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.)

After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again (Dan Santat)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat, an unexpectedly moving postscript to the famous nursery rhyme.

You’ve heard the story, now hear his side: Humpty Dumpty did indeed love sitting on top of the wall once. It gave him a lovely view of the city, and brought him closer to the birds, whom he loved to study and observe. But since the fall, well, he’s scared of heights. Even the top bunk of his bunkbed is too far for him, and he sleeps on the ground instead. He misses the birds and the things he once loved, but he just can’t shake his fear. Determined to go on with life, he finds other ways to feel close to the birds: he builds a model plane in the shape of one, and it’s as good as when he was up high… well, almost. But when his painstakingly crafted model gets stuck on top of the very wall he once fell from, what will he do? Can Humpty find the courage to make the climb once more?

I was not expecting this story to be as powerful as it was! Using the famous story of Humpty Dumpty, Santat explores a bold theme for a picture book, the aftermath of trauma. Humpty is scarred from his experience, physically and mentally, and it’s treated with surprisingly delicacy; the audience is made sympathetic to his phobia and how it prevents him from enjoying life as he once did. It makes the climactic climb to retrieve his model all the more dramatic, leading to an astonishingly stirring ending that is surprising, gratifying and inspirational. Santat’s signature seamless blend of reality and fantasy in his art leaps off the page as usual, the length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. This is an amazing book, and it will move you. Baby Bookworm approved!

Jabari Jumps (Gaia Cornwall)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall, a sweet and simple story with an important lesson on overcoming fears.

Jabari has come to a decision: he is ready to go off the high diving board like the other kids. His father asks if he’s sure, and Jabari thinks he is: he’s finished his swimming lessons and passed his swimming test. Still, when he sees how high the board is, he begins to get nervous. He allows the other children to go first. Then he has trouble climbing the ladder, so he takes a tiny break. He realizes that he forgot to stretch (can’t dive without stretching). In fact, there are a lot of little things standing in the way of his big jump. But his daddy takes him aside and gives him some advice: it’s okay to be scared to try new things. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath, tell yourself you’re ready… and jump.

This book is a wonderful example of how a classic concept or lesson can be made stunning by the right hand. Facing one’s fears and challenges is a timeless lesson for little ones, and the story conveys it in an honest and guileless way that young readers will appreciate. From there, it’s the choices and details that give the book a quiet radiance: earnest, energetic illustrations with some wonderful details (the subtle use of newsprint as concrete was very nice), a humorous final page, down to the much-appreciated choice to making the main characters a black family – there are extremely few swimming books that include people of color. The length is great, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. A wonderful story of being brave, and the people who encourage us to be. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Darkest Dark (Chris Hadfield & Kate Fillion)

Hello, friends! Today, we read The Darkest Dark, written by Chris Hadfield and Kate Fillion, and illustrated by The Fan Brothers, a story based on Hadfield’s childhood fear of the dark, and how overcoming it changed his life.

Little Chris is an astronaut. Each day, he explores the vast cosmos in his cardboard rocketship; each night he won’t get out of the bath because he is busy battling aliens. But even brave astronaut Chris is scared of something: the dark. He doesn’t like sleeping in his room; it’s far too dark, and that’s when the spookiest aliens come out of hiding. His parents try everything to help, but Chris is too scared. But one night, he and everyone on his small island gather around to watch a man land on the moon for the first time. Chris is astonished. He sees that space is the darkest dark of all, but it doesn’t scare him. Seeing those astronauts jumping on the moon, Chris decides to brave the dark, because he wants to explore every corner of it. He learns the dark doesn’t just hide the scary things, it hides the wondrous things, too. 

This book was a lot of things in one, which is great. First, it’s a book about overcoming fears, specifically of the dark and sleeping alone, something that almost every little one goes through at some point. I love that this fear is alleviated by encouraging one’s curiosity to explore the unknown of the dark rather than fear it. It’s also a wonderful slice of life during a seminal moment in American history, and a true story of what inspired a real-life astronaut, both of which are educational and encouraging for young minds. Lastly, the Fan Brothers supply their gorgeously enchanting art, bringing to life the weird, wonderful, and epic creatures a child’s imagination can conjure. This is a very cool book, and we highly recommend it! Baby Bookworm approved!