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.)

Rain (Anders Holmer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rain by Anders Holmer, a lovely look at nature and life in haiku form.

Using the format of the traditional poetry form, each spread offers an expanse of scenery from around the world and a glimpse into the lives of those that inhabit it. A group of humans and reindeer cross a tundra, the youngest calf stopping to discover fresh lichen. A song plays on a car radio, but no one hears it; the driver is changing the tire and his children are greeting a dog. As cherry blossom petals flutter down, two friends are struck by the beauty and quickly resolve a spat, enjoying moment together instead. The reader journeys around the world, showing how different the world can be, even when it often comes down to something we all share, like rain.

Soft, simple, and beautiful. This book had such a wonderfully calming look and tone, using the haiku format to tell each story richly yet with an economy of words. The art uses light and dark to perfectly set the stage while pops of color, details, and movement make the subjects come alive. It inspires the reader to examine each scene carefully, and allows the art and spare text to evoke the desired emotion. The length is great, and JJ and I really enjoyed it. A soothing meditation on a wider world, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

This Is How We Do It: One Day In The Life Of Seven Kids From Around The World (Matt Lamothe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is This Is How We Do It: One Day In The Life Of Seven Kids From Around The World by Matt Lamothe, a fascinating look at the differences and similarities in daily life across cultures and continents.

The first page proclaims “This is me,” and we are introduced to real-life children from seven locales: India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Peru, Russia and Uganda. We meet their families, learn about their schools, and gets a taste of their daily meals and chores. At last, as they tuck into their different beds for the night, we are shown that while their daily lives may be very different, they all share the same night sky.

Very interesting! Concise, matter-of-fact text describes the daily lives of the subjects, occasionally underlining a vocabulary word that is then defined in the glossary in the back of the book. The art is the real star here, using detailed, realistic digital illustrations that either recreate or emulate photos of the children’s lives. Social issues are sidestepped, understandably – this is meant as an introduction to global thinking, especially considering the final spread. However, this is definitely not meant for little bookworms to read in a single sitting: while JJ adored the art, the text is strictly informational and there’s a fair amount of it, so she was getting pretty squirmy 2/3 of the way through. But for slightly older readers, this is a great way to begin thinking about the larger world around them, and the children – both unlike and and just like them in many ways – in it. Baby Bookworm approved!

What’s On Your Plate?: Exploring The World Of Food (Whitney Stewart)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What’s On Your Plate?: Exploring The World Of Food, written by Whitney Stewart and illustrated by Christiane Engel, a cookbook/celebration of international cuisine for little readers.

There’s a world of food out there, and chances are that what’s on your plate is not the same as children in other countries! So follow along as readers are taken on a tour of 14 countries (such as Mexico, Thailand, Ethiopia, etc.) and given a crash course in their food culture, popular dishes, and even a recipe to try at home (with parents’ help, of course). By the end, readers will gain an appreciation for new and interesting dishes and cultures, and find that our love of food is both what makes us unique and brings us together.

Very cool! Each spread is informative, interesting, visually fun, and the recipes look delicious. It’s a great way to encourage little ones to be adventurous with their meals and to learn more about other countries and cultures. The illustrations are perfect fun, make the food look delectable (there are also photos of some dishes), and the maps of the countries and their native ingredients are awesome. This is not a storybook, and reading it in one sitting would definitely be for older bookworms, but JJ enjoyed the illustrations, and I imagine this will be a popular book for our adventurous eater in a few years. A great way to introduce little foodies to international cuisine, 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.)

A Different Pond (Bao Phi)

Hello, friends! Today, we’re reviewing A Different Pond, written by Bao Phi and illustrated by Thi Bui, a quietly powerful story of family and fortitude.

A young boy wakes early with his father, both moving quietly so as not to wake the rest of the family. He helps his father load the car with their fishing supplies. They drive to the bait shop, where the owner remarks that they are up very early this morning. The boy’s father explains that he got a second job, and when he and the boy arrive at the lake, the boy wonders aloud: if his father has two jobs now, why must they still fish for food? The father explains that in America, everything is very expensive, and the boy helps him ready his line and light a fire for warmth. In the quiet solitude of the dark morning, the boy’s father tells him about the pond he would fish in when he was the boy’s age, with the brother he lost in the war. The boy and father catch enough fish, and return home to an apartment filled with the warmth and love of their family. The boy takes great pride in their bounty – he helped to provide dinner.

Wow. This was an incredible book. The story of father and son and their early-morning fishing trip is moving on many levels, but what makes it remarkable is its broad appeal across ages. The text on each page is chosen carefully, openly appealing and interesting to little ones yet conveying meaningful subtext to older readers in an economy of words. It’s beautiful and powerful, and leaves those of any age with much to think about. The art is perfect, capturing the mood and and emotions of the characters and environments in soft, soothing tones, making the reader feel as safe and at home as the little boy in the story. The length was fine for JJ, and we both loved it. This is a piece of art in picture book form, and a must-read for all ages. Baby Bookworm approved!