Sun and Moon Together (Ethan Long)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sun and Moon Together by Ethan Long, the second title in the creator’s Happy County series.

Welcome back to Happy County, a busy and bustling little township filled with friends, facts, and fun. Once again structured in a digest-style narrative – featuring 18 chapters that run one or two pages each – readers spend two days with with residents of Happy County as they go about their days. Along the way, readers can learn vocabulary words, spot designs at a hot air balloon festival, learn about solar power, join a ssssavvy ssssnake ssssalesman, and much more.

Colorful and fun, but slightly uneven. Long’s Richard Scarry-inspired Happy County is just as wonderfully illustrated as before, with lots of details, visual gags, and nods to fans of the series’s previous book. However, the topics covered in each spread don’t have the same seamless flow that Hello, World! managed: while vocabulary pages, a collection of night sounds, and a cute mother-daughter tale of evening shadows are winners, the abrupt introduction of higher scientific concepts like the phases of the moon and photosynthesis fall short. These spreads feel either unnecessarily lengthy for the light and breezy narrative (a description of the water cycle stops a read-aloud dead), or far too brief to get a solid understanding of the material (how exactly do tides work?). This makes for an uneven storytime, though the length overall was still fine, and JJ loved the artwork; additionally, both text and illustrations are built for repeat perusals. Overall, not as cohesive as its predecessor, but still a colorful and enjoyable book for little readers. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Ocean!: Waves For All (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ocean!: Waves For All, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by David Litchfield, fourth in the author’s series of nature-based storybooks.

Personified by a set of eyes, nose, and mouth, the open ocean cheerfully greets readers before guiding them through a casual and congenial crash course in the wonders of the sea. Speaking in adorable surfer vernacular (“Dude”, “stoked”, and “righteous” make appearances, among others), the ocean takes its audience on a journey from the formation of the seas, the different zones and sea life within it, and even some of the modern dangers it faces, like trash islands and global warming. However, we can find that “sweet balance,” the ocean assures us; ocean and man? We’re all in this together.

Lovely. McAnulty’s series of humanized celestial bodies (Sun! And Moon!, both illustrated by Stevie Lewis and Earth!, also illustrated by Litchfield) has a wonderful way of connecting young readers to scientific concepts that may seem to too massive otherwise. The Ocean, with it’s Dudeist vocabulary and serene vibe, is especially charming, made all the more engaging by Litchfield’s incredibly complex and intricate art. Backmatter gives further information, suggestions, and resources on being a friend to the ocean. The length is perfect, and JJ and I really enjoyed this one; it’s got a strong environmental message while also capturing the spellbinding majesty of the sea and the life within it. In other words: totally tubular. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention (Pip Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention, written by Pip Jones and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie, a clever tale of one ingenious girl.

Izzy Gizmo and her pet bird Fixer are working on her newest invention one day (a So-Sew to mend clothes), when an invitation arrives in the mail. Izzy has been invited to the Invention Convention, a contest amongst young inventors held on the ingeniously-engineered Technoff Isle. The Professor and Mick Marvel challenge Izzy and her four competitors to come up with an impressive invention, and while Izzy is gung-ho, her quests for tools and supplies are thwarted at every turn by the pompous and unsportsmanlike Abi von Lavish. Her frustrations lead to a string of failed inventions and engineering hurdles, and she even gets so frustrated that she lashes out at Fixer. But with sage advice from her Grandpa, an apology to her friend, and a spark of inspiration, Izzy’s gizmo may just win the day.

