A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo (Jill Twiss)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller, a delightful story about two bunnies and a Very Special Day.

Marlon Bundo begins by introducing himself to the audience: he is a bunny who lives in a big, fancy house with his family. Marlon’s Very Special Day starts like any normal day, but as he is hopping outside, he suddenly sees the most beautiful bunny, with the fluffiest tail and the floppiest ears, named Wesley. Wesley and Marlon quickly become friends and spend the day hopping together, and as the sun sets, Marlon and Wesley realize that they don’t ever want to hop without the other again. They decide to marry, and happily announce this to their animal friends – only to have The Stinkbug (a bug who has declared himself in charge by virtue of his stinkiness) rudely decree that “Boy Bunnies Can’t Marry Boy Bunnies!” Marlon, Wesley, and their friends question this, debating The Stinkbug’s various arbitrary reasons. Realizing that they outnumber the Stinkbug, they quickly take a vote to oust him from power, and Marlon and Wesley happily marry with all their friends attending. After all, “Stinkbugs are only temporary. Love is forever.”

Viewers of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver might be familiar with this book and its backstory, but for this review, I want to look at Marlon Bundo solely as a children’s book. And honestly? We loved it. The text is fun and filled with endearing storybook language, the characters are charming, the art is positively adorable, and the message of the story is phenomenal. I loved that it not only promotes tolerance for and inclusion of others, but introduces the idea of voting as a means to affect change. The length was fine, JJ loved the bunnies, and it even supports good causes: proceeds go to The Trevor Project and AIDS United. Overall, definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

Stella Brings The Family (Miriam B. Schiffer)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Stella Brings The Family, written by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, a positively lovely story about family and the many shapes and sizes it comes in.

At school, Stella’s teacher announces that the class will be having a Mother’s Day celebration, and the kids are excited. Everyone in class has a mom to bring (Howie has two!), but Stella isn’t sure who to invite, as she has two daddies. Sure, her daddies do all the things that the other kids’ mommies do: make her lunch, help with homework, and tuck her in. And when she’s sad, she’s got her daddies, plus her Nonna, her aunt and uncle, and her cousin Lucy to help her feel better. Stella decides to invite her whole family to the party, because while she may not have a mom, she has plenty of people who love and support her.

LOVED this one. What is presented as a feather-light and sweet story about non-traditional families is actually one with great depth that focuses on what defines a “family” outside of societal constructs. Stella and her fathers are considered a family unit from the start, and are never portrayed as something Stella or her classmates are ashamed of or upset by. The question is never “Who is Stella’s mommy?” or “Doesn’t Stella need a mommy?,” instead asking the broader question of “What makes a family?” It then follows this is up by showing that one can have maternal influences (even male ones!) without necessarily having a mother in their life. Furthermore, the diversity shown is wonderful: multiple cultures, a military family, and two LGBTQ families, one of them mixed-race. It’s a fantastic lesson about the many different forms family can take, wrapped up in some adorable illustrations and sweet, well-paced story. The length is good, and JJ really enjoyed this one. We loved it, and we highly recommend it! Baby Bookworm approved!

And Tango Makes Three (Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell)

Banned Books Week Day 3: Hello, everyone! Today, we read And Tango Makes Three, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole. This is a sweet true story about a very special family of chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo.

Roy and Silo are not like the other male penguins in the penguin habitat. Instead of wanting to spend time with the girl penguins, they prefer to spend time with each other. They act just like the other penguin couples: they spend all their time together and build a nest that they share. They only thing missing from their family is something the other penguins have: an egg to care for. So their caretaker finds an egg that needs parents and gives it to Roy and Silo, who ecstatically care for their egg together. One day, their egg hatches, and they welcome their daughter Tango, making their family complete.

This adorable story about a same-sex penguin family raising an egg together has the dubious distinction of being the most banned and challenged book from 2006-2008, then again in 2010 (it dropped to second place in 2009) due to its positive portrayal of a same-sex relationship (again, between two PENGUINS). 

So what was our opinion? This is a lovely story about family, and how it doesn’t always have to look traditional to be warm and loving, and an informative book on how penguins find mates and raise families. The illustrations are darling, and JJ loved them. It was a bit long for a one-year-old, but she did okay with it, so older children would definitely love it. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Family Book (Todd Parr)

Hello friends, and welcome to the beginning of Banned Books Week! For those who may not know, Banned Books Week is a week in which the ALA draws attention to books that have been banned or challenged, and celebrates the freedom to read. In honor of Banned Books Week, JJ and I will be reading a book that has been banned or challenged (yes, they ban children’s books too)! 

Today, we read Todd Parr’s The Family Book, a celebration of families in all their forms, and the things that bring them all together. Each page introduces a different kind of family: ones with step-mothers or -fathers, ones that look the same or different, ones that are big or small, ones with adopted members, etc. And of course, no matter what your family looks like, all families are special because they love each other, and one of them is yours! 

As always, Todd Parr’s books are fantastic for younger readers: the bright, bold color scheme made every page interesting and fun for JJ, the length was perfect for baby bookworms, it’s easy and fun to read aloud, and the message is wonderful. It was just this message that got The Family Book banned by an Illinois school district: the book has a single solitary page that informs children that some families have two mommies or two daddies, and it was banned on the grounds that “those are issues that shouldn’t be taught at the elementary school level.” And while that school district may have disagreed, any book that celebrates the diversity of families, and makes children of non-traditional families feel like they belong, is a great book for all children to read. Baby Bookworm approved!

Worm Loves Worm (J.J. Austrian)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Worm Loves Worm, written by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato. This is an unbelievably charming book about two little worms and the love they share.

Worm loves Worm, and vice versa, so they decide to be married. Their insect friends help them organize their wedding, volunteering to be “bridesbees” and a “best beetle,” providing a cake and tuxedo and wedding dress. Worm and Worm are grateful, and make adjustments where necessary (for instance, worms cannot wear wedding rings on their fingers – they don’t have fingers – so they decide to wear them as belts instead). When their friends ask which will be the bride and which will be the groom, Worm and Worm decide to be both. And though their friend Cricket expresses concern that this is not the way weddings have always been done, the worms don’t mind. They would rather do things their own way. After all, all that matters is that Worm loves Worm.

This. Book. I cannot describe how lovely it is. First, the illustrations are just adorable – the little insects, and especially the worms, are too cute for words. It’s a perfect length for baby bookworms, short enough even that JJ wanted to read it twice. The text is sweet and simple and fun to read.

However, the shining center of this book is the story. As the general public is becoming more and more savvy about LGBTQ issues, there have been some wonderful books coming out that explore and explain these concepts to young readers (I Am Jazz is a great one for trans people, for example). This is fantastic, especially because no one is more forced into traditional gender roles than children. However, complex concepts regarding sexuality and gender can be confusing for adults, much less little ones. And THAT is precisely what makes Worm Loves Worm so special. It is a simple book that explains a simple concept: Love is love. We adored this book. Absolutely Baby BookWORM approved!