Top 5: Star Wars

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Hello, friends! Well, after taking a few months off of our Top 5 lists, I am happy to say that they are back! And we’re coming back with one that we’re very excited about: Star Wars! As you might know, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be in theaters on December 15th, so we thought we’d spend this month’s list taking a look at some of the best Star Wars picture books that we’ve reviewed.

So strap in, we’re ready to make the jump to lightspeed with The Baby Bookworm’s Top 5 Star Wars Books:

1. Star Wars: ABC-3PO, Galactic Basic Edition (Calliope Glass & Caitlin Kennedy)

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Delightfully geeky, this ABC book presented by C-3PO, Human-Cyborg Relations, is filled with a plethora of classic and fan-favorite Star Wars characters. Every letter of the alphabet is given the Star Wars character treatment (A is for Ackbar, P is for Poe Dameron, Y is for Yoda, etc.) and accompanied by a hilariously tongue-in-cheek poem that will entertain fans young and old. Katie Cook’s renditions of the characters and set-pieces are an adorable treat. A great book for fans of all ages!

2. Star Wars Epic Yarns: A New Hope (Jack & Holman Wang)

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A perfect Star Wars primer for the brand-new youngling in your life. The Wangs use impressively handcrafted needle-felted wool figures in miniature sets to recreate some of the most timeless visuals from A New Hope, paired with simple, kid-friendly vocabulary words: “Princess” accompanies the iconic shot of Leia recording her message on R2-D2, “Captain” as Han Solo faces off against Greedo, “Heroes” as the team lines up across the stairs at the medal ceremony. With companion books for The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, these are a fun and unique way to introduce the tiniest padawan to the galaxy far, far away.

3. Star Wars: BB-8 On The Run (Drew Daywalt)

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A wonderfully nuanced story that follows everyone’s favorite orange-and-white astromech. Taking place within the timeline of The Force Awakens, the story follows BB-8 as he is separated from his friend Poe and searching for a way off Jakku and back to the Resistance. Remembering that Poe had taught him that kindness will always come back to the one who shows it, he faces several opportunities in which he must decide to help others or pursue his own objectives. Matt Myers’s beautiful desert scenery provides a gorgeous backdrop for beloved Star Wars characters and creatures. It’s a story with a fantastic message about doing the right thing, even when it’s difficult, and perfect for young fans of BB-8.

4. Star Wars: I Am A Princess (Courtney Carbone)

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One of our favorite books from the past year, and a frequent bedtime story at The Baby Bookworm household! Gorgeously illustrated and unapologetically feminist, this Little Golden Book defines a princess as clever, kind, brave and resourceful. Instead of waiting around to be rescued, Leia’s princesses are encouraged to take charge and lead others, being ambassadors of peace and the heroes of their own story. Heather Martinez’s colorful Star Wars scenes are captivating and exciting, and the message is one that every little reader can learn from: never underestimate the power of a princess.

5. 5-Minute Star Wars Stories (Disney-Lucasfilm)

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A wonderful compendium that has something for every young padawan. We’ve had a chance to read the entire collection since our initial review, and we are really pleased with the quality of this storybook, which features eleven stories in total, drawn from the Star Wars cinematic films I-VII. While the stories are pretty sanitized for content and/or spoiler reasons, they maintain massive entertainment value through energetic visuals and a brisk five-minute per story pace. It’s a great way to introduce the ways of the Force to the uninitiated, or to share some favorite stories of the Star Wars universe with young fans.

That’s our list! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book about Star Wars you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much, and may the Force be with you!

Top 5: Books About Moms

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Hello, friends! We’re wrapping up May, so it’s time for another Top 5 list! Since this past month we celebrated both Mother’s Day and my birthday, I decided to be a little indulgent with this Top 5. So for this month’s list, we’ve rounded up our favorite books about moms. Be she mom, mommy, mama, or mother, there’s no denying the special bond a mother has with her child, and the books we’ve chosen for this list celebrate that connection.

