Aalfred And Aalbert (Morag Hood)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Aalfred And Aalbert by Morag Hood, a charming love story.

Aalfred and Aalbert are aardvarks, their burrows dug mere feet from each other. Yet despite this, the two have never met; Aalfred is nocturnal and Aalbert only comes out in the day. Not realizing the other’s proximity, the two aardvarks go about their routines and explore their interests: Aalfred loves stars, broccoli, and picnics, while Aalbert is passionate about flowers, sunshine, and cheese (same). They’re happy in their day-to-days, but occasionally wish for a companion to share it with – and with the assistance of a matchmaking bluebird, they may find that love is closer than they ever imagined.

What a lovely book! Every element – from the simple, funny story, to the sweet and kind characters, to the charmingly adorable illustrations – comes together to form a short and sweet tale that will warm any romantic’s heart. The bluebird’s numerous failed attempts at matchmaking are hilarious visual gags, and the utter sweetness of Aalfred and Aalbert makes them so deeply endearing that you could find yourself a little misty-eyed at their happily-ever-after. Yet perhaps best of all are the subtle messages about love that the story tells: while the titular aardvarks hope for companionship, this is not the focus of their lives. Aalfred and Aalbert are happy, fulfilled, and well-rounded creatures all on their own, and are not depicted as “incomplete” without mates; what a fantastic message to send kids about the role of romantic relationships in one’s life. Furthermore, the fact that Aalfred and Aalbert are presented as a same-sex couple without fanfare or it being central to the plot is remarkably refreshing. JJ adored the little aardvarks and their bird friend, and I am happy to have a book for her that illustrates such an inclusive and positive model of love. A quiet and romantic gem of a book, 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.)

Prince & Knight (Daniel Haack)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Prince & Knight, written by Daniel Haack and illustrated Stevie Lewis, a fairy tale with a refreshingly inclusive love story.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful kingdom, where lived and handsome and sincere prince. The prince was ready to take over rule for the King and Queen, but he would need to be married first. The royal family leaves on a journey to find a princess for a bride. But while he meets many lovely princesses, none of them ignite that special spark of love for the prince. Then the royals receive word: in their absence, a fearsome dragon has lain waste to the land! The prince bravely races home to defend his kingdom and, upon facing the fearsome beast, finds he is not alone. An armor-clad knight has arrived as well, and the two work together to subdue the dragon, saving each other’s lives in the process. Taking a moment to exchange thanks, the knight removes his helmet, and the men feel an instantaneous bond – the spark they had been seeking.

YES, we are starting this year off RIGHT! I had an idea of what the plot of this story would be based on the cover, but the delivery was just splendid. From the thrilling action sequence (which nimbly sidesteps any violence or death, rest assured), the cheerful and sweet rhyming text, and of course, the heartwarming love story. The specific focus on marriage (the prince’s parents feel that he needs a spouse to rule) rather than on yearning for love is not ideal, but easily forgotten when the two leads find that love at first sight. The illustrations are phenomenal, evoking classic fairytale themes through a modern, almost cinematic lens. The length was great, and JJ and I both loved it. A marvelous love story for all little ones to enjoy, and especially for little boys who dream of their own handsome prince someday. Baby Bookworm approved!

Where The Heart Is (Satoe Tone)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Where The Heart Is by Satoe Tone, a sweet and tender story of love and devotion.

Two fluffy cats, one white and one black, go for a romantic moonlit stroll one evening. They come upon a pond, where thousands of twinkling lights are dancing across the water, and the black cat promises to catch them for his beloved. He tries to catch them with his paws, a leaf, a line and a net, and while he catches many wonderful things like fish and flying jellyfish and even a massive octopus, he just can’t seem to capture the lights. Disappointed, he apologizes to his love, who simply tells him to look up – the twinkling lights are in the sky. “All for you,” the black cat replies, cuddling with his partner by starlight.

Absolutely adorable. There is a wonderfully romantic tone to the story that will warm the hearts of any adult, yet it maintains an innocence and wonder that keeps it interesting for children. The art is simply magical, using dreamy nighttime colors and a fitting heart motif to draw readers of all ages into the fable. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A heartwarming love story, 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.)

Bagel In Love (Natasha Wing)

Hello, friends! Happy 2018! We’re starting a new year of reading with Bagel In Love, written by Natasha Wing and illustrated by Helen Dardik, the story of a bagel looking for the perfect dance partner, and perhaps something more…

More than anything, Bagel loves to dance. And more than anything, he wants to compete in the big dance contest being held at this year’s Cherry Jubilee. One problem: he just can’t find a partner who can appreciate his moves! He asks many of the sweet ladies in town – Donut, Croissant, Pretzal, Matzo, etc. – but they all turn him down. Bagel is about to give up on competing this year, but as he taps himself down the street, he begins to hear something: someone matching him beat for beat! Could this be the dance partner he hoped for?

Frankly, we had some mixed feelings on this one. The story was fine, and featured some truly clever baked-goods puns, but was ultimately pretty bland; there’s not really a solid message to take away other than “someday, you may find someone who shares your hobbies.” The ending is a bit abrupt, and the emphasis on love felt a little odd, considering the female character is not even introduced until the last few pages. I also wasn’t entirely comfortable with how rudely every single female who wasn’t Cupcake rejected Bagel; it seemed to depict all women except “the one” as being unnecessarily cruel. On the bright side, the art is extremely creative with the premise, you couldn’t ask for more color, and JJ enjoyed the glittery elements on later pages – but even the cutesyness of the illustrations were a little much for me, especially paired with a “meh” story. The length is fine, and JJ loved the colors, but even she was disinterested in the story. Ultimately, this ended up being a lot like the confections it featured: sugary-sweet, but not much substance.

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