Bright Winter Night (Alli Brydon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bright Winter Night, written by Alli Brydon and illustrated by Ashling Lindsay, a sweet, woodland midwinter tale.

There’s magic in the air of the forest tonight, and a group of animal friends are gathering to prepare for a special journey. Each species has their own specialty, and as they work with haste, the reader slowly realizes that they are building a sled. Once their mode of conveyance is complete, the wolf pack takes the reins and pulls the furred and feathered friends towards their destination through the hilly snowdrifts. After a slight mishap of the overturning variety, the friends arrive at the end of their journey: a clearing that’s ideal for viewing the stunning Northern lights.

Sweet and simple seasonal fare. Everyone loves a tale of woodland friends coming together to celebrate the season in some way, and this gentle story is an enjoyable addition to the genre. Brydon’s rhyming text is nicely balanced between whimsical and tranquil, befitting of the industrious animal characters in their chilly nighttime setting, which Lindsay’s watercolor-and-digital art bring to life with rich simplicity and charming detail. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the story’s cozy winter vibes. There is one line of text (“together they have built this sleigh/no one hunter, no one prey”) that raises some distracting questions on the typical dynamics of this animal crew, but that’s likely something only adults will notice. Otherwise, this is a lovely, engaging seasonal tale that any young reader can enjoy. 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.)

My GrandMom (Gee-eun Lee)

Hello, friends! First, let me apologize for the recent inconsistency in our reviews – as the fall semester has worn on, we are having trouble posting in a timely manner. Please be patient with us, and we will hopefully be back to our regular schedule within the next few weeks.

But for today, we wanted to bring you a review of the delightful and touching My GrandMom, written and illustrated by Gee-eun Lee and translated by Sophie Bowman, a tender look at the special relationship between grandmothers and their grandkids.

Based on the author/illustrator’s experiences with her own GrandMom – or Halmoni – the reader quickly learns that little Gee-eun and her Halmoni have a special bond. When Gee-eun is upset, Halmoni can soothe her with warm comfort food and fantastical stories. When Gee-eun worries that her mother won’t be able to attend Family Sports Day, Halmoni assures her of the elder’s grace and athletic ability. Yet when the two compete at the aforementioned event, Halmoni and Gee-eun are not able to win the race. Still, Halmoni does what GrandMoms do best: finds a way to turn the day around with kindness, love, and a comforting snack.

Equal parts entertaining and touching. Lee’s personal connection to the work shines in every facet, from the strikingly realistic details of the interactions between Gee-eun and Halmoni, to the whimsical and warm childlike illustrations. To me, the best part is how the story manages to show that Halmoni is human and imperfect while also illustrating what a special place she holds in Gee-eun’s life and heart. It’s a honest look at our relationships with the people we love; sometimes they try their best but let us down, still we love them all the same. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ loved the combo of peaceful story and lively illustrations. Overall, a lovely treat, 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.)

Love Yourself (Sally Chau)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love Yourself, written by Sally Chau and illustrated by Julie Chau, a sweet tale of accepting one’s unique qualities.

On the last day of school, Nigel the axolotl is worried about saying goodbye to his fellow salamander friends, but his friends assure him that they will see him again the following fall. When they do, however, they are surprised to find that while they have gone through metamorphosis, Nigel is still as pink and feathery-gilled as ever. His former friends decide that his look is too weird for them now, and abandon poor Nigel. The axolotl is deeply hurt and confused – he looks just the same as he always did! Why do they think he’s too weird for them now? Yet with some help from his human friend Winnie and a little self-confidence, he’ll learn that being different is never wrong, as long as it’s who you truly are.

Lovely, gentle encouragement. Using the fact of the adorable axolotl having different adaptations than most salamander species, Chau is able to make a salient point on both self-acceptance and the value of diversity, as Nigel’s story is both about growing to love himself and learning that his differences make him uniquely skilled. It’s a great lesson, and shines through the unfortunately clunky and unnecessary rhyme scheme of the text. The colorful, cartoonish artwork is incredibly endearing, and readers will fall for the expressive Nigel. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed the positive message and cute characters. Overall, this is a good title for exploring the value in being your own person – or salamander – and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

It’s Not the Three Little Pigs (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is It’s Not the Three Little Pigs, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, fourth in the author-illustrator pair’s series of whimsically fractured fairy tales.

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs: Alan, Alfred, and Alvin… and their sister, Allison. Wait, does that make FOUR little pigs? Allison, a natural storyteller and obvious expert on her three brothers, insists on tagging along to help to tell their story, much to the consternation of the narrator. In fact, all of the pig siblings don’t seem to want to stick to the well-known version of their tale, preferring to be themselves and do things their own way. But when the narrator is at their wit’s end, Allison offers some food for thought: perhaps collaboration and cooperation can produce great things, even if they don’t turn out exactly like you plan.

Delightful. Once again, Funk and Taylor mix some perfectly absurd humor – brother Alvin’s simple aspirations are especially chuckle-worthy – with fast-paced humor and a good lesson for young readers to give them a new way to experience beloved classic stories. Despite having seven different speakers, color-coded dialogue in varying fonts makes it very easy to follow to the rapid-fire conversations. Taylor’s illustrations are bright, colorful, cartoonish yet cinematic, and very engaging. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ thought this one was “very, very funny!” Overall, a wonderful twist on an old favorite, and well worth the read – 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.)

The Monsters on the Broom (Annemarie Riley Guertin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Monsters on the Broom, written by Annemarie Riley Guertin and illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn, a cute, melodic, Halloween-themed board book.

It’s Halloween night, and monsters are afoot! Metered to the classic rhythm of “Wheels on the Bus,” little readers can cackle, howl, and groan along with witches, werewolves, and mummies as they fly past on an enchanted broom.

Basic but fun. There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking here – simple lyrics twist a familiar nursery rhyme with spooky (but not scary) festive friends. There’s some cutouts on the top edge of the pages that give this board book a little personality, but no interactive elements, or really even a plot line. However, with some colorful and cute characters and a widely accessible concept, it’s not without its charms. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed it. As far as Halloween board book fare goes, this is a fine choice – perhaps not destined to be an annual classic, but certainly a quick and fun way to celebrate. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

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