Counting Elephants (Dawn Young)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Counting Elephants, written by Dawn Young and illustrated by Fermin Solis, a mixed-up tale of math and magic.

Two characters, the Counter and the Magician, welcome the reader to their story, but immediately disagree as to why they’re there. The Magician was under the impression that the story would be about magic (he’s dressed in his top hat and cape for the occasion), but the Counter insists that their purpose is to count the elephants surrounding them. She begins, but is immediately foiled by the Magician, who transforms one of the elephants into a frog! As the Counter attempts to begin the count again and again, the pesky prestidigitator changes another elephant or two into a jar of peanut butter, or jelly, or a puppy! How will the Counter ever get this ridiculous tale back on track?

Cute. This highly silly story will definitely amuse young readers; the comedy is lighthearted, unexpected, and appropriately madcap. Less functional is the script-format dialogue, which is often out of sync with the artwork around it. Speech bubbles or dialogue with two distinct visual formats for the characters would have been a lot more helpful in differentiation between the two. Also, those looking for an actual book about counting will be disappointed – the story features little to no actual lessons in numerals or values. The cartoonish artwork is fun, however, and captures the silliness with bold colors and expressive characters. The length is fine for any age, and JJ enjoyed the Magician’s antics. Imperfect, but delightful nonetheless! Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Way Past Bedtime (Tara Lazar)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Way Past Bedtime, written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by Rich Wake, a fun fantasy that ponders a perennial childhood question: just what do parents DO past bedtime?

Tonight is the night, and Joseph is ready. He’s even oddly eager to go to bed, causing his parents to pat themselves on the backs for their superior bedtime skills. Little do they know, however, that Joseph is onto them, and tonight, his plan springs into action: he’s going to find out what happens PAST BEDTIME! He has his theories of course, centered around the rollicking, rowdy party that he’s sure they must throw: an incredible bash with six DJs, hot fudge fountains, and show-stopping mariachi performances. When the moment is right, he springs into action, putting on his invisibility clock (a blanket) and creeping past the guard (his sister). Spying mom and dad with his (cardboard) night vision goggles from atop the stairs, he sees that they’re… asleep? Fuming at them about the lack of party, his parents wake and laugh at his wild imagination, then return him to bed… but not before the audience glimpses a few clues that Joseph may not be so far off base after all…

Colorful and fun. The premise is one of those great, timeless childhood questions, and little readers will surely appreciate Joseph’s frustrations and laugh at his incredibly creative fantasies about the after-bedtime bash (which includes ninjas, puppets, magicians, celebrities, and more). Similarly, there are some great nods to the parents as well, and the clever illustrations do a great job of balancing big set-pieces and wacky characters with witty details. My only complaint is the ending, which feels a little abrupt and vague (though it’s hard to describe without spoiling the final twist). Still, the length was fine and JJ enjoyed the silly party scenes, so we can call this one Baby Bookworm approved!

Llama Destroys The World (Jonathan Stutzman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Llama Destroys The World, written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox, a positively ridiculous tale of a llama, some cake, and the end of the world.

On Friday, Llama destroyed the world (it was an honest mistake). You see, on Monday, he came face to face with an enormous pile of cake – more cake than any llama should ever eat – and well, what’s a llama to do? He ate it all. Unfortunately, that was his first mistake… And with each progressive minor mistake, the end of the world grows nearer – all because of some dancing pants, a black hole, and one very silly llama.

Delightful! For those who enjoy their humor on the absurd side, this gleefully weird romp is all about the fun. There’s no lesson to be learned (unless you count “don’t eat too much cake or the sound made when you rip your pants will cause a rift in the universe resulting in a black hole that sucks everything to the other side”) – by the end, even Llama is back to his old ways (a pile of pie is just as tempting as the cake). Little readers will delight at Llama’s goofy face and minimal-yet-enthusiastic dialogue, as well as Fox’s adorable, cartoonish illustrations. JJ went wild for the daffy little llama, and I got to appreciate some solidly deadpan absurdist text, making this a blast to read together. The length was fine for any age and we just had a lot of fun with this one – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

King Alice (Matthew Cordell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is King Alice by Matthew Cordell, a delightfully silly slice of life for one very creative little girl and her family.

Snowed in yet again, Alice’s daddy wakes up to his rambunctious young daughter who has declared herself King Alice (“You mean… Queen?” “No! KING!”). After suggesting a few less-than-ideal activities to her beleaguered father, she decides that the two will write a book. With Alice composing the story and daddy drawing the illustrations, the events of the book mirror their own day: eating breakfast, having a tea party, a unicorn stampede (inspired by a quick television break), bathtime, etc. Alice’s mommy and baby sibling are featured characters, as are her cat and favorite toys. And after a day of adventure (and one time-out after a bout of naughtiness), the book of King Alice is complete, leaving Alice excited for all the fun they’ll have tomorrow (and exhausted dad hoping that the snow clears up overnight).

A hilariously realistic look at the mind of a child, with a fun wink-and-nudge message to their parents. Alice and her family’s day, from the declaration of her title to the sense of relief at bedtime, felt so accurate from start to finish that I couldn’t help but chuckle. But Cordell does a good job of balancing her father’s reactions to Alice’s antics – from bemused to harrowed to accidentally injured – with the charm and humor of that age. It makes the story all the more identifiable for adult readers and engaging and entertaining for young bookworms. The frenetic, scribbly-scratchy art fits the tone perfectly, and there are some great details to be found on each page (did I spy a framed picture of the TARDIS?). The length was perfect, and we had a hoot reading it. A great book to enjoy together, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

It’s Not Hansel and Gretel (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, a hilariously fractured twist on the original fairy tale.

As the narrator of Hansel and Gretel’s tale opens the scene, he is immediately distracted by the presence of Jack (of “and the Beanstalk”, and the protagonist of the book’s prequel). Shooing Jack back to his own story, the narrator begins the familiar tale: in a time of great famine, Hansel and Gretel’s parents plot to abandon them in the woods – except Gretel immediately interrupts to disagree with this notion, adamant that their parents would never do such a thing. This becomes the running theme, as the siblings push back against the increasingly frustrated narrator, refusing to follow the story laid out for them. Gretel is particularly fed up with the traditional gender roles, questioning why it can’t be “Gretel and Hansel”, and why her brother gets to eat treats in the candy cage while she has to do chores in the witch’s gingerbread house. Even when the narrator proves to be right – the siblings eventually concede that maybe the witch WASN’T just a nice old lady – their refusal to follow direction spurs the exasperated narrator to give up control of the story… and that’s when the real fun begins.

Delightfully goofy. The effect will work best on kids who are familiar with the original fairy tale, but this rollicking tale is chock full of so much snappy dialogue, colorful visuals, and wonderfully kid-friendly humor that it’s worth it to brush up on the Grimms’s version. The layout of the different texts for character speech, traditional narration, and the narrator’s outbursts is a nice touch – reading this one aloud is a challenge but an entertaining one (brush up on your character voices, this one is rife with opportunities). The cameos from other fairy tale notables are also a fun feature for eagle-eyed bookworms, the length is perfect, and JJ and I had a blast reading it. Perfect for lovers of silly humor, and emphatically 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.)