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!

Harlem (Walter Dean Myers & Christopher Myers)

Hello, friends! Today’s review is another favorite from our library that we’ve been wanting to review for a while, and with everything in the news recently, it felt like a good time to shine a spotlight on this phenomenal book: Harlem, a poem written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers.

Told in free verse, the evocative words of Myers’s poem tells the story of Harlem, the home of a great history and greater hope. It dashes between past, present and future, peeking into windows and through doors at the citizens of Harlem as they go to church, wash vegetables in their kitchens, ride the subways and play games in the streets. It celebrates Harlem’s one-of-a-kind history of jazz, literature, activism and culture, and writes a love letter to a community built out of a desire for freedom; freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, and the freedom to achieve. 

Harlem can be a challenging read for some little bookworms, with much of the text being names and places written in a syncopated free verse style. However, the gorgeous mixed-media art, which captures as much an emotion as a people and place, is colorful and exciting enough for any little one. Then, once the reader is familiar with the words and rhythm of the text, there is a passion and life to the poem that is impossible to deny, and becomes more affecting with each repeat reading. This is a book that captures the soul of a vibrant, and vital, place in American history, and it’s simply wonderful. It’s a good length, a favorite of ours, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book Of Colors (Hena Khan)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book Of Colors, written by Hena Khan and illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini, a gorgeous book that teaches children about the colors that fill Islam’s objects and traditions.

A young Muslim girl guides the reader through the bright, vibrant colors that she sees as she and her family practice their faith. Red is the color of the prayer rug she and her father kneel upon to pray, facing Mecca. Blue is the color of her mother’s hijab, the head covering she wears. Green is the color of her Quran, the holy book her grandmother reads to her, teaching her Allah’s lessons. Beautiful colors are present wherever her faith is reflected, and she loves her colorful Muslim world.

This was a very informative and interesting book! It acts as both a primer for basic colors, which were very easily identifiable for a baby bookworm like JJ, and introduces many elements and traditions surrounding Islam in a way that is approachable and easily identifiable for young readers of all levels of familiarity with the faith. Using the language of color, the purpose and appearance of mosques, kufis, and henna are all introduced, offering a unique window into the world of Islam for those unfamiliar, and giving young Muslim children an opportunity to identify with their culture and faith as they learn their colors. The art is, obviously, radiant and vivid, making each color the page’s theme and easy to spot for little ones. The length is just perfect, and JJ really enjoyed this. This is a fantastic way to introduce children to color through the world of Islam, or vice versa, and we liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

Top 5: PoC Protagonists


Hello, friends! It’s the end of February, and so it’s time for another Top 5 list. As you know, February is Black History Month, and The Baby Bookworm dedicated our Friday reviews to books that celebrate the lives and achievements of historical black Americans. For our Top 5, however, we thought that we would instead recognize some of our favorite books that feature fictional protagonists of color.

As we mentioned in our Top 5 last month, people of color are woefully underrepresented in children’s literature. For instance, only 7.6% of children’s books released in 2015 featured characters who were black (by contrast, 73.3% of books featured white characters, and 12.5% featured non-human characters like animals or vehicles). And while children’s books about African-American history are immensely important, having kidlit that feature ordinary, everyday PoC characters that young children can relate to is just as vital. So for our Top 5 this month, and in no particular order, we would like to highlight some wonderful children’s books that feature black/PoC protagonists:

1. The Princess And The Pony (Kate Beaton)


An awesome, and uproariously funny, girl power story to start this list off right! Princess Pinecone and her desire to be a great warrior are thwarted when, instead of the fierce battle steed she wishes for, she is given a roly-poly pony with a cuddly heart of gold. Adorable cartoonish illustrations set the stage perfectly, but the story will surprise you with an unexpected twist that gives it miles of heart. Additionally, Pinecone’s ferocity as a warrior is never questioned or doubted due to her gender, and her society is depicted as being one of many colors, shapes, and sizes – ponies included.