Very cute. While this title is a follow-up to Izzy’s 2017 debut, this is our first encounter with the young inventor, and we enjoyed it immensely. Much like Andrea Beaty’s Rosie Revere – a perennial favorite in our household- Izzy is both admirably brilliant yet emotionally relatable (in fact, Ogilvie’s exuberant artwork, filled with madcap energy and meticulous details, also shares a spirit with Rosie’s other creator, David Roberts; the girls would be good friends, I imagine). What’s more, Izzy wants to do well and play fair, and facing adversity on her efforts, she redirects and perseveres without compromising her beliefs – a great lesson for kiddos. The rhymes can occasionally have a tricky rhythm, but are mostly fun to read aloud, and JJ enjoyed the colorful and detailed artwork. This is a sweet story with a myriad of themes, and we liked it a lot! Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Dream Big, Little Scientists: A Bedtime Book (Michelle Schaub)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dream Big, Little Scientists: A Bedtime Book, written by Michelle Schaub and illustrated by Alice Potter, a fun nighttime nursery rhyme for aspiring intellectuals.

It’s bedtime, and a neighborhood of young critical thinkers are ready to turn off their brains for the night. As they cozy into their beds, the gentle rhyming text alludes to each child’s preferred field of scientific study: “Oceans rock the world to sleep,” in the bedroom of a budding oceanographer; “[…] the earth is snuggled tight,” as a young geologist reads a bedtime story. And once little astronomers, botanists, physiologists, and paleontologists are slumbering peacefully, the narration promises that tomorrow will bring another day of observation, exploration, and learning.

Fabulous. As a sweet bedtime celebration of different fields of scientific study, this is already a gem. The subtle text playfully hints at eleven fields (each represented by a different child and their bedroom) without naming them outright; wonderfully detailed illustrations provide more context on themed bedspreads, pajamas, book spines, and posters. Best of all, the creators take things a step further by filling the book with a wonderfully diverse cast of characters: individuals have glasses, a hearing aid, a wheelchair, and the entire group is a rainbow of skintones. This is expanded in the posters of scientists on the children’s walls, spotlighting diverse minds such as Mary Anning, Takie Lebra, Wangari Maathai, and George Washington Carver. The artwork is sublimely cute yet cleverly detailed, and each room has lots of Easter eggs to explore. Backmatter features descriptions of the scientific fields (the scientists themselves are not introduced, though the address for a website with bios is provided for curious readers). The length was prefect for a bedtime read, and JJ and I both loved it. A wonderful addition to any young science-lover’s shelf, 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.)

Computer Decoder: Dorothy Vaughn, Computer Scientist (Andi Diehn)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Computer Decoder: Dorothy Vaughn, Computer Scientist, written by Andi Diehn and illustrated by Katie Mazeika, a lovely portrait of the mathematician and computer expert.

Dorothy grew up in a time when it was unusual for any woman to go to college, much less an African-American woman; yet this never stopped Dorothy, who believed in the power of her intellect and the value of hard work. After graduating, she taught math in segregated school, but worried that her meager salary would not be able to provide for her children to attend college one day as she did. So when NASA (then Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory) advertised a need for human computers – people, mostly women, who solved complex mathematical equations for the mostly male engineers – Dorothy applied, and was hired. Through her dedication and work, Dorothy rose to a supervisory role and fought to end the segregation of the computer workforce at Langley. When the first mechanical computer was installed at NASA, Dorothy saw the future of her and her subordinates’ career, and taught herself, then others, how to read and write computer code, keeping their knowledge base up to date with the tech and becoming a computer expert in the process.

Inspiring. Vaughn, who was one of the women profiled in the Hidden Figures book and movie, was known for her phenomenal intellect, but also her forward thinking and dedication to her employees, and this book does a nice job of introducing those elements of her story. It’s not as in depth as some of the other recent materials about the NASA computers are, but it does focus specifically on Vaughn and her achievements, which sets it apart. The illustrations are colorful, if a little flat in the energy and expressions of the characters. There are some great materials in the backmatter, however, including a few inspiring quotes from Dorothy and her contemporaries of the time. The length is fine for even little bookworms, and JJ enjoyed it. So while this one has a few weak areas, there’s still a lot to love – primarily, the story of a brilliant and brave black female pioneer in STEM – 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.)