Top 5: Black History Month

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Hello, friends! As most of you know, tomorrow begins Black History Month, a time to focus on the importance of black Americans to our history, culture and identity as a nation. We’ll be taking time all this month to read and review books that celebrate black history, important figures, and black culture, and we encourage you to do the same! There are some truly amazing books out there that explore these topics, and we wanted to use this month’s Top 5 list to take a look at a few titles that you may not know about, or that focus on moments in black history that often get overlooked.

So to celebrate the start of February, here’s a few of our favorite books for Black History Month:

1. A Splash Of Red: The Life And Art Of Horace Pippin (Jen Bryant, illus. Melissa Sweet)

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Born with a passion and talent for art and a loving and supportive family, Horace Pippin overcomes poverty, war, and a debilitating injury to become a prolific and nationally recognized artist in his own time. This story of Pippin’s life explores his life, his inspiration, and his indomitable determination to create.

“Horace is a wonderful role model, and his story is told beautifully here. Especially lovely are the illustrations, which capture life, mood, and character gorgeously in a style that emulates Pippin’s paintings. […] A fantastic biography of a true artist […]”

2. I, Too, Am America (Langston Hughes, illus. Bryan Collier)

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Using the text of the titular poem by Langston Hughes, Collier’s art tells the story of a Pullman railway porter, one of the first American jobs to offer black men decent pay and comparatively dignified work. Following the porter as he uses his position to help other African Americans improve their stations as well, we are then transported to the present, where a young black boy on a subway train peers into what comes next: the future.

“This was a superb book, featuring layers of meaning and interpretation through both Hughes’s words and Collier’s art. Visual and textual metaphors blend together perfectly, creating a story that both examines a very specific part of African-American history with the grand scope of growing up as a black person in America, and the indefatigable spirit doing so requires.”

3. The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illus. R. Gregory Christie)

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Told through the eyes of the son of founder Lewis Michaux, Sr., The Book Itch tells the story of the National Memorial African Bookstore, a hub of knowledge, culture, and civil rights activism from 1932 to 1974. Fighting racism and police harassment from his days peddling books from a cart, Lewis Sr. refuses to give up on his “book itch,” and his dream of sharing his passion for books, as well as the impact they can make on the world, with his community.

“[…T]his book is an absolute must-read. It focuses on civil rights, not only historically but as a basic human entitlement, the powers of literature, education, free thought, access to information, and the importance of community, all while telling the story of a remarkable man who believed that knowledge was the right and obligation of every man, woman and child, regardless of color, creed, or status.”

4. Harlem (Walter Dean Myers, illus. Christopher Myers)

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Told in free verse, the evocative words of Myers’s poem tells the story of Harlem, the home of a great history and greater hope, celebrating the neighborhood’s one-of-a-kind history of jazz, literature, activism and culture, and writing a love letter to a community built out of a desire for freedom; freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, and the freedom to achieve.

“[…T]he gorgeous mixed-media art, which captures as much an emotion as a people and place, is colorful and exciting enough for any little one. Then, once the reader is familiar with the words and rhythm of the text, there is a passion and life to the poem that is impossible to deny, and becomes more affecting with each repeat reading. This is a book that captures the soul of a vibrant, and vital, place in American history, and it’s simply wonderful.”

5. When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc And The Creation Of Hip Hop (Laban Carrick Hill, illus. Theodore Taylor III)

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An awesome tale of a revolutionary musical innovator and his contribution to the birth of hip hop, When The Beat Was Born tells the story of DJ Kool Herc (born Clive Campbell), a young Jamaican immigrant who brought together his love of the dancehall DJs of his youth with his unique style of mixing and rapping to help create a brand new genre of American music.

“Music history fans will love how the story of this seminal era of musical experimentation is told. For those unfamiliar with the origins of hip hop, this is an awesome primer for all ages that introduces the figures, styles and theory that brought hip hop to be. […] This is a great one, especially for young DJs and MCs looking to learn more about the roots of hip hop and the people who brought it to life.”

That’s our list! And there are many, MANY more stories of African American history and important figures out there – we encourage you to take this month to explore them! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!