2. More-igami (Dori Kleber)


Part-origami instruction manual, part-story about learning a new skill and the hard work and dedication it can take to do so. Joey loves everything that fold: accordions, old maps, even fold-away beds! So when a classmate’s mother shows him the art of origami, he wants to learn how to make beautiful folded paper art as best as he can, practicing day and night – and occasionally, to the inconvenience of his family! This is a wonderfully-illustrated (by G. Brian Karas) and thoroughly fun story about having the tenacity to follow a passion, and even features instructions for readers to attempt an origami craft of their own.

3. Twenty Yawns (Jane Smiley)


A very different sort of bedtime book that appeals to readers old and young. Lucy is the only one in her house left awake in the silvery hour of twilight and, finding her atmosphere a bit spooky, gathers her stuffed animal friends to snuggle into bed with, finding her own courage along the way. Written by Smiley, and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, with a nostalgic air and gentle magic, it’s a sweet tale about finding confidence in being kind to others. Bonus: the titular twenty yawns are sprinkled throughout the book so readers can enjoy finding and counting them.

4. How To Find Gold (Viviane Schwarz)


A story of exploration, daring to dream, and friendship. Anna and her crocodile friend set their minds to do something dangerous and difficult: they are going to find gold. They know they need to be good secret-keepers, so they practice their secret-keeping faces. They know they need a map with an X, so they draw one. And though, once they set sail, there’s a scary storm on the horizon, they sail in without fear, because they know that nothing is every too scary or dangerous or difficult with a good friend at your side. With cute then breathtaking (then cute again) illustrations and a charmingly childlike text and plot, this one is perfect for the dreamers.

5. Explorers Of The Wild (Cale Atkinson)


An exhilarating and gorgeous story about friendship and exploration (again!). Every good explorer need guts, ingenuity, curiosity, and skill. With these qualities, one can explore the wild without fear. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can even find a friend to share your explorations with you. And while you may one day have to part, you will both always have the memories of conquering the wild together. Atkinson’s fantastic illustrations are full of both grandeur and quiet moments, with a wonderful sense of the indestructible feeling of adventuring in nature as a child as well as the bittersweet reality that while sometimes friendships must end, they are always precious.

There we are! A Top 5 filled with some of our favorite PoC protagonists! Also, we want to include two honorable mentions: Ada Twist, Scientist, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, and Grace For President, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, two of our favorite girl-power books that also have stellar PoC protagonists. The only reason we didn’t include them in this list is because we’d featured them before. What do you think? Did we leave any of your favorites out? Let is know in the comments, or message us from out Contact page. Thanks so much for reading!

I, Too, Am America (Langston Hughes)

Hello, friends! As you know, February is Black History Month, so in honor of that, we will be reading a book every Friday that celebrates black heritage and culture, as well as black authors and artists. Today’s book is I, Too, Am America, a retelling of a poem by Langston Hughes with a story told through art by Bryan Collier.

Using the text of Hughes’s classic poem, Collier uses his art to tell a story of a Pullman railway porter, one of the first American jobs to offer black men decent pay and comparatively dignified work. Hughes’s words describe black Americans as a member of the American family, but one who is treated with scorn and shame. Yet despite this treatment, he will “eat well,/ And grow strong,” text that is juxtaposed with images of the porter releasing discarded magazines and newspapers from the back of the train, spreading knowledge to other black people as he travels. The art moves seamlessly from past to present, and in the face of a young black boy on a subway train with his mother, peering through the stripes of an American flag at what comes next, the future.

This was a superb book, featuring layers of meaning and interpretation through both Hughes’s words and Collier’s art. Visual and textual metaphors blend together perfectly, creating a story that both examines a very specific part of African-American history with the grand scope of growing up as a black person in America, and the indefatigable spirit doing so requires. The length is perfect for baby bookworms: there is limited yet impactful text, and JJ was so enamored of the art that she spent a solid twenty minutes staring at the pages after our initial read-through. It’s a fabulous book to share with little ones, and discuss afterwards, and we highly recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!