So here we go: our Top 5 Books About Moms:

1. Silly Wonderful You (Sherri Duskey Rinker)

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This was actually the book we read for Mother’s Day this year, and it was a perfect pick. Told through the eyes of a (mostly) patient mother’s daily life with her rambunctious toddler, this book captures the highs, lows, messes, smells, laughs, tears, and wonders of being mother to a little one. Patrick McDonnell of Mutts fame uses his signature pen-and-ink illustrations to captures each preposterous and precious moment with joy and tenderness. It’s a sweet, funny yet sentimental book that makes for a perfect bedtime read, and it’s one of our new favorites.

2. The Runaway Bunny (Margaret Wise Brown)

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A classic tale from the same author/illustrator duo as Goodnight Moon, this touching and timeless tale is, in some ways, better than its more famous counterpart. A young bunny tells his mother that he is going to run away, going on grand adventures and becoming impossible things, and that he will leave her behind. The mother bunny knows better, however; no matter where he goes or what he becomes, she will always be with him in one way or another. The young bunny is comforted by this, deciding to stay put and be her little bunny instead. It’s a beautifully symbolic tale of a mother’s unconditional love, with art by Clement Hurd that still astounds after 75 years.

3. Love Is (Diane Adams)

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This book still brings a tear to my eye. Told in delicate rhyme and accompanied by flawless illustrations by Claire Keane, Love Is tells the story of motherhood to children by disguising it as a story about a pet duckling. A little girl finds a lost duckling, taking her in and caring for her. Through midnight feedings, messy bathtimes, and moments of fear and joy, the girl watches her duckling grow. And once the duckling is ready, though it pains her heart, she knows that it is time to let her little one out to explore the world on its own. This one is especially nice because, using the duckling metaphor, it shows that motherhood is not strictly a biological connection. It’s a gorgeous, touching, and timeless story that takes on new meaning with each read.

4. Still My Mommy (Megan Pomputius)

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Sometimes parents, whom little ones typically regard as indestructible, have health issues, and it can be a frightening time for an entire family. Still My Mommy, which author Pomputius based on her own experience with cancer, aims to comfort children through the scary, confusing, and difficult experience of watching a parent deal with a serious illness. Subdued and gentle art by Andrea Alemanno fits the tone of the book perfectly. While introducing some elements of cancer treatment, the most important part of this book is the message: that illness may change a loved one physically, mentally or emotionally, but they will always be the same person underneath. As the little girl in the book discovers, while her mother may be thinner and lose her hair, or may not be able to run and play as they once did, she will still always want to be with her little girl, because she is still her mommy.

5. Little One (Jo Weaver)

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A gorgeous tale of motherhood told through some of the most breathtaking art we’ve seen in a children’s book, Little One follows a mother bear and her cub through a year of their lives. As the seasons pass, the bear cub makes discoveries about his world and himself, always with his mother by his side to help and guide him. As the year draws to a close, the pair bed down in their den once more for a winter’s sleep, together as always. It’s a classic tale of mother and child, but the real star of the show here is the phenomenal charcoal art, which captures both the beauty of nature and motherhood with stunning detail. It’s a peaceful, calm, and touching book about a mother’s love.

There you have it! A Top 5 list of books perfect for mothers to share with their baby bookworms. We also wanted to add one honorable mention:  Stella Brings The Family by Miriam B. Schiffer is a beautiful story about how maternal influences need not always be from a mother, or even female. We wanted to include it for families who may not have a mother in their lives; motherhood is not necessarily a bond made by genetics, but it is always one made by love.

So, what do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book about mothers you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much, and happy reading!

Top 5: Books About Books

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Hi, friends! Well, it’s the end of April, so it’s time for another Top 5 list! Earlier this month, book lovers everywhere celebrated National Library Week from April 9th through the 15th (we did!), a recognition of public libraries and the important resources and services they provide. In addition, April 2nd was International Children’s Book Day, a celebration of children’s literature worldwide. So we thought we’d wrap up April with a Top 5 of books… about books! We’ve chosen five of our favorite stories that celebrate books, reading and literacy, and the impact they can have on baby bookworms just like JJ.

