Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade (Rob Sanders)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bling Blaine: Throw Glitter, Not Shade, written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Letizia Rizzo, a primer for young readers on how to be an ally.

Blaine loves all things sparkly: spangles, sequins, glitter, and shine – it can never be too much for him. His love of glitz brings light into the lives of his friends at Freedom Elementary School (as does his motto, “throw glitter, not shade!”). So when questioning kids – and adults – express confusion at Blaine’s particularity, his pals are there to explain that Blaine simply enjoys sparkles they way that they enjoy hoodies or high tops. However, the cruel looks and comments of his detractors upset Blaine, and he decides to leave his sparkles at home. Without his glitter, both literal and metaphorical, school becomes a far drearier place. What can Blaine’s friends do to restore his shine?

A smart and welcome look at allyship for little bookworms. Blaine is not specifically stated to be LGBTQ+, but rather gender-nonconforming, which works in both the metaphor of LGBTQ+ allyship and the very real consideration of the prejudice that gender-nonconforming children often face. Also impactful is the fact that Blaine suffers the derision of both children AND adults, a painful yet honest real-life truth. Blaine’s friends eventually show their support by “blinging” themselves out as well, and tackling the difficult conversations with Blaine’s critics on why their behavior is wrong and hurtful. This, along with the backmatter that provides tips on being an ally, is the best of the book, as it encourages young allies to support, listen, and adjust based on the emotional needs of the person they are supporting. And while the resolution of the book is a little lacking (Blaine DEFINITELY deserved some sincere apologies, especially from the adult library volunteer), the core message is strong and extremely welcome. Diverse, colorful art fits the tone perfectly, especially as the brightness of the art ebbs and flows with Blaine’s emotions. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ and I enjoyed it thoroughly. A great way to introduce allyship to kids, 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.)

Pride 1 2 3 (Michael Joosten)

Hello friends, and happy Pride! Our book today is Pride 1 2 3, written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Wednesday Holmes, an exuberant counting book centered around the festivities of Pride.

While many public Pride celebrations have been cancelled this year due to COVID, this joyful board book introduces the youngest readers to the message and importance of Pride through the simple 1 to 10 counting book format. From “1 parade in the month of June” to “10 waving flags fly brightly with pride”, little ones can get a peek at a warmly illustrated Pride celebration that features DJs, divas, motorcycles, floats, signs, and a beautifully diverse display of intersectionality. After all, Pride is all about coming together and celebrating what makes the LGBTQ+ community special, with hope, love… and pride.

Wonderful! Bursting with visual excitement and positivity, this sweet title pulls double duty as a primer for the annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and a solid counting book. Each countable feature (people, flags, floats, signs, etc.) are clearly defined, even in the riot of color featured in the endearing, Roger Priddy-esque illustrations. The diversity of the cast is phenomenal, featuring characters across the spectrum of LGBGTQ+ of a multitude of skintones and ability. My only minor complaint is on the final spread, which features a group flying a multiple of Pride flags; some of the flags used are outdated versions, and some do not appear at all. Otherwise, this is a gentle, fun, and inclusive title that was just a blast to read. The length was perfect, JJ loved it, and we highly 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.)

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!

Aalfred And Aalbert (Morag Hood)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Aalfred And Aalbert by Morag Hood, a charming love story.

Aalfred and Aalbert are aardvarks, their burrows dug mere feet from each other. Yet despite this, the two have never met; Aalfred is nocturnal and Aalbert only comes out in the day. Not realizing the other’s proximity, the two aardvarks go about their routines and explore their interests: Aalfred loves stars, broccoli, and picnics, while Aalbert is passionate about flowers, sunshine, and cheese (same). They’re happy in their day-to-days, but occasionally wish for a companion to share it with – and with the assistance of a matchmaking bluebird, they may find that love is closer than they ever imagined.

What a lovely book! Every element – from the simple, funny story, to the sweet and kind characters, to the charmingly adorable illustrations – comes together to form a short and sweet tale that will warm any romantic’s heart. The bluebird’s numerous failed attempts at matchmaking are hilarious visual gags, and the utter sweetness of Aalfred and Aalbert makes them so deeply endearing that you could find yourself a little misty-eyed at their happily-ever-after. Yet perhaps best of all are the subtle messages about love that the story tells: while the titular aardvarks hope for companionship, this is not the focus of their lives. Aalfred and Aalbert are happy, fulfilled, and well-rounded creatures all on their own, and are not depicted as “incomplete” without mates; what a fantastic message to send kids about the role of romantic relationships in one’s life. Furthermore, the fact that Aalfred and Aalbert are presented as a same-sex couple without fanfare or it being central to the plot is remarkably refreshing. JJ adored the little aardvarks and their bird friend, and I am happy to have a book for her that illustrates such an inclusive and positive model of love. A quiet and romantic gem of a book, 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.)

When Aidan Became A Brother (Kyle Lukoff)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When Aidan Became A Brother, written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, a very unique story of a little boy becoming a big brother.

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. So they decorated his room in “girly” colors and gave him a girl’s name and put him in pretty dresses. But when he grew bigger, Aidan realized that he hated all those girly things; of course, so did some of the other girls too, but Aidan didn’t feel like those types of girls – he felt like another type of boy. When he told his parents, they supported him and helped him transition, and now he’s happy being a boy, and most excited to be a big brother to his little sibling-to-be. He wants to make sure that the new baby will feel welcome and loved no matter who they are. But how can he do that, especially when the world can still be such a confusing place for him? Aidan’s willing to try – he’s determined to be the best big brother he can.

What an lovely and unexpected book. While the story centers around a transgender child, the main theme is not solely about being trans, but how we view gender. Telling it from the point of view of Aidan – a young child who has already spent his childhood examining gender roles by necessity – allows readers both young and old to question along with him as he ponders why it should matter if the new baby is a boy or girl, or how it should affect how they are dressed or treated. It allows the book to have a great range of themes: it’s a new baby book, and a book about growing up trans, and a book about societal views on gender, and a book about love and family, and a book about how there are lots of ways to be a boy or a girl, and more. It’s fresh and striking and can open up opportunities for many discussions. The artwork is the cherry on top, using bright patterns and expressive faces to create emotion and warmth. Even the author’s note is a touching reminder that by being true to ourselves, we make the world brighter and more wonderful. The length was great, and JJ loved it too. Absolutely superb, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!