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.)

Counting The Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician (Lesa Cline-Ransome)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Counting The Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by Raúl Colón, a detailed look at the life and work of the noted computer.

Born to humble beginnings, Katherine showed an immediate aptitude for numbers and an insatiable curiosity. Encouraged by her parents and teachers, Katherine started school early, then managed to skip several grades by her teen years; in college, she was so skilled at math that an entire advanced course was designed with her as the sole student. After falling in love, marrying, and having three daughters, she and her husband moved to Virginia to pursue work, and Katherine was hired as a human “computer” for NACA (the precursor to NASA). Impressing the engineers, scientists, and astronauts with her incredible mind and impeccable work – and fighting for her place at the table to be recognized for both – Katherine went on to be a pivotal force in NASA’s Mercury missions and beyond.

Inspiring. Since Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson has become a far-more recognized name, and this detailed illustrated biography is a great way for middle-grade readers to get an introduction to her skills and contributions. Interestingly, the text mentions issues of race and gender mostly in passing, choosing not to dwell on the obstacles Johnson faced as a black woman at the forefront of STEM in the 50’s and 60’s, and instead focusing on her background and work. It’s a choice that works well, allowing Katherine, rather than racism and sexism, to be the focus of her own story. Colón’s art is beautiful, realism touched with bits of magic and science to capture Johnson’s inquisitiveness. This one is lengthy, and the language is for strong readers, but JJ loved the art and the compelling structure. A great inspiration for aspiring STEM minds, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Skulls! (Blair Thornburgh)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Skulls! by Blair Thornburgh and illustrated by Scott Campbell, a hilariously adorable ode to something we all share.

Skulls! We all have them, and we all need them. They do lots of cool things, like give our face its shape. They have holes for things like eating and smelling and hearing. They grow as we do, going from soft to hard and becoming a safe, snug protective shell for our brains. Some people think they’re scary, but they don’t mean to be. In fact, all they want to do is keep our heads safe. So protect it, appreciate it, and take a moment to say, “I love my skull!” After all, it’s the only one you get!

What a wonderfully strange little book. Written in a cheerful conversational style, the narration serves to de-mystify and de-stigmatize one of our most important bones. Typically used as symbols of danger or fear, Thornburgh explores the virtues of our cranium, assuring kids that while we may think they look scary, they have a very important job to do. There are some nice lessons to be learned, especially when the charming art and diverse characters are added in, such as the fact that no matter what we look like on the outside, we all have skulls. I do wish a little more focus had been on what we can do to protect our skulls (a throwaway line about wearing helmets is too easy to miss), and there was a missed opportunity to talk about the importance of the skull-and-crossbones symbol signifying real danger for little readers. But for the most part, this is a wonderfully weird yet fabulously educational body book, and JJ were both happy to proclaim that we loved our skulls by the end. Baby Bookworm approved!

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