Is Was (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Is Was by Deborah Freedman, a gorgeous meditation on impermanence and the quiet, overwhelming beauty of nature.

The sky that was blue and the sky that now falls with rain are one and the same. Just as that rain created puddles for little animals to sip; just as the soft whispering song of the wind has now become the buzz of a bumblebee in flight. Just as, in the silence of nature, we can hear the earth’s heart beat, in time with a child swinging back and forth on their swing. Just as the day fades to night, skies become orange, then purple-pink, then the deepest blue and filled with stars – the same stars we all see and share.

Absolutely beautiful. Freedman has a wonderful talent for creating sweeping, compelling narratives that center around finding beauty in the world around us (her books This House, Once and Shy are still favorites of ours), and this peaceful, enchanting title is another wonderful example of it. Weaving together simple, rich artwork that practically bursts with sunshine, with sparse yet effective text (which itself combines soft prose and an utterly flawless use of onomatopoeia), the story explores the themes of nature’s quiet beauty, and how the cycles of nature are essential to that beauty, perfectly. On its own, this is a lovely subject for any little bookworm; and yet, with the author’s dedication (“for you/and everyone you’ve loved/who is/or was”) as context, it can also be a beautiful way to explore grief, loss, and renewal in our personal lives as well. The length is perfect for a storytime or bedtime book, and JJ and I both loved it. Stunning, timeless, 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.)

Bob Ross: My First Book of Colors (Robb Pearlman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bob Ross: My First Book of Colors, written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Bob Ross, a look at the thirteen signature paint colors of the beloved artist.

“This is your world,” the text begins over a lakeside mountain vista, immediately capturing the soothing timbre and tone of iconic artist Bob Ross. The narrator describes each color – accompanied by a Bob Ross original that showcases it – as though leading the reader through a painting lesson. Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue – each of the thirteen paint colors that Ross favored is brought to life through his work, described with familiar phrases such as “happy little” tree trunks and “it’s just that easy”. After all, this is your world, and you can make it anything you want.

Peaceful and sweet. A love letter to Ross and the fans who grew up with him, a majority of the references may fly over the heads of younger readers. However, for those parents and caregivers who remember Ross so fondly, it’s easy to see how the narration and tone of the book capture his voice and style: soothing, inspiring, and comforting. So while younger readers may not get the same hit of nostalgia, they can still enjoy the lovely colors and serene nature scenes. JJ’s never seen a Bob Ross episode in her life, but she very much enjoyed the artwork and the quietude of the text. The length is perfect for a short storytime, especially for young nature and art lovers. A sweet title that serves as a fine tribute to Ross and his work. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Little Tigers (Jo Weaver)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Tigers by Jo Weaver, third in her touching series about mothers and their little ones.

One night, Mother Tiger hears the sounds of men and dogs near their den, and decides that it’s time to move further into the jungle. The next morning, she and her two cubs, Sera and Puli, set off on a search for a new home. Sera suggests a private, protected nook she knows, a cave behind a waterfall. Mother Tiger explains that it is too wet; to Puli’s suggestion of the branches of a tall tree, she similarly explains the problems with sleeping up too high. Two more locations are explored, neither the right fit for the Tiger family. Growing concerned that they will have nowhere to spend the night, Mother Tiger spots a promising locale: a ruined temple that’s been reclaimed by nature. After investigating, Mother Tiger declares it safe, and she and cubs cuddle together for a good night’s rest.

One of Weaver’s previous books, Little One, is one of my absolute favorite picture books on motherhood, and this one has many of the same elements: themes of family, nature, exploration, and motherly love, wrapped in a package of some absolutely breathtaking illustrations. The story is simple and easy to follow for young bookworms, yet teases weightier subjects – such as human encroachment and the threat to Bengal tigers – that are worthy of consideration and discussion for older readers. The length is fine for bookworms of any age, JJ was enchanted by the lifelike artwork, and, as a mom, it inspired a particularly heartwarming reaction from me. A quiet, lovely tale, 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.)

Stretch To The Sun: From A Tiny Sprout To The Tallest Tree On Earth (Carrie A. Pearson)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Stretch To The Sun: From A Tiny Sprout To The Tallest Tree On Earth, written by Carrie A. Pearson, illustrated by Susan Swan, a look at the life of a coast redwood from seed to mighty tree.

An older redwood, at the end of its life, is blown down by a storm; yet from it, new life begins. This tiny seed takes root in the remains of the older tree, putting down roots and shooting up sprigs, then leaves, then branches. Over the course of hundreds of years, the tree grows taller and taller, creating new ecosystems within its towering trunk and branches and forming a canopy over the forest with other tall trees. Escaping loggers due to its size, the tree remains standing to this day, a testament of the lifespan of such incredible trees, and a reminder that every big thing starts from something small.

Very interesting. The meat of the text looks at the details of how a redwood forest ecosystem fosters the growth of a new tree: the way leaves decay into soil, animals deposit seedlings that grow into symbiotic plants, weather creates rain, sun, and fog that nourish the plant. Generous use of onomatopoeia keep the text from becoming too dull for small readers, and some lovely illustrations, including two clever vertical spreads, gives a sense of scale. The backmatter is informative, and the length overall is fine. Make no mistake, this is a fairly slow storyline, but succeeds in its goal at creating a sense of reverence and respect for these incredible trees. JJ enjoyed it, especially the sound effects, and we can recommend this one, especially for readers hoping to learn more about redwood trees. Baby Bookworm approved!

If I Was The Sunshine (Julie Fogliano & Loren Long)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If I Was The Sunshine by Julie Fogliano and Loren Long, a uniquely beautiful meditation on how love connects us.

“If I was the sunshine, and you were the day / I’d call you hello, and you’d call me to stay”, begins the beguiling rhyming text, the first of many comparisons between elements of earth or nature and the relationship between the reader and narrator (a parent-child relationship seems most obvious, but is never strictly defined). As the illustrations explore scenes of nature both tiny and vast, the rhymes explore how these natural relationships reflect that of the readers’, perhaps suggesting that true bonds between those who love each other are as complex and intricate as the glory of the living world around us.

I’m going to be honest, this one left me a little confused, but in the very best way. Most picture books are not particularly looking to challenge their adult readers as well as their young ones, but Fogliano and Long did an amazing job of creating a book that is both immediately accessible yet layered with complexity. While many comparisons the text draws are of the expected warm and fuzzy variety, many explore the more bittersweet aspects of love, such as watching one’s child grow; lines like “If you were a bird, and I was a tree / You’d call me home, and I’d call you free” have both a heartwarming and haunting quality that stays with you. Wrapped in the gorgeous earthy illustrations of nature, it casts a fascinating spell that commands a second read. The length is perfect for any age, and JJ was as engrossed by the art as I was by the text. A unique book worthy of consideration, 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.)