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 Dads

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Hello, friends! As June comes to a close, we’re here with our latest Top 5 List! Since many of you enjoyed last month’s Top 5 Books About Moms, and we celebrated Father’s Day in June, we decided to follow up with a list of our favorite books about dads and the special relationship they share with their little ones.

So without further ado, here are The Baby Bookworm’s Top 5 Books About Dads:

1. My Dad Thinks He’s Funny (Katrina Germein)

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Dad jokes: love them or hate them, dads always seem to have a natural ability to make them. Be it puns that make us groan, goofy behavior that makes us blush, or the embarrassment of dads being daaaaads, we’ve all experienced the unique attempts at comedy that only fathers can provide. This is a great send-up of dad jokes, told from the point of view of an exasperated little boy and chock full of eye-rolling dad jokes. Tom Jellett’s collage-style illustrations create a unique world that is enjoyable and supports the humor well. It’s a sweet story with a moral that so many of us (especially those who have been through our teenage years) can relate to: while our dads can be terribly mortifying, we love them anyway. And yes, sometimes they can even make us laugh.

2. Daddy’s First Day (Mike Wohnoutka)

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A hilariously sweet role-reversal story that made us (especially JJ’s daddy) grin. The first day of school can be a rite of passage that’s tough on everyone; especially, it seems, Oliver’s dad. After a summer of playing, reading, and spending time together, it’s time for Oliver’s first day of school, and he’s feeling pretty nervous. Oh no, Oliver’s not feeling nervous – but his dad is! Watching Oliver’s dad procrastinate dropping his son off at school, even projecting his feelings of trepidation onto his Oliver, is as humorous as it feels true; what parent doesn’t feel a bit unprepared to send their baby off to school for the first time? The art has a simple, earnest style that fits the guileless nature of the story. Overall, it’s a funny yet heartfelt tale of a devoted dad learning to let his little one grow, no matter how scary that might be.

3. Stella Brings The Family (Miriam B. Schiffer)

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June is also Pride Month, so we definitely wanted to include this fantastic story that combines LGBTQ families and celebrating the many roles that dads can have in their children’s lives. When Stella’s class is putting together a Mother’s Day party, she isn’t sure who to invite: while she has two daddies whom she adores, she doesn’t actually have a mother. Speaking to her teacher and classmates, she realizes that her fathers and extended family give her all the love and support that she needs, so she decides to invite all of them. While appearing feather-light on the surface, this is a story with great depth that shows that children in loving non-traditional families are in no way “missing out” in the places that their families differ from the nuclear model. Adorably sweet illustrations by Holly Clifton-Brown and a well-paced story create a fantastic celebration of families and the many shapes and forms they come in, and how having two fathers who love you is a point of pride.

4. My Dad Used To Be So Cool by Keith Negley

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This one is as much for the parents as it is for the kids, and we loved it. A little boy is pretty sure his dad used to be cool: he has tattoos, he used to ride a motorcycle, he even used to be in a band. But now he’s mostly just a normal, loving, chore-doing and only occasionally mortifying dad. The boy ponders what could have made his father change his lifestyle (the implied joke being, of course, that becoming a father did). Baby Bookworms like JJ will love the boldly-colored mod art style, and the former rockstars and rebels among us will definitely have a chuckle as the book reminds them of their pre-parenting wild days. There’s a sweet conclusion, too: while the glory days of rebellion may get left behind, being a loving daddy to a little one is classicly, timelessly cool.

5. Daddy Cuddle (Kate Mayes)

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Sweet, simple, and full of charm. A little bunny is the first to wake in his house, and rushes to wake his father and start the day. But no matter what activities the bunny tries to rouse his dozing father with, nothing seems to tempt the sleeping parent to wakefulness. At last, after the little bunny gives a frustrated shout, Daddy wakes up and, chuckling, pulls his little one into bed for early morning snuggles – the best activity to start a sleepy day with. Darling watercolor art by Sara Acton and simple two-word dialogue make this a great story for even the youngest baby bookworms. A heartfelt ode to both the boundless early-morning energy of little ones and the quiet, cuddly moments between father and child.

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 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!