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.)

Pearl (Molly Idle)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pearl by Molly Idle, a fable of mermaids and the importance of little things.

Beneath the ocean’s gentle waves, mermaids – the guardians of the deep – work to protect the sea’s most precious things. Some tend the forests of kelp, some keep their eye on the colorful coral reefs, and some protect the giant, majestic creatures. One little mermaid, Pearl, longs to do her part. She informs her mother that she is ready, and after a moment’s consideration, her mother agrees. Taking Pearl up to a sparkling shoreline, she assigns the young mermaid her task: protecting a single grain of sand. Pearl is heartbroken, seeing her mother’s instruction as a cruel joke, and sinks down to the bottom of the ocean in despair. Squeezing the grain of sand in anger, she is surprised to see it begin to glow. Gently holding it once more, she begins to see the little grain become larger, smoother, and luminescent. Pearl commits herself to her task, and with a bit of patience and dedication, she will find that even the smallest grain of sand has the potential for greatness.

Fabulous. This is the rare children’s story that is simple enough to be enjoyed by a reader of any age, yet so layered and complex that multiple lessons and meanings can be taken from it. A reflection on the environment, or how no effort is too small, or how every great thing began as something little, or the gift of nurturing care – this lovely little fable is all of the above and more. Idle’s muted oceanic color palette is as soothing as it is gorgeous, and her incredible animation-style art is a thing of beauty. The length is fine for all ages, and JJ was memorized by Pearl’s undersea adventure. A treasure, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Deep Underwater (Irene Luxbacher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deep Underwater by Irene Luxbacher, a dreamy and surreal adventure to the ocean floor.

A young girl named Sophia invites the reader along as she dives down deep into the sea. She knows all the ocean’s secrets, and she’s glad to share them. Down into the dark, where bubbles swirl and creatures swim and sunken ships hide their treasure. There’s all that and more: mysterious shapes and colors, beings and possibilities. It seems almost to be the stuff of dreams, and perhaps it is…

Unique and lovely. The first thing that strikes me is the unusual color scheme – while many undersea books opt for bright blues and whitish sand, this one paints its setting in the deep blue-greens and shadows of the actual ocean, a far more natural and realistic choice. This works perfectly for the elements of fantasy to come, providing a more familiar background to te mixed-media imaginings of first real marine life, then more odd and otherworldly lifeforms and scenes as the story progresses. The final page gives a lovely bit of context for the preceding adventures in a heartwarming illustration. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A weird and beautiful adventure that celebrates curiousity, courage, and imagination. Baby Bookworm approved!

Ocean Meets Sky (The Fan Brothers)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers, a stunning seafaring fantasy about family, loss, and love.

Finn lives by the sea, and the sea lives by him. He loves the ocean, a love he once shared with his grandpa; he would have been 90 today. In honor of his grandpa, he has built a ship from scraps and flotsam – he hopes to one day take it on a voyage of his own, to find the mythical place his grandfather once spoke of, a place where ocean meets sky. After nodding off in his boat, he awakes to find that he has been swept out to sea – the journey has begun! He meets a giant, beautiful golden fish who acts as his guide, and together they cross vast oceans and see many wondrous things. At last, they find it: the place where ocean meets sky, where ships and whales float through the air with zeppelins and balloons. The golden fish swims up into the moon, and Finn sees the kind face of his grandpa smiling down on him. As he hears his mother calling for him, he and his boat are swept back to their spot on the shore, where Finn follows his mother in for a dinner of dumplings – his grandpa’s favorite.

Breathtaking yet touching and intimate. Once again, the Fan Brothers have created a detailed world straight out of a child’s imagination, with sights, landscapes, and creatures that fascinate and amuse. Every page is beautiful and inviting, and inspires the reader to share Finn’s wanderlust. The story is soft and gentle, but filled with meaning, working in concert with the art to explore themes of remembrance, family, and even Chinese culture. The length is great, and JJ and I both adored it. A beautiful and meaningful voyage across the sea and sky, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

South (Daniel Duncan)


Hello, friends! Our book today is South by Daniel Duncan, a lovely tale of kindness, friendship, and how we can touch the lives of the ones we care for.

A lone fisherman sails across the sea in his single-man vessel. One day, he finds an injured bird on deck. He takes the poor creature in and mends its broken wing, giving it a warm nest of clothes to sleep in and feeding it from his daily catch. Realizing that the bird will need to be with his own kind come winter, he plots a course South, bringing the bird to the island where its friends and family are, just as the little animal’s wing has healed. While both are reluctant to say goodbye to each other, the fisherman know that this is where is new friend belongs, and encourages him to fly free. After, he frames a feather that the bird left behind to remind him of their friendship and plots a new course, heading home.

This was a sweet, sentimental story about the bittersweet feeling of having to say goodbye, and it was very touching. It reminded me of Jake Parker’s Little Bot And Sparrow, a book with a similar theme, in that it shows young readers that even the most close and affecting friendships must sometimes come to an end. I like that it focused on how our memories of these relationships are something to be cherished, and how the story ends with hope: the fisherman appears to have a family of his own (shown in photos), and is now headed back to them. The illustrations build a beautiful nautical world that establishes the simple existence of the fisherman and the sweet relationship he develops with his bird friend. The length is good, and JJ enjoyed it. A beautiful, slightly sad, but ultimately honest and heartwarming story of the power of friendship, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!