Judge Juliette (Laura Gehl)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Judge Juliette, written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Mari Lobo, a delightful tale of a young adjudicator.

Juliette’s first judge’s robes are her mother’s black skirt; her first gavel is her Grandpa’s old mallet. From the very first, Juliette is all about making fair judgements – she justly presides over toy trifles, playground disputes, and even parent-child disagreements in her neighborhood, alway making her judgements with fairness (for example, it’s not technically against the LAW to serve lima beans two nights in a row – merely MEAN). But when her parents finally agree to get Juliette her very own pet, she’s facing the toughest judgement of her young career: the matter of Cat v. Dog!

Informative and fun. Designed as an introduction to the world of law – and specifically, the career of a judge – this sweet story manages to tell an entertaining and charming story while weaving in concepts and vocabulary to that effect. Little readers will learn terms like “recuse”, “witness”, and “hearsay” (both incorporated into the text and in the glossary afterward) as Juliette decides her parents’ case of Cat v. Dog. The cartoonish artwork is simple yet endearing, and features an expressive and diverse cast; Juliette and her parents are particularly charming, as they create the picture of a loving, teasing, imperfect yet supportive family unit. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ genuinely liked the story and art. An entertaining read for any little one, and for little law-enthusiasts, a major treat. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow! (Tina Gallo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!, written by Tina Gallo and illustrated by Clair Rossiter, a Crayola-themed board book of back-to-school colors.

How do you feel when you go back to school? Do you feel “school bus yellow” while you’re waiting for the bus, bright and excited? Do you feel fun and cheerful, like Blue Violet, when you sit down in your new classroom? Do you feel like energizing Jungle Green as you learn about lizards in the library? What colors do you feel at school?

Disappointing. Despite a very promising premise, this lackluster board book is far more interested in being a marketing tie-in than actually providing any entertainment or education for little bookworms. Only FIVE colors are featured, two of which are simply different shades of yellow, and two of which are, conveniently, proprietary shades of the Crayola company. Every color is described in the most innocuous and bland manner possible, and often in a way that is incongruous with the color in question (Blue Violet does not particularly strike me as “fun, cheerful”). The only bright spot is the artwork, which features anthropomorphized crayons attending and interacting at school, and are charmingly detailed, even featuring a touch of diversity (one crayon uses a wheelchair). Overall, however, this title has little to recommend it – there are a thousand other books about colors, back-to-school, and/or both that leave this colorful ad-campaign-in-disguise rather pale in comparison. A pass from us.

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

Arlo, The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep (Catherine Rayner)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Arlo, The Lion Who Couldn’t Sleep by Catherine Rayner, a stunning bedtime story for the sleep-deprived.

Arlo is exhausted, yet sleep eludes him; everything seems to interrupt his attempts to settle. The grass is too prickly, the trees too noisy, the sun too hot, and his family pride of lionesses too wriggly. After trying everything he can think of to get some rest, Arlo comes upon an owl, who sympathizes – she must sleep during the day when it’s hot and sunny and noisy. Asking for her advice, Owl supplies him with the meditative song she sings to herself, to direct her thoughts and calm her body, until she can sink into sleep. Listening to his new friend’s song and following her direction, Arlo finds himself finally drifting off and awakening many hours later, refreshed and renewed. But in his excitement to tell Owl, he inadvertently wakes her up from her own slumber! Not to worry: Arlo now has a proven way to help soothe his new friend back to sleep.

Magical. Combining a soothing pace and relaxing text with gorgeous illustrations of gently endearing characters against magnificent landscapes creates a pitch-perfect bedtime tale for bookworms of any age. Owl’s soothing bedtime song – which features no specific melody, but can be easily and satisfyingly read as it appears – is frankly wonderful advice for those who struggle to find peace at bedtime; even adults may find her meditation helpful. And combined with the show-stopping art, it’s impossible to not fall under the story’s spell. The length was perfect for bedtime (what else?), and JJ adored both the art and story. Simply put, this one is a winner – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Clueless: A Totally Classic Picture Book (G. M. Berrow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Clueless: A Totally Classic Picture Book, adapted by G. M. Berrow and illustrated by Heather Burns, a kidlit tribute to the popular teen movie of the same name.

Cher and Dionne are the most popular, fashionable girls at Bronson Alcott Elementary – they know all the right looks, all the cool people, and all the trendiest hobbies. So when new girl Tai comes to school and they notice how nervous, out of place, and “clueless” she feels, Cher and Dionne decide to help her out. They take Tai shopping to help her find a new look, then they and their friends show her all the hobbies that the cool kids do. And while Tai appreciates their efforts, she still feels out of place, preferring her old style and hobbies. Perhaps Cher and Dionne need a makeover of their own, and learn how to accept their friend for who she is…

There’s been a fun trend of picture book adaptations of adult media lately, with admittedly mixed results. Some work spectacularly, some not as much; this effort falls somewhere in middle. There’s a distinct oddity to the VERY teenage themes of the Clueless film being shoehorned into elementary-age characters, especially for adult readers who are familiar with the source material. However, Cher and Dionne’s obsession with fashion and popularity is not much different than other kidlit characters geared towards little girls, and the main themes of this adaptation are surprisingly sound. There’s a nice lesson in appreciating people for who they are and the things they love, regardless of how different or unfashionable they may be (Tai is far more comfortable with her flannels and skateboarding than the trendier activities, but is happy to spend time with her new friends once they realize and embrace this). The cartoon illustrations are colorful and fun, and feature plenty of nods and winks to older fans of the movie. The length is fine, though the pace is uneven; it took a while for JJ to invest in the story, but she enjoyed the ending. An uneven adaptation, but one that’s full of heart. Overall, we liked it – like, totally Baby Bookworm approved.

(TM & © 2020 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

All Welcome Here (James Preller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is All Welcome Here, written by James Preller and illustrated by Mary Grandpre, a poetic look at the varied experiences and emotions of the first day of school.

Told in a serious of titled haiku, readers are treated to nearly thirty miniature stories, featuring a diverse array of characters, settings, and situations that recall the first day at a new school. There are emotions, like trepidation, excitement, and shyness; new experiences, like meeting the principal and boarding the bus for the first time; and new places to explore, like the school library and playground. And at the end of the day, everyone heads home, knowing that they’ll return the next day for more learning, laughter, and adventures.

Interesting. Since the “first day of school” theme is a common one for picture books, it’s always nice to see a novel approach, and one of a collection of haiku poetry is certainly that. And on occasion, the form, combined with the colorful, energetic paintings of the artwork, results in a lovely effect, such as in “Growing Up”, where a child boarding a bus is compared to a bird leaving the nest, or “Library”, an ode to the heart of nearly every school building. However, many of the haiku fall flat or feel incomplete, the medium not quite suited to the feeling it’s meant to evoke. Certain poems, such as “Harold” and “Prank” even feel a little mean-spirited, which is perhaps not an unrealistic view of school life but hardly an encouraging one for young readers who may be nervous about their own first day. Otherwise, the length is fine, and broken up easily as the reader wishes, and JJ enjoyed some of the poems and artwork immensely. An uneven offering to a popular genre, but not without its charms; overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

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