If Animals Said I Love You (Ann Whitford Paul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Animals Said I Love You, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker, a sweet board book that imagines the various ways animals express their love.

The third book in their If Animals series, the author-illustrator duo introduces us to a collection of animal families and friends who each have unique ways of showing their love. For instance, the lion cubs love to wrestle with their cousins, the alligator likes to splash his brother with his tail, and a gorilla mommy and her baby – the sole repeating pair of creatures, who provide a framework for the book – pound their chest, give sweet smooches, and snuggle in for bed at the end of the day.

Simple and sweet. The playful rhymes and soft-focus, cuddly animal characters make this a wonderful book to share with even the tiniest of bookworms, as does the brief yet satisfying length. Most of the animals are native to the African continent, with the whale and the alligator being the only exceptions, and are a nice mix of familiar critters, like cheetahs and boas, and more adventurous ones such as secretary birds and impalas. The family relationships mentioned are diverse (cousins, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.), or wisely left undefined. JJ liked this one, and so did I – it’s a great story to share with a reader who is just starting out. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Love (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, an ode to ways of feeling and expressing love.

What is love? What does it look like? Like a fancy meal or a designer card? Is it expensive gifts or fancy dinners? What do we mean when we say it happens at first sight? And how can we express it to the people who matter to us? A gloriously diverse cast of characters show the reader that love comes in many forms, and that there is no way too big or too small to show someone we love them.

Fabulous. As with their previous books Beautiful and Brave, McAnulty and Lew-Vriethoff expertly utilize the convention of making broad statements in the text then subverting them with the illustrations: “fancy dinner” is a lovingly-prepared bowl of food for an injured pet dog; a “designer greeting card” is a child’s joyously expressive crayon drawing; “first sight” is an adoptee being greeted with signs and grins by their new blended family. Especially striking is the tremendous diversity of these characters: adults, children, elderly, differently-abled, hearing-impaired, different faiths, different versions of non-traditional families, all in a rainbow of skintones that create a story world as vibrant as our own. The love is equally as diverse, showing the love we have for family, friends, pets, neighbors, or even total strangers. It’s an uplifting and affirming reminder that love colors our lives in every way imaginable, and is something we all share, and has infinite means of expression. The length is great, JJ loved it, and we can’t recommend it enough. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Robot In Love (T. L. McBeth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Robot In Love by T. L. McBeth, an adorably offbeat love story.

Robot starts every day the same: unplug himself from the wall, eat some bread, leave the house. But today is no ordinary day – today is the day he sees HER. She’s shiny, very quiet, and their connection is simply electric. Robot spends the next few days mooning over his new love, even spending a night carefully constructing her a bouquet of flowers from spare metal parts. But when he arrives at their usual meeting spot to present them to her – she’s not there! Broken-hearted, Robot searches everywhere for his lost love, to no avail. Will he ever be reunited with the object of his affection?

This was a fun twist on the classic he-meets-she that’s full of clever, kid-friendly comedy. While both the narration and dialogue are from Robot’s perspective, the narration is widely kept conversational while the dialogue is peppered with fun-to-read robot “language”: “does not compute!”, “error”, etc. The story is harmless fun, a tale of love that’s frivolous enough to allow the comedy to take the lead, but never so flippant that it appears mocking. The minimalist art is befitting the mechanical main character, and the palette of red, black, white, and mixtures thereof is bright and bold. The length was great, and JJ loved the robot, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Hello Lighthouse (Sophie Blackall)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall – a beautiful, understated look at the life of a lighthouse and the family that inhabits it.

On a tiny rock island at the edge of the world, a beautiful lighthouse was built to last forever, the light welcoming seafarers with a “Hello! Hello! Hello!”. The new keeper arrives and throws himself into the simple, repetitive, yet contented daily life of the lighthouse. He maintains the mechanics, spruces up the living areas, writes letters to his wife (sent via message-in-a-bottle), always noting his activities in the lighthouse log. To his joy, a supply ship soon brings his wife to join him on the island, to share love and care of the lighthouse. Some days are different: the keeper and his wife rescue sailors from a wreck, work through illness and harsh weather, and welcome their baby into the world. Years later, the keeper gets a letter: the lighthouse will be retrofitted to automation, and he will be the last keeper. The family packs and sadly leaves, but though the lighthouse now stands empty, its family has not gone far – they now watch over their first home from shore as it once watched over them, lighting a lamp to say hello.

Quiet yet stunning. The story is a heartwarming look into a family and bygone lighthouse life, spanning across years and filled with moments both joyful and exhilarating, then simple and real. You fall in love with the keeper, his wife, and their daughter – and by the end, the lighthouse itself. It becomes a fourth character, so endearing that when the family must leave and the lighthouse stands empty, it’s “Hello?” seems heartbreakingly lonely. It honestly brought a tear to my eye, and I was happy for the uplifting ending. The art is stunningly detailed, using cutaways and unique perspectives to always keep the house feeling open and filled with love. The length was great, and JJ loved it too. Unique, moving, and Baby Bookworm approved!

Drawn Together (Minh Lê & Dan Santat)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Drawn Together, written by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat, a heartwarming family tale of language, culture, and love.

The story opens in largely silent comic book-style panels, as we see a boy being dropped off for a visit with his grandfather. Lacking a common language, the two have difficulty connecting, creating a quiet distance… until the boy takes out his art set and begins to draw. Finally finding a commonality, the grandfather produces a paint-and-ink set, and begins to draw as well – and just like that, the conversation can begin. The two have different art styles (the boy’s is modern, brash, and colorful; the grandfathers is more mature, intricately detailed, and traditional), but their respective heroes still find a way to come together and defeat the dragon that separates them, leaving a connection stronger than words can describe.

This was a widely loved book this years and it’s easy to see why: Lê and Santat have crafted a heartwarming, relatable, exciting, and visually stunning tale. Each detail works perfectly, from the visual indications of how different the two characters are (down to the meals they eat), the intentionally spare text until their art begins a deeper story, and the jaw-dropping way that the illustrations beautifully explore two very different styles of art, then seamlessly merge them. It’s a beautiful message about finding connection, the value of elders and cultural tradition, and a lesson in the idea that love can be expressed in many ways. The length was great, JJ loved the art, and this one is Baby Bookworm approved!