A Crankenstein Valentine (Samantha Berger)

Hello friends, and Happy Valentine’s Day! Our book today is A Crankenstein Valentine, written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Dan Santat, a hilarious sendup of Valentine’s Day traditions.

Have you seen Crankenstein? Well, come Valentine’s Day, you can’t miss him. While other kids and grownups might love all the mushy-gushiness of Valentine’s Day, Crankenstein – a little boy turned green and sour by his crankiness – has only one thing to say: “YECHHHHHH!”. Valentines, flowers, hearts, hugs? Yech, yech, yech, and double yech! As he muddles through the day of love, Crankenstein is increasingly frustrated with the holiday’s tropes, culminating with his being forced to be part of the Valentine’s pageant! But just as he thinks that the day is over, he receives a Valentine himself, one delightfully in line with his feelings on the holiday.

Silly, subversive fun. While reading this book’s prequel, Crankenstein, might help a bit to establish the main character earlier, many kids will identify with the green-and-stone-faced boy’s absolute disdain for the holiday, and find his disgusted reactions at the sentimental trappings hilarious (JJ, for instance, descended into hysterical giggles at every “YECHHH!”). There are a few instances of children expressing romantic love, of which I am not a fan in picture books, but since Crankenstein’s reaction is so throughly anti-love, it didn’t offend me too much. I especially liked that, in the end, Crankenstein found a friend who seemed to hate the holiday as much as he; it’s nice that the final focus is on friendship over romance. Santat’s illustrations are as vibrant, dynamic, emotive, and engaging as ever, and the length was great. A wonderful Valentines story that breaks the mold and brings the laughs. Baby Bookworm approved!

Robot In Love (T. L. McBeth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Robot In Love by T. L. McBeth, an adorably offbeat love story.

Robot starts every day the same: unplug himself from the wall, eat some bread, leave the house. But today is no ordinary day – today is the day he sees HER. She’s shiny, very quiet, and their connection is simply electric. Robot spends the next few days mooning over his new love, even spending a night carefully constructing her a bouquet of flowers from spare metal parts. But when he arrives at their usual meeting spot to present them to her – she’s not there! Broken-hearted, Robot searches everywhere for his lost love, to no avail. Will he ever be reunited with the object of his affection?

This was a fun twist on the classic he-meets-she that’s full of clever, kid-friendly comedy. While both the narration and dialogue are from Robot’s perspective, the narration is widely kept conversational while the dialogue is peppered with fun-to-read robot “language”: “does not compute!”, “error”, etc. The story is harmless fun, a tale of love that’s frivolous enough to allow the comedy to take the lead, but never so flippant that it appears mocking. The minimalist art is befitting the mechanical main character, and the palette of red, black, white, and mixtures thereof is bright and bold. The length was great, and JJ loved the robot, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine (Jonathan London)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Duck and Hippo: The Secret Valentine, written by Jonathan London and illustrated by Andrew Joyner, the latest in the delightful Duck and Hippo series.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, Duck is a little bummed to realize that she doesn’t have a valentine of her own – but that quickly transitions into a fun idea! Stealthily sneaking around town, she leaves anonymous invitations for her best friends – Hippo, Turtle, Pig, and Elephant – to meet their secret Valentine in the park at 4 o’clock. The friends are delighted and excitedly prepare to meet up. When they all arrive, however, they are surprised to see each other, and no one else waiting! They puzzle for a moment until Duck appears, presenting them with a picnic and some good company – after all, the best Valentines are friends!

Very cute! All the hallmarks of the previous Duck and Hippo books are back, from the innocent, playful storyline and dialogue to Joyner’s classic storybook-inspired illustrations. There’s an odd moment in which the reader gets the sense of Pig being slightly catfished by her “secret admirer” – she sings “I’m so in looooove!” as she prepares for the meetup – but otherwise the story is gentle, and sends a nice message about the importance of appreciating our friendships. The length was great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines (Janet Lawler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mirabel’s Missing Valentines, written by Janet Lawler and illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller, a sweet Valentine story about courage and community.

Mirabel is a painfully shy young mouse, incredibly nervous at the thought of making and giving valentines to her classmates. Still, she makes each one carefully and lovingly, then packs them in her bag and anxiously awaits the next day. As she makes her way to school, she doesn’t notice that a small hole in her bag is allowing the valentines to drop out one by one! They are picked up by townspeople, giving each one who encounters the lovely cards a boost of happiness. Just before reaching school, Mirabel realizes what happens and cries out; the townspeople hear her, and return the cards to the rightful owner, thanking Mirabel for brightening their day. Buoyed by the praise and kindness, Mirabel finds the courage to enjoy her class’s Valentine’s Day party – and even receives a special surprise when she returns home.

Adorable and sweet. Mirabel’s shyness will undoubtedly be familiar to some bookworms, and the story offers the lovely message that even shy people can touch others through their talent – in Mirabel’s case, her beautiful handmade valentines. There’s also a stellar lesson in community: the accidental recipients of the valentines include a lonely elderly woman, a jogger having a rough day, a dad who is delighted to hear his baby speak in reaction to the card, etc. After the valentines have brought them together, they are shown to be interacting with each other, showing how a simple gesture of friendship can bring strangers together. The illustrations are absolutely adorable, the town and its citizens all a wealth of personality and charm. The length was great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Groundhug Day (Anne Marie Pace)

Hello friends, and Happy Groundhog Day! To celebrate, we read Groundhug Day, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Christopher Denise, a delightful tale of five animal friends.

Bunny, Squirrel and Porcupine are all over at Moose’s house, helping prepare for the latter’s big Valentine’s Day party in two weeks. Moose is excited to have absolutely everyone over, until Bunny points out a slight hiccup: tomorrow is February 2nd, and if Groundhog comes out of his hole and sees his shadow, he’ll go back to sleep for six more weeks, missing the party entirely! The four friends try to quickly come up with a plan to spare him from seeing it, but they get distracted planning, and don’t realize they’ve talked through the night – and the sun just came up. Finding that Groundhog has already retreated back into his hole, the friends surmise that he hides from his shadow because he is afraid of it. They invite him on a day of shadow-related fun to help him, and Groundhog ventures out to enjoy the festivities. The others are sure they have cured him of his fear… only to find that he was never afraid at all (he just doesn’t like the cold). Promising his friends that he’ll be at the party in spirit, they celebrate the rest of “Groundhug Day”, and let the furry fellow get back to his nap.

Very cute! I loved the combination of the the two holidays; it makes this book perfect for a beginning-of-February read. And within the sweet and jovial story, there’s some nice lessons about friendship – especially that sometimes, friends have their own things going on, and can’t always do the things you want to do. It doesn’t mean they don’t love you, or are any less your friend. It’s a smart lesson told in a fun way, and wrapped up with some adorably warm, personality-filled illustrations. The length is good, and JJ enjoyed it a lot! A fun way to kick off February, and Baby Bookworm approved!