Outside Amelia’s Window (Caroline Nastro)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Outside Amelia’s Window, written by Caroline Nastro and illustrated by Anca Sandu Budisan, a quiet yet stirring story about having the courage to leave one’s nest.

When the little boy in the blue cap and the little girl with pigtails move in next door to Amelia, her mother suggests that she try to play outside with them. Yet Amelia doesn’t feel that she can play the way she did before, “not anymore” (while the text never states it outright, illustrations and context show that Amelia is transitioning to the use of a wheelchair for an undefined ailment). While watching the outside world from her window one day, a bird steals her yellow ribbon and uses it to build a nest, fascinating Amelia. She does some research and finds that the mother bird and her chicks – whom she names Penelope and Osiris – are migratory redstarts, who will fly tens of thousands of miles once they are mature. Inspired by Penelope and Osiris’ courage and growth, Amelia decides that perhaps she can make a journey of her own; one that is much shorter, yet requires no less fortitude.

Lovely. Times of transition are always tough for kids, and this one subtly weaves in more than a few into its allegory on learning to fly. Notable is the choice to make Amelia’s disability an element of her journey but not the main obstacle; from the jump, the audience understands that it is not that Amelia CAN’T go outside, it’s that she isn’t READY as she is transitioning to the use of her wheelchair. The narrative also never suggests that her unreadiness is a negative – like the redstart chicks, she will leave the nest when the time is right for her. It’s a nuanced and delicate approach that assures as it encourages, and works wonderfully, especially alongside the intricate and atmospheric artwork. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both liked it. A heartwarming and heartening tale, 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.)

Declaration of the Rights of Boys and Girls (Élisabeth Brami & Estelle Billon-Spagnol)

Hello friends, and Happy International Women’s Day! To celebrate this holiday dedicated in part to embracing gender equality, our book today is Declaration of the Rights of Boys and Girls by Élisabeth Brami and Estelle Billon-Spagnol, a 2-in-1 title that explains the basics of gender neutrality and fairness.

Boy and girls are equal; in importance, in value, and in potential. So it’s important to know that from the start, boys and girls have an equal right to do the things they want to do. In The Rights of Girls, readers are reminded that girls are allowed to get dirty, have short hair, wear whatever fashions suit them, and play any sport that excites them. Flip the book over, and The Rights of Boys remind readers that it’s perfectly okay for boys to cry, dance, have tender or nurturing feelings, and learn how to cook and clean. And for either gender, readers are assured that whomever they grow up to love – no matter that partner’s gender – they have that right as well.

Flawed but well-intentioned. With the original French version of this book being printed nearly ten years ago, there are some elements that have not aged well: an emphasis on the gender binary, a lack of diversity in skintone/ability/body shape, and several Asian-coded characters with yellowish skin. However, what the book does get right is a simple and plain-spoken assurance of children’s right to buck gender norms, including several that other books on the subject often leave out, such as the fact that it is normal for some girls (and women) to not have maternal feelings towards babies, or that it’s okay for boys not to feel aggression or competitiveness. For JJ, a scene in which a young girl has a mohawk buzz-cut into her hair was a joy to behold, and she rarely sees other girls – in real life or in media – with very short hair like her. The length is great, and both books can be covered in a single sitting. So while there are definitely some imperfections here, the core concept is solid, and would make for a great jumping-off point on gender equality for young readers. Overall, 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.)

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.)