresses to the nines and attends, but is quickly overwhelmed by the attentions of the other partygoers. Stealing outside for some fresh air, she happens upon a beautiful lady. The two begin to talk, soon whiling away the hours in deep conversation. But a revelation by the king and queen may put a damper on their blossoming relationship; for the lady is not ordinary courtier, but the royal princess herself.

Lovely. Prince & Knight was one of our favorites from last year, so to see a similar tale told from a female perspective was a wonderful treat. Truly remarkable is the way the story manages to weave traditional fairytale romance with details that make it refreshingly modern and affirming. The battle maiden is not shunned for her courage or skill, but lauded for it; nor is it implied that fierce and strong girls can’t also enjoy “feminine” pursuits like getting dressed up. The princess is intelligent and studious, and these qualities are described as attractive and positive. Both women are drawn as being women of color with accurate, proportional body types, and both are described as stunningly beautiful for it. Even the reaction of the king and queen – one of joy and unwavering support of their daughter’s happiness – is a positive message of acceptance. The art is colorful, magical, and diverse, the length is great, and we loved this one. A beautiful fairytale for anyone who enjoys a heartwarming romance, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Prince & Knight (Daniel Haack)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Prince & Knight, written by Daniel Haack and illustrated Stevie Lewis, a fairy tale with a refreshingly inclusive love story.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful kingdom, where lived and handsome and sincere prince. The prince was ready to take over rule for the King and Queen, but he would need to be married first. The royal family leaves on a journey to find a princess for a bride. But while he meets many lovely princesses, none of them ignite that special spark of love for the prince. Then the royals receive word: in their absence, a fearsome dragon has lain waste to the land! The prince bravely races home to defend his kingdom and, upon facing the fearsome beast, finds he is not alone. An armor-clad knight has arrived as well, and the two work together to subdue the dragon, saving each other’s lives in the process. Taking a moment to exchange thanks, the knight removes his helmet, and the men feel an instantaneous bond – the spark they had been seeking.

YES, we are starting this year off RIGHT! I had an idea of what the plot of this story would be based on the cover, but the delivery was just splendid. From the thrilling action sequence (which nimbly sidesteps any violence or death, rest assured), the cheerful and sweet rhyming text, and of course, the heartwarming love story. The specific focus on marriage (the prince’s parents feel that he needs a spouse to rule) rather than on yearning for love is not ideal, but easily forgotten when the two leads find that love at first sight. The illustrations are phenomenal, evoking classic fairytale themes through a modern, almost cinematic lens. The length was great, and JJ and I both loved it. A marvelous love story for all little ones to enjoy, and especially for little boys who dream of their own handsome prince someday. Baby Bookworm approved!

Julián Is A Mermaid (Jessica Love)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Julián Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love, a gorgeous tale of pride and acceptance for a gender nonconforming boy.

Riding the train with his abuela, Julián is delighted when three beautiful women dressed as mermaids get on board. Julián imagines himself as a mermaid, growing a tail of his own and long, beautiful hair that waves gently through the ocean, making friends with the sea creatures who love and accept him. When he and Abuela arrive home, Julián tell her that he wants to be a mermaid too, but Abuela simply instructs him to be good as she takes a bath. As she bathes, Julián is struck with inspiration: he sheds his normal clothes and crafts a mermaid outfit for himself, with a headdress of flowers and palm fronds, a long flowing tail made from a curtain, and a pop of lipstick to complete the look. Enjoying his new ensemble, he doesn’t hear his abuela exit her bath, and finds her staring at him in silence. At first, the reader and Julián think he must be in trouble… until he finds that acceptance is not only found in the sea.

Absolutely gorgeous. We’ve read a few lovely books this month about trans and gender nonconforming little ones, but this is definitely my favorite so far. The story is simple, subtle, but incredibly moving. The rich, earthy-colored illustrations need only minimal text to assist in getting the message across, but what is there is equally, perfectly understated. And the visual symbolism strikes a perfect tone, using texture, motion, color, and pattern to explore Julián’s hidden world of imagination and connect it to the reality of his quietly supportive abuela. The length is perfect, and JJ adored the art. A beautiful story for little mermaids of all genders, and it’s emphatically Baby Bookworm approved.

Donovan’s Big Day (Lesléa Newman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Donovan’s Big Day, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Mike Dutton, a sweet story of a little boy and his very important day.

Donovan’s day is starting, and because it is a very special day, he has a million things to remember and do. When Grandpa comes to wake him, he must remember not to nestle under the covers and fall back asleep. When breakfast is served, he must try to eat quickly but be tidy, and when he cleans up after he must remember to wash his face and brush his teeth and comb his hair neatly. He must put on this brand new suit and take very special care of the little white satin box his aunt gave him, and then he must wait quietly with all four of his grandparents and his cousin for the music to start. Then he must walk down the aisle, and when the officiant says so, hand the box with his Mommy and Mama’s rings to them and listen to their vows. But at the end of this very big day, he was one more thing to do: give his moms a great big hug and kiss to celebrate their day.

Just wonderful. While Donovan and his moms are indeed a queer family, this is not the focus of the story; instead, this is simply a family story about a little boy’s important job as ring bearer for his parents who happen to be a gay couple. It’s a choice that normalizes queer families and weddings, and shows that they have all the love, support, and joy of any family. It also makes the book a useful tool for any family preparing a little one to be a ring bearer by giving a taste of what may be expected of them on their own big day. The art is warm and sweet, capturing the sense of the bustle, pomp, and tenderness of a wedding day well. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. A lovely story for any family planning a trip down the aisle, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!