Grace Goes To Washington (Kelly DiPucchio)

Hello friends, and happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate, we’re reviewing Grace Goes To Washington, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, the sequel to one of our all-time favorite titles, Grace For President.

The school trip to Washington, D.C. is coming up, and Grace – the aspiring government leader who already has a successful run for class president under her belt – could not be more excited. For now, however, she must work in congress with her fellow class representatives to decided what to do with the proceeds from the school bake sale. Different contingents propose different needs: new athletic equipment, new band instruments, or new library books? Grace isn’t sure how to vote, as all are worthy causes. The class trip to D.C. provides a break from the debate, and Grace is deeply inspired by what she sees. Yet when she returns to school, all she sees is unrest – the fighting over how the bake sale money should be spent has reached a fever pitch, and friends are arguing on the playground. But in the melee, Grace notices a lonely new student, and inspiration strikes. Perhaps what the school needs most of all is a reminder of what people can accomplish when they work together.

Lovely. Just as Grace challenged the ideas that only men could lead in her previous book, she’s back to encourage teamwork and cooperation over partisanship (doesn’t that sound nice?). And like the previous title worked in a wonderful explanation of how the electoral college functions, this one provides a lesson in the branches of government, the executive and legislative in particular. Pham’s art features diverse characters that are alive with emotion and personality, and the text is earnest and impactful. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I were both so pleased to see Grace inspiring other kids to take the lead and do what’s right once again. A worthy sequel, and a reminder for readers big and small that by working together despite our differences, we can achieve great and lasting things. Baby Bookworm approved!

Snakes On The Job (Kathryn Dennis)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Snakes On The Job by Kathryn Dennis, a delightful look at how different work vehicles come together to complete a job.

As the workday begins for some very busy snakes, they all pile into their equally hardworking vehicles: cranes, bulldozers, dump trucks, forklifts, and excavators, to name a few. The engines go vROOM and, much like the snakes themselves, “Hisssssssssssssh goes the sound of the brakes”. Each subsequent page explains the function of the individual trucks, showing how cranes lift big objects into place, backhoes dig holes for posts, and food trucks keep everyone fed, all while the snakes work together on a massive project: a playground for everyone to enjoy!

Loads of fun. Dennis’s illustrations utilize simple shapes and colorblock figures against mostly white backgrounds to achieve a bright and vivid world without being overstimulating. The cheerful rhyming text does a fantastic job of tying the book’s elements together, concisely explaining the vehicles while also emphasizing the importance of teamwork and sharing, and the onomatopoeic refrain is delightful, especially for young snake lovers. The length is great for preschool-age or younger bookworms, and JJ and I had a blast reading it. This is a great read for little builders, 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.)

When Pencil Met Eraser (Karen Kilpatrick & Luis O. Ramos, Jr.)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When Pencil Met Eraser, written by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos, Jr., and illustrated by Germán Blanco.

There once was a pencil who loved to draw. His art was bold, well-shaded, and full of intricate detail. There was also once an eraser; he loved to create art as well, but through the use of negative space. Much to Pencil’s consternation, as he creates dark, brooding, and congested scenes, Eraser hops in to add levity and opportunities for lightness: a view of the sky in a crowded city, a path through a thick meadow of wildflowers, or stars in a forest sky. Pencil is unimpressed by his compatriot’s efforts, preferring to work alone. However, as he challenges Eraser’s creativity in an effort to drive him away, he begins to see the beauty and possibility in their teamwork… and in making a new friend.

Lovely! The story is a simple one that encourages working together and appreciating the talents of others, but there’s also a nice lesson in art and creative use of negative space hidden within. The characters are adorable, particularly Eraser’s unflappable cheerfulness, and the pencil artwork is quite stunning, providing loads of visual interest. The clever twist ending is also a treat, and drives home the importance and value of a diversity of talent when tackling projects. The length is great, and JJ loved the artwork and chipper dialogue. We liked this one 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.)

Summer (Cao Wenxuan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Summer, written by Cao Wenxuan and illustrated by Yu Rong, a modern-day fable of kindness and cooperation.

The book begins with a brief prelude, a page that sets a rural summer scene, complete with people and animals sheltering from the bright sun. Then the story jumps to a hot, dry grassland, where several animals big and small race across the dusty landscape toward shade. Spotting a tree, the animals rush toward it, arguing over who arrived first when they get there (the tiny mouse, technically first to arrive, is ignored by the much larger beasts). At last, the elephant muscles his way under the tree, taking up all the space. But looking up, the animals – even Elephant – all begin to laugh: the tree only has a few leaves left, and the sight of elephant crouching under the tiny spot of shade is absurd. Noting a man and his son crossing the landscape, the father using his shadow to keep his boy cool, the animals take a moment to consider – perhaps being selfish is not the way to manage their troubles.

Delightful! This translation of award-winning Chinese kidlit author Cao’s work weaves a thoughtful and measured lesson in teamwork and consideration, striking a tone that is subtle yet packs just the right emotional punch. The pacing may feel a bit unfamiliar, especially at the beginning, but it’s a refreshing sort of difference. And the interactive pages at the climax of the story were a wonderful surprise that fit the tone and look of the story perfectly. Yu’s sweet animals and use of light/shadow are brilliant – restrained, engaging, and heartwarming at the end. The length is great, and JJ loved 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.)

Kindness Matters: Sharing Bees (Antoinette Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kindness Matters: Sharing Bees, written by Antoinette Clark and illustrated by Russel Wayne, a story of teamwork and consideration.

Sadie the bee wakes one morning to the warm sun, and is excited – it’s the first day of spring, and she is ready to help her hive collect pollen and nectar. She meets up with her friends, and they discuss their game plan; Sadie is particularly interested in procuring some white clover nectar, a favorite of the baby bees in Honeycomb City. She and her friends all work together to collect their bounty, right up until ominous clouds appear on the horizon. Suddenly, the bees are all nervous: heavy rain drops can be dangerous, and many of them are moving slow due to their loads of nectar. Thinking quickly, Sadie comes up with a plan that will get everyone and their nectar home safely. It’ll just take a little teamwork, and a little sharing.

As stories go, this one is not bad at all. While the language of the text can be a little on-the-nose and overly literal in places, the story has a lot of good elements and themes: community, generosity, consideration, cooperation, leadership, courage. Unfortunately, this gets overshadowed by the deeply confusing art choices. Sadie, along with the other bees of her hive, are depicted as having humans heads, two legs, and two arms with fingered hands, yet with wings and bee-striped bodies. They almost appear to be humans in bee costumes, but everything from their hive to their size is consistent with that of actual bees (and this is never addressed in the text). It’s an unnecessary and distracting visual element, especially as the book claims to educate on the importance of bumblebees in nature; if there were the case, why not illustrate normal bees? Why give them human features? It was quite perplexing for JJ, who repeatedly searched for the “bees” the text I was reading referred to (to her eyes, she saw only humans). The length is fine, but this major stumble definitely detracts from the overall experience. Ultimately, this one was not for us, ambitious story notwithstanding.

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