So, for your enjoyment, here is our list of Top 5 Books About Books:

1. Books Always Everywhere (Jane Blatt)

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A perfect book for beginner bookworms, this book of opposites explores concepts like big and small, stop and start, scary and funny, etc., through the lens of books and reading. Delightful illustrations by Sarah Massini are colorful and expressive for little ones, and hide funny allusions and sly jokes for adults. This is a great twist on the theme of opposites, teaching young readers while encouraging a love of literacy and an appreciation for the great diversity of literature and stories.

2. The Snatchabook (Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty)

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A wonderful story about the power of reading together, The Snatchabook tells the tale of a brave, book-loving bunny named Eliza Brown who is determined to find out who has been stealing the stories of Burrow Down. When she discovers the culprit, a little creature called a Snatchabook, she finds that his motivations are not at all what she had thought, and it’s her love of sharing her favorite books that ends up saving the day. This is a great story: the rhyming text has a great flow and is fun to read aloud, the illustrations highlight both the spooky and joyful elements of the story, and the message about the importance of reading together is just wonderful.

3. How This Book Was Made (Mac Barnett)

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Books that are funny for kids are wonderful, but books that I can laugh along with JJ to are rare, and this is one that had us both rolling. The fractured, exaggerated, and extremely embellished tale of how books go from idea to actuality is filled with refreshing silliness, sly tongue-in-cheek humor, and wonderfully quirky art by Adam Rex. Plus, it’s message is ultimately a wonderful one: for all the many people, processes, and unexpected hurdles that a book has to go through to get published, a book is not a book until someone takes it home, opens it up, and reads.

4. The Highest Mountain Of Books In The World (Rocio Bonilla)

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A gorgeous fable about the power of stories to transport us, The Highest Mountain Of Books In The World tells the story of Lucas, a young boy who dreams of flying despite his numerous failed attempts to do so. One day, his mother places a book in his hands and says, “There are other ways to fly, Lucas.” This book is rich with metaphor in both the story and art, and all of the concepts explored are as well-executed as they are touching: that books can be our wings, that a great story is able to transport a reader into its world, and that fostering a love of reading in a child is an act of love.

5. A Child Of Books (Oliver Jeffers & Sam Winston)

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This drop-dead gorgeous book uses a simple, timeless story and breathtaking mixed-media art to write a love letter to words. A little girl sets sail on her raft of imagination, built by the words she reads, and invites her young friend along. Together they explore mysterious lands, battle fierce creatures, and sleep among the clouds in the sky, transported by the text of the stories they read. The lesson is this: when you are a child of books, the entirety of the universe is right at your fingertips, and your imagination is your key to it. Sam Winston’s jaw-dropping illustrations build magical worlds using the very words of the books the children read, creating both apt metaphor and inviting the reader to closely examine each page. A wonderful story for readers of any age that celebrates the power of words to transport us to new horizons.

So there we are! A Top 5 of books perfect for the littlest readers in your life. Plus, we wanted to add one honorable mention: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce is a beautiful fable about our relationships with books and the value of a life lived in words, and the only reason we didn’t include it on this list is because we’ve used it in a Top 5 in the past (though honestly, it’s hard not to put this book on EVERY list we write; it’s that good). What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book about books you’d like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much, and happy reading!

Top 5: Women’s History Month

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Hello, everyone! It’s the end of the month, so it’s time for another Top 5 list! As you may know, March is Women’s History Month, so we thought we’d spend this Top 5 taking a look at some of our favorite kidlit biographies of notable women. Some challenged stereotypes to serve their nation, some fought for the rights of women and children, and some made their mark with art and dance, but all of them were brave, dedicated and hardworking women who made an impact on the world. Celebrating these real-life female icons and role models sends the important message to our little girls and our little boys that women are strong, women are important, and women can do anything.

