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!

Heather Has Two Mommies (Lesléa Newman)

Hello friends, and a happy start to Pride Month! To celebrate, our book today is the classic Heather Has Two Mommies, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Laura Cornell in the new edition (Diana Souza illustrated the original).

Heather’s very favorite number is two. Why? Well, there are two of all her very favorite things – she has two arms and two legs, two eyes and two ears, two pets (a dog and cat), and best of all, her two mommies. She has her Mama Jane and her Mama Kate, and she loves both of them the most, more than anyone else. On Heather’s very first day of school, it comes up in conversation that she doesn’t have a daddy, and for the first time, she feels insecure – is she the only one in class with no daddy? But when the teacher suggests that the children all draw their families, Heather and the reader quickly see that each family is made up differently, with blended families, single-parent families, other LGBTQ families and more. Her teacher reminds the children that what makes a family isn’t a set of rules about who is in it; what makes a family is simply the love they share.

This groundbreaking work, cited as the first lesbian-themed picture ever widely published, has been around since 1989, and there’s a reason the story has such staying power. The themes are simple and easy to grasp for young readers, but encourage the universal truth that families of every shape and size are made family by love – no other prerequisites required. The text is cheerful and positive, and Cornell’s colorful, lively illustrations capture the frenetic energy of childhood. The length is fine for bookworms of any age, and JJ loved the art, especially the detailed environments. A classic must-read, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!