How Are You? (Édouard Manceau)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How Are You? by Édouard Manceau, a short and simple story about expressing emotions.

We are often asked the question. “How are you?”, and we all know that the answer usually depends on the day. Maybe we’re happy, or maybe we’re very happy! Or maybe we’re sad, or so sad that we cry, or even feeling empty. Sometimes we are full of anger and frustration! The truth is, our emotions can change day to day, or even over the course of a day. Yet no matter what, it’s okay to let those feelings out.

Minimalist yet affirming. Manceau’s board book is about as bare bones as a title can get, both in narrative and art. Set against a background of black, readers follow the narrator through a series of the emotions that they could conceivably be feeling, accompanied by a illustration that uses simplified facial expressions and changes in color to express them. Yet for a pre-reader book, these elements are ideal: the recognizable face shapes, the minimalistic color palette, and the easy-to-read text all provide a basic lesson in a few big and small emotions, most notably that even when they can be overwhelming, sometimes a cry and a nap can help a little one feel back on track. It’s a healthy message for the earliest of bookworms, wrapped in a cute and accessible package. The length is best for pre- and early readers, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. Overall, a great way to learn about some early emotions, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A Bucket of Questions (Tim Fite)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightfully silly A Bucket of Questions by Tim Fite, an exploration of some absurd answers to rather curious questions.

There are a number of questions that pop out of the titular bucket in this book, ranging from the understandable (“Why do kids lose their teeth?”) to the unexpected (“What kind of questions fill up a bucket?”). Readers are offered a multiple choice of possibilities, but here’s the thing – no definitive answer is given! Instead, this title’s audience must choose for themselves, or invent an answer all their own! After all, while the answers to our questions might be important, it’s far more important that we never stop asking about what makes us curious, and what sparks our imagination.

Wonderful! I love a picture book that breaks from the formula, and Fite’s ambitious debut does just that. With a narrative structure that encourages inquisitiveness, creative thinking, and laughter, Fite presents a few humorous answers to the book’s questions – including the dreaded “Where do babies come from?” – prompting young readers to consider their implausibility and, by leaving them unanswered, come up with unique answers of their own. An addition, the organized chaos of the black and white artwork supports this theme perfectly; there is as much to visually engage the audience as there is left to their imagination. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I had a ton of fun with this one; two of the “joke” answers, which I will not give away here, had her rolling with laughter, and we loved inventing our own ideas on the composition of hot dogs or why seals clap. Overall, a fantastically fun read that will spark the imagination, 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.)

This Little Wonder: A No-Limits Primer & This Little Engineer: A Think-and-Do Primer (Joan Holub & Daniel Roode)

Hello, friends! Our books today are This Little Wonder: A No-Limits Primer and This Little Engineer: A Think-and-Do Primer by Joan Holub and Daniel Roode, the latest in the pair’s board book series on inspiring figures.

In each book, readers are introduced to ten notable names of the past and present with a short rhyme on a two-sentence blurb. In This Little Wonder, the subjects are luminaries of science, art, athletics, etc. who have physical or developmental disabilities, such as Helen Keller, Temple Grandin, and Claudia Gordon. In This Little Engineer, the focus is engineers, most of them women of color, and the diverse impacts that their work can have on the world. Both feature even more mini-bios of diverse figures on the last page to inspire aspiration and imagination.

Wonderful. We’ve been a big fan of this series for a while now, and these titles are welcome additions, especially for a young, female, special-needs reader with an interest in science. I was particularly happy to see such a great blend of familiar names with more obscure ones; I enjoyed learning about people like Marian Croak, Sangeeta Bhatia, and Chris Downey alongside their better-known counterparts. The colorful artwork is simple, yet does a good job of illustrating each figure’s unique background in a visually-engaging way. My only complaint is the use of the title “Wonder” to describe those with disabilities, which carries an unfortunately associative tone of spectatorship and superiority, even if that is not the intention. But other than that, both books are quick and enjoyable reads that spotlight encouraging true stories, and we recommend them. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science (Lisa Gerin)

Hello, friends! March kicks off Women’s History Month, and we are celebrating with today’s book, Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science, written by Lisa Gerin and illustrated by Chiara Fedele.

Growing up in 1920’s London, Rosalind Franklin was told that girls can’t be scientists, most frequently by her father. Yet her mother encouraged her, and Rosalind’s curiosity could not be contained. All through her younger years, then high school and college, Rosalind continued to study chemistry and crystallography, and produced research that led to safer gas masks. While working in the then cutting-edge field of X-ray diffraction, Rosalind took Photo 51, the first proof of the double-helix model of DNA. However, her lab partner showed the photo to two other researchers without Rosalind’s permission, and the three men wrote a paper taking credit for Rosalind’s discovery. Rosalind was crushed, yet she kept working tirelessly to better understand DNA and RNA, leading to advances in vaccines against diseases. After all, Rosalind wasn’t a scientist for the acclaim; she wanted to help the world.

Fantastic. I’ll be honest, any book that exposes the absolute crime of how Franklin’s contributions to science were stolen and/or forgotten is likely to get a good review from me. Yet beyond this, Gerin and Fedele tell a reverent and poignant story about a brilliant mind who cared most about how scientific discovery could change the world. The artwork is highly atmospheric, using color and light to establish mood and reinforce themes (the scene of Wilkins, Watson, and Crick discussing Franklin’s Photo 51 in what appears to be an academic club or pub, where Rosalind would not have been welcome, is brilliant). The length and subject matter are best for older elementary readers, but JJ and I both enjoyed our read. An important book about a too-long forgotten hero of the scientific world, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Wonder Dogs! (Linda Ashman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wonder Dogs!, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Karen Obuhanych, a delightful and touching ode to canine companions.

Dogs can do all sorts of amazing things! Agility athletes, super-scenters, brave rescuers, courageous guards, and faithful service pups – there are many dogs that have jobs helping people every day. They come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of coats, features, and talents. So when the roly-poly canine narrator questions what kind of wonder dog they might be, they have to think hard; they’re not a working or service dog, not a guard or a show dog. And yet, while our protagonist pup may not always be perfect, they are an expert at one thing: being a best pal to their young human.

Adorable! Ashman’s rhyming text is written with guileless charm, first exploring the breadth of amazing jobs that dogs can do, then deftly pivoting to an explanation of what makes each dog special: their capacity for unconditional love and loyalty. Obuhanych’s utterly sweet illustrations pair with this perfectly, exploring the diversity of breeds and canine professions while also creating a central character and relationship that will pull the heartstrings. For instance, a late scene in which the protagonist pup listens, ear perked, as their young human confides in them, and offers the comfort of a paw on their knee is one that will strike true to any child who grew up with a trusted canine confidant. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both adored it. This one is an absolute treat for dog lovers of all ages, and we highly 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.)