So, without further ado, here are our Top 5 Women’s History Month biographies:

1. On Our Way To Oyster Bay: Mother Jones And Her March For Children’s Rights (Monica Kulling)

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Told through the eyes of two young cotton mill workers, On Our Way To Oyster Bay relates the tale of elderly activist Mary Harris “Mother” Jones’ protest march to Oyster Bay, NY, to raise awareness for worker’s and children’s rights. As a biography, it really only covers a slice of Mother Jones’ work, but captures the essence of who she was as a leader and organizer, and her passion for and dedication to the people she was representing. The young protagonists give little readers characters they can relate to, and the book does a fantastic job of showing a glimpse of what life was like for children, and child workers, in the 1900’s in a way that is striking, but not so graphic as to be frightening. The art by Felicita Sala is colorful, lively, and draws you into the world of Mother Jones and her fellow protesters. The story leaves the reader with the lesson that you must fight for your beliefs, even in the face of disappointment or difficulty, and that. be you man or woman, young or old, your voice matters.

2. Me, Frida (Amy Novesky)

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This award-winning picture book biography of Mexican artist and feminist icon Frida Kahlo covers the time period in which Frida had moved to San Francisco with her husband, Diego Rivera. Channeling her homesickness, isolation, and physical and mental health struggles into ecstatically beautiful art, Frida finds herself and her beauty within her talent, expressing herself in ways that no woman in art had before. While the story relies a bit too much on a romanticized version of Kahlo’s marriage (which, in reality, was an absolute mess), the key message is one of self-acceptance, perseverance, and belief in oneself. And in a book about art, David Diaz’s gorgeous Kahlo-inspired illustrations fill every page with life and energy to bursting, and the story of Frida’s unapologetic desire to be herself in person and in her art sends to the message to young readers that we are far more beautiful and powerful as we are, not as the world tries to make us.

3. Doing Her Bit: A Story About The Woman’s Land Army Of America (Erin Hagar)

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While technically not a biography, Doing Her Bit is based on the true story of the Woman’s Land Army, a collective of brave women from all walks of life who volunteered to become farmhands and take up the workload left by men who had shipped out to fight in WWII. Centered around the experiences of a young woman named Helen, it follows the story of a group of these women undergoing backbreaking training to learn how to do farm labor, only to have their efforts refused by farmers who doubt their abilities and value as workers. When the hard-nosed female director of the camp negotiates a chance for the women to prove their mettle, the farmers find that bravery and skill know no gender. Highlighting a lesser-known chapter in women’s history, the story does a great job of making the characters and story accessible, and the art by Jen Hill gives the women personality and life. The overall effect is a story that leaves baby bookworms with the lesson that women are strong, brave, kind, and never ever less than their male counterparts.

4. For The Right To Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story (Rebecca Langston-George)

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While the infamous assassination attempt on women’s and children’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai’s life is covered in this kidlit biography (subtly, yet poignantly), the tale of the youngest person to ever receive the Nobel Peace Prize does not focus too much on that event. Instead, the story centers around Malala’s childhood in Pakistan, she and her father’s dedication to education as an inalienable right to every man, woman and child, and the fearless risks Malala took as a young teenager to speak out against the subjection and censorship of her people by the Taliban. The art by Janna Bock is sweeping and emotional, and seems to leap off the page to draw the reader into Malala’s life and world. This is a beautiful and powerful true story of a remarkable young woman, and it is sure to leave any young reader in awe of the power of education and their own voice.

5. Firebird (Misty Copeland)

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Misty Copeland set out to create a unique ballet book for young dancers who looked like her, and she absolutely succeeds. Forgoing the prim, pale pastels of other ballerina tales, Firebird tells the story of Copeland’s rise to the first African-American principal dancer of the American Ballet Theater through her encouragement of a young dancer who is struggling with confidence. Copeland cuts through the idea that the young girl’s goals of being a renowned dancer like her are not achievable, saying that she once stood in the girl’s shoes, and that hard work, dedication, and belief in herself is what led her to greatness, showing that with these qualities, any young dancer (of any color) can shine bright like the Firebird, and inspire the next generation of dreamers to come. With ecstatically vibrant art by Christopher Myers that dances across every page and stylistically lyrical text, this is a ballerina book that breaks the mold.

There it is! A Top 5 that celebrates the women who make their mark on history. Also, we want to include two honorable mentions: I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley and I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, two phenomenal kidlit biographies about fearless women. The only reason we didn’t include them in this list is because we’ve featured them before, but you should absolutely check them out, because they are wonderful. What do you think? Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a picture book biography of an awesome woman you’d like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much for reading, and Happy Women’s History month!

