Do Not Go In There! (Ariel Horn)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Do Not Go In There!, written by Ariel Horn and illustrated by Izzy Burton, a delightful fantasy about the power of possibility.

Morton and Bogart, two colorful, oddly-constructed creatures, are playing with blocks when they encounter a most curious thing: a red door. A red door with a SHINY gold doorknob. A very TEMPTING door, to the excitable and optimistic Morton. A very FOREBODING door, to the nervous and fretful Bogart. The two begin to concoct a number of theories as to what could be behind the door: “Fireworks and party balloons!” insists Morton. “Bunny-eating wolves!” cries Bogart. Yet, as the two craft ever-more preposterous theories, the question remains: to go, or not to go?

A blast! Written primarily in conversational text, delineated by two different typefaces for Morton and Bogart, this wildly entertaining tale also teaches a sweet lesson in overcoming uncertainty, and thrill of possibility. The escalating fantasizing by the two monsters is hilarious and charming, as well as a delight to read aloud, and little bookworms will identify with how overwhelming both excitement and dread can feel in the face of anticipation. The art is just as engaging, from the unique and adorable design of the central characters and of their imaginings full of candy castles, astronautical wolves, and much more. The length is perfect for a quick storytime, but it’s appeal is endlessly repeatable (JJ has requested many readings already) – always a treat when a book has such a universal message as well. Simply put, this one’s great. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bo The Brave (Bethan Woollvin)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Bo The Brave by Bethan Woollvin, a lovely tale of a courageous young monster-hunter.

Young Bo lives in a castle, in a land of mountains and forests. Her older brothers, Ivar and Erik, are bold monster hunters, and Bo longs to be one too. Yet when she asks to accompany her brothers on their latest hunt, they laugh at and tease her. Determined, Bo decides to set off and catch a monster of her own – yet after a few chance encounters with friendly griffins, helpful krakens, and weepy dragons, Bo begins to question the monster-hunting lifestyle… and who the real monsters are.

Wonderful. Well-realized themes of tolerance, understanding, and compassion are explored in a story that stars a heroine for all little girls (and boys). Bo is indeed brave, but also clever, kind, inquisitive, and resolute. Upon realizing that the so-called “monsters” are only sweet beasts going about their lives, and that the true monsters are her baby dragon-kidnapping brothers, Bo fearlessly faces down her siblings and subdues the frightened, fiery tot. She then dedicates her time to learning about the beasts, rather than hunting them. It’s a wonderful message of judging by character rather than appearance, and thinking critically. The Scandinavian-style illustrations have a limited yet expressive palette, and feature some wonderfully designed characters, settings and creatures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved Bo and her monster friends. This is a wonderful story that explores what it truly means to be brave, and we enjoyed it immensely. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Nerp! (Sarah Lynne Reul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nerp! by Sarah Lynne Reul, a silly twist on the classic dinnertime struggle of picky eater vs. parent.

After helping to feed his pet something the pet clearly deems less than appetizing, a young alien (monster?) sits down to his own meal. Yet no matter what delicious dishes his parents present him with – from “frizzle frazzle hotchy potch” to “verpy gurpalew” – the little one simply turns up his nose and declares, “NERP!” What can his parents do to entice him to eat? Is there any dish this particularly fickle eater will try?

Absurd fun. The alien/monster language used exclusively in the text is a mixture of words easily translated from context (nerp = nope, yerp = yup, etc), and a creative list of ridiculous-sounding meals that are loads of fun to read aloud. The meals themselves are hilariously illustrated to look as unappetizing as the little one seems to find them: one has living tentacles wiggling out of the dish. The alien/monsters themselves are charming and cute, and both picky eaters and exasperated parents will see themselves in the characters’ expressions. The resolution is a little gross – and younger bookworms may need reminding that it’s not actually an acceptable option – but not so much that it turned us off. The length was great, and JJ loved it. A delightfully silly title, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A Mischief of Monsters (Priddy Books)

Hello friends, and Happy Halloween!! Our book today is Priddy Books’s A Mischief of Monsters, illustrated by Lisa and Damien Barlow, a festive board book of spooky critters.

Focusing on three main concepts – big and little, sounds, and action verbs – this sturdy board book features a colorful collection of furry, slimy, and squishy monsters of all shapes and sizes. Each spread shows a little monster and a big monster performing a set of rhyming actions (snore and roar, munch and crunch, etc). There are also tactile elements: raised and sunken features on each monster that fit into the monster on the opposite page.

Creepy yet cute. Bright colors and extremely creative, expressive creatures are a feast for the eyes, and the tactile elements are nicely done from both a visual and sensory standpoint. There are a few areas that falter a bit, however: the text is surprisingly small for this type of book, even with the action/noise words set in a larger typeface. There’s also a few pages that lean into the “gross” section of imaginary monsters, such as one that shows a small purple monster covered in green ooze (“squelches”) – it’s not the type of thing that would offend every kid or parent, but does appeal to a certain type of sensibility and humor. But overall, this is a fun, spooky-themed romp that most any little monster would enjoy – JJ certainly did! Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale (Lynne Marie)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightfully spooky Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale, written by Lynne Marie and illustrated by David Lorenzo.

In a creepy mansion, the three Scares – Papa (a Frankenstein-esque monster), Mama (a science-loving mummy with an iconic black-and-white bouffant), and Baby (a young, ginger vampire boy), prepare for a dreadfully delicious dinner. But the Alpha-Bat soup that Papa has cooked up is still too hot, so the three take their ghost hound, Plasma, for a walk while it cools. That’s when Moldilocks, a recently risen zombie girl, comes across the mansion. Filled with warm food and cozy furniture, Moldilocks makes herself at home, testing the three Scares’ accoutrements (often finding one of them to be “just right”). Taking a nap in Baby Scare’s bed, she doesn’t hear the spooky family return to their rifled-through items and already-eaten meal. Yet when the family finds the culprit, their reaction may come as a surprise…

At first, I figured this would be a typical fairy tale with a spooky filter that you see around the holiday; nothing against them, they can be fun if done well. However, I was SO pleasantly surprised by the real twist of this tale: it’s an adoption story. Teased early in the narrative that there’s a empty space in the Scares’ lives, when they find Moldilocks in Baby’s bed, they happily welcome her into their home and declare her part of the family. It’s a surprisingly heartwarming turn that gives the otherwise fun, silly monster story some emotional weight, and introduces a bit of inclusion for non-traditional families. The “horror” elements are relatively tame; even as a “zombie”, Moldilocks isn’t decayed, nor does she hunger for brains. The illustrations are a cute sort of creepy that kids who love Halloween spookiness and puns will appreciate. The length was great, and JJ loved it. This was a delightful surprise of a book, and a festive way to remember that a family doesn’t have to be biological to be “just right”. Baby Bookworm approved!

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