Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons From the Fog of New Parenthood (Lucy Knisley)

Hello friends, and Happy Mother’s Day! As a special treat, today’s review is one for the moms: Go To Sleep (I Miss You): Cartoons From the Fog of New Parenthood by Lucy Knisley.

In this delightful collection of sketches and one- to four-panel cartoons – conceptualized and created during the first few years of her son’s life – graphic novelist Knisley captures the highs and lows – and REALLY lows and lunacies and laughter and tears and in-betweens – of new motherhood. Capturing hilariously specific and relatable aspects of this adjustment period, such as bizarre search histories (“How Many Poops Normal Baby?”), the endless stickiness of one’s inner elbow, the pride/exhaustion of watching them discover the world, and an entire chapter titled “Bodily Fluids.”

I loved this. I definitely had multiple laughs of understanding and sympathy as I read, even texting excerpts to mom friends who also remember the wonderment and bewilderment of that crazy time in you and your baby’s life. Knisley lays it all on the page, from gushing over her somewhat-biased designation of her son as “the best” baby; to the endless frustrations and physical/emotional toll of breastfeeding, and everything in-between. The art is frank yet fond, sarcastic yet sweet, and perfectly captures the running theme of “Motherhood is Weird”. Readers who have survived this stage of motherhood will look back on their own bittersweet memories of babyhood, and new moms may feel a little less alone in their brave new world. Just note: this one is definitely for adult readers; while JJ enjoyed looking over my shoulder at the illustrations, the subject matter was far beyond her or most any child. This one’s just for the moms, and a warm and worthy tribute to motherhood it is. Baby Bookworm’s Mama approved!

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

You Belong (Rachel Platten)

Hello, friends! As we gear up to Mother’s Day, we have a few lovely mama-themed books to share with you! Today, we’re reviewing You Belong, written by Rachel Platten and illustrated by Marcin Piwowarski, a tribute to the excitement and anticipation of a new baby’s arrival.

Adapted from singer-songwriter Platten’s 2018 single of the same name (which was itself inspired by Platten’s pregnancy with her first child), this sincere title looks at the exciting and anxious days leading up to a baby’s birth – from the nursery-painting, baby showers, and simple wondering – to the arrival and childhood of the baby-to-be. Following a central expectant couple (drawn as Platten and her husband), the artwork also features a diverse cast of families also anticipating, raising, and loving their babies, assuring them that no matter who they are or what they do, they belong.

Very sweet. Platten’s earnest lyrics translate well to book format; the rhythm flows well even when recited a-melodically, and the words have a strongly story-like narrative. A section in the middle where a bridge repeats is a little awkward for readers unfamiliar with the titular tune, and probably could have been omitted, but it’s also only two pages that feature some of the most beautiful art in the book so.. fair play. On that subject, the dreamy art is colorful yet serene, and fits the text perfectly. The racially-diverse families, which also include single-parent, mixed-race, and extended family are a nice effort; one couple was possibly LGBT+, but this was visually pretty vague. Still, the length was good, and JJ enjoyed this one. A solid addition to the new-baby picture book genre that is clearly straight from the heart, 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.)

World So Wide (Alison McGhee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is World So Wide, written by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Kate Alizadeh, a tender ode to new families and the joy of welcoming a baby.

Somewhere in the world so wide, there is a person who is the youngest person alive – and once upon a time, it was you. Addressing the reader directly, the narration describes all the firsts that a child experiences – the first things they see, feel, hear, smell, etc. – as illustrations watch a father and mother introduce their own little one to the world around him. Perhaps the most incredible firsts are the feelings felt as a family grows and loves, and perhaps one day, that little person will grow to experience the joys of parenthood themselves.

Heartwarming. This sweet and gentle look at one extended family is soft and comforting in tone, both visually and in the text. Minimal, serene free-verse wraps around the reader like a warm blanket, making for a comforting read. The illustrations are colorful yet equally calm, switching between pleasant scenes of family outings, homey moments, and closeups of the baby and his parents bonding. I particularly liked the visuals of the ending, in which the baby has grown into a father himself; the new father is seemingly a single parent and sports an earring and vaguely alternative hairstyle. It’s a nice, subtle way of showing that families come in all shapes and sizes (his own parents are a mixed-race couple). The length was great, and JJ enjoyed the soothing story. A lovely look at the bond between parents and their babies, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Max & Ruby And Twin Trouble (Rosemary Wells)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Max & Ruby And Twin Trouble by Rosemary Wells, a gentle tale of what happens when not one, but two new babies are added to the titular siblings’ lives.

Latest in the pair’s series of adventures, Max and Ruby are preparing for the arrival of a new baby in their household. The oldest, Ruby is sure that she is practically an expert, especially after practicing with her Hannah the Howler baby doll. She even knows where babies come from, and tries to explain it to the younger Max, who insists he already knows: babies come from taxis, just like their little cousins did. Ruby attempts to get him to practice with Hannah, and while he watches with interest, he doesn’t quite understand the difference between a pretend baby and the soon-to-be real thing. Then the big day comes, but when mommy and daddy arrive home (in a taxi), there’s not just one new baby – there’s two! Ruby and Max help out however they can to keep the busy household moving along. That is, until one day when the twins simply won’t stop crying, and cannot be consoled. But it’s playful Max who just might have the unorthodox solution…

Sweet. Max and Ruby, despite being giant anthropomorphic rabbits, are refreshingly childlike in their interactions and logic, and this innocence leads to some gentle and relatable comedy. It’s also nice to see the pair genuinely excited for their new sibling(s), even if they’re a little misinformed; while many new baby books only explore the apprehension surrounding the family addition, this one shows excitement, and the helpful things little ones can do during this hectic time. The illustrations fit these themes of innocence and light humor; my only issue is the Hannah the Howler doll, which was just legitimately scary-looking, with her giant, sunken-looking eyes and lifeless open-mouthed grin. However, she serves a humorous point to the plot on two occasions, and so can be forgiven. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it, so we’ll call this one Baby Bookworm approved!

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

When Aidan Became A Brother (Kyle Lukoff)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When Aidan Became A Brother, written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita, a very unique story of a little boy becoming a big brother.

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. So they decorated his room in “girly” colors and gave him a girl’s name and put him in pretty dresses. But when he grew bigger, Aidan realized that he hated all those girly things; of course, so did some of the other girls too, but Aidan didn’t feel like those types of girls – he felt like another type of boy. When he told his parents, they supported him and helped him transition, and now he’s happy being a boy, and most excited to be a big brother to his little sibling-to-be. He wants to make sure that the new baby will feel welcome and loved no matter who they are. But how can he do that, especially when the world can still be such a confusing place for him? Aidan’s willing to try – he’s determined to be the best big brother he can.

What an lovely and unexpected book. While the story centers around a transgender child, the main theme is not solely about being trans, but how we view gender. Telling it from the point of view of Aidan – a young child who has already spent his childhood examining gender roles by necessity – allows readers both young and old to question along with him as he ponders why it should matter if the new baby is a boy or girl, or how it should affect how they are dressed or treated. It allows the book to have a great range of themes: it’s a new baby book, and a book about growing up trans, and a book about societal views on gender, and a book about love and family, and a book about how there are lots of ways to be a boy or a girl, and more. It’s fresh and striking and can open up opportunities for many discussions. The artwork is the cherry on top, using bright patterns and expressive faces to create emotion and warmth. Even the author’s note is a touching reminder that by being true to ourselves, we make the world brighter and more wonderful. The length was great, and JJ loved it too. Absolutely superb, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!