Top 5: PoC Protagonists

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Hello, friends! It’s the end of February, and so it’s time for another Top 5 list. As you know, February is Black History Month, and The Baby Bookworm dedicated our Friday reviews to books that celebrate the lives and achievements of historical black Americans. For our Top 5, however, we thought that we would instead recognize some of our favorite books that feature fictional protagonists of color.

As we mentioned in our Top 5 last month, people of color are woefully underrepresented in children’s literature. For instance, only 7.6% of children’s books released in 2015 featured characters who were black (by contrast, 73.3% of books featured white characters, and 12.5% featured non-human characters like animals or vehicles). And while children’s books about African-American history are immensely important, having kidlit that feature ordinary, everyday PoC characters that young children can relate to is just as vital. So for our Top 5 this month, and in no particular order, we would like to highlight some wonderful children’s books that feature black/PoC protagonists:

1. The Princess And The Pony (Kate Beaton)

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An awesome, and uproariously funny, girl power story to start this list off right! Princess Pinecone and her desire to be a great warrior are thwarted when, instead of the fierce battle steed she wishes for, she is given a roly-poly pony with a cuddly heart of gold. Adorable cartoonish illustrations set the stage perfectly, but the story will surprise you with an unexpected twist that gives it miles of heart. Additionally, Pinecone’s ferocity as a warrior is never questioned or doubted due to her gender, and her society is depicted as being one of many colors, shapes, and sizes – ponies included.

2. More-igami (Dori Kleber)

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Part-origami instruction manual, part-story about learning a new skill and the hard work and dedication it can take to do so. Joey loves everything that fold: accordions, old maps, even fold-away beds! So when a classmate’s mother shows him the art of origami, he wants to learn how to make beautiful folded paper art as best as he can, practicing day and night – and occasionally, to the inconvenience of his family! This is a wonderfully-illustrated (by G. Brian Karas) and thoroughly fun story about having the tenacity to follow a passion, and even features instructions for readers to attempt an origami craft of their own.

3. Twenty Yawns (Jane Smiley)

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A very different sort of bedtime book that appeals to readers old and young. Lucy is the only one in her house left awake in the silvery hour of twilight and, finding her atmosphere a bit spooky, gathers her stuffed animal friends to snuggle into bed with, finding her own courage along the way. Written by Smiley, and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, with a nostalgic air and gentle magic, it’s a sweet tale about finding confidence in being kind to others. Bonus: the titular twenty yawns are sprinkled throughout the book so readers can enjoy finding and counting them.

4. How To Find Gold (Viviane Schwarz)

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A story of exploration, daring to dream, and friendship. Anna and her crocodile friend set their minds to do something dangerous and difficult: they are going to find gold. They know they need to be good secret-keepers, so they practice their secret-keeping faces. They know they need a map with an X, so they draw one. And though, once they set sail, there’s a scary storm on the horizon, they sail in without fear, because they know that nothing is every too scary or dangerous or difficult with a good friend at your side. With cute then breathtaking (then cute again) illustrations and a charmingly childlike text and plot, this one is perfect for the dreamers.

5. Explorers Of The Wild (Cale Atkinson)

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An exhilarating and gorgeous story about friendship and exploration (again!). Every good explorer need guts, ingenuity, curiosity, and skill. With these qualities, one can explore the wild without fear. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can even find a friend to share your explorations with you. And while you may one day have to part, you will both always have the memories of conquering the wild together. Atkinson’s fantastic illustrations are full of both grandeur and quiet moments, with a wonderful sense of the indestructible feeling of adventuring in nature as a child as well as the bittersweet reality that while sometimes friendships must end, they are always precious.

There we are! A Top 5 filled with some of our favorite PoC protagonists! Also, we want to include two honorable mentions: Ada Twist, Scientist, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, and Grace For President, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, two of our favorite girl-power books that also have stellar PoC protagonists. The only reason we didn’t include them in this list is because we’d featured them before. What do you think? Did we leave any of your favorites out? Let is know in the comments, or message us from out Contact page. Thanks so much for reading!