Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head (Jeanne Walker Harvey)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head, written by Jeanne Walker Harvey and illustrated by Diana Toledano, a look at the life of the famed designer.

Growing up in a tiny desert mining town in Nevada, little Edith longed for a little more excitement and adventure than the dusty desert horizon. She amused herself by hosting tea parties for toys and pets, as well as collecting scrap fabric and fashioning outfits for them. Having the opportunity to attend high school in Los Angeles, Edith was immediately smitten with the glamour and bustle of Hollywood movies, and after a brief time as a teacher, she worked her way into costume design… despite having zero talent for sketching! Edith faced several setbacks and hurdles to overcome during her climb to notoriety, but eventually became the most respected and awarded costume designer in American film history.

Encouraging and fun, but noticeably uneven. There are absolutely some fun and funny stories about the unlikely and rocky start to this titan of costuming’s legacy, and Harvey should be commended for focusing equally on Head’s unsuccessful as well as successful ventures, as it shows young readers that mistakes and hard work are inevitable on the path to success. Yet while the stories about Edith’s early life and career are absolutely charming and give the reader a good sense of her early passion for design, it leaves little room for the period of her life during while she was actually revolutionizing her industry. The narrative is half-comprised of Edith’s childhood, then jumps quickly from her rocky early years to her rising stardom to her earliest successes with scarcely a breath. It’s a little disappointing, as it feels like much of what made Edith Head so extraordinary in her field isn’t explored nearly as much as it could have been. Otherwise, Toledano’s illustrations are a stylish treat, the length is fine for a storytime, and JJ especially enjoyed the spread on Edith’s ignoble run as an animal actor costumer. Overall, worth a look, especially as a lesson on perseverance – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Blue Baboon Finds Her Tune (Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Blue Baboon Finds Her Tune by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty, a sweet story about marching to the beat of your own bassoon.

Blue Baboon, out for a moonlight stroll in the park, happens upon a trio of musicians and a open bassoon. Wanting to join the musical merriment, the baboon picks up the instrument and starts to play… POORLY. The musicians gently request that she return the baboon, just as a storm (monsoon) rolls in. Finding shelter from the rain at a hot-air balloon field, baboon is gifted the bassoon by the musicians before flying away to play her cacophonous tunes somewhere she won’t bother anyone else. However, she may find that there are new friends who can appreciate her unique musical style… and old ones who decide her company is worth a little discord.

A simple and sweet tale. The sparse rhyming text flows exceptionally well, and is truly fun to read aloud – who doesn’t love an “oooo” sound? The spareness does occasionally leave some questions about the progression of the plot, but it’s a minor issue, as the heart of the themes come through in the absolutely stunning illustrations. Deep blues and vibrant oranges, pinks, and greens are a treat for the eyes, as are the character designs and visual representations of music. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. Overall, absolutely worth a read, and we 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.)

Tomatoes in My Lunchbox (Costantia Manoli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tomatoes in My Lunchbox, written by Costantia Manoli and illustrated by Magdalena Mora, a sweet story of cultural blending and friendship.

On her first day of school in her new country, the child protagonist is dismayed to hear her teacher and classmates attempt to speak her name. When her mama and grandma say her name, it’s colorful and light and soft; yet when the teacher says it, “it’s strange and sharp, and sounds like something is breaking”. She envies the other children with names like Olivia, Sophie, or Chloe. She wishes her clothes and belongings and the whole tomato in her lunchbox didn’t seem so strange in this new place. She tries to imitate the other kids, but it doesn’t work – she is not like them, she is herself. Remembering advice from her grandmother, who stayed behind in her origin country and whom she misses dearly, she tries use a smile to lighten the load… and is surprised to find that while understanding can take time, it can begin with an exchange of simple kindnesses.

Warm and comforting. Based on the Cypriot-born author’s experience growing up in London, Manoli delicately yet authentically explores several aspects of the immigrant experience for children, including culture shock and social assimilation, while focusing on the aspect of having the pronunciation of one’s name change across language barriers. The child’s name is never revealed (though eagle-eyed viewers who can also read Greek will spot the personal Easter egg in the illustrations), but her dismay at hearing her name, a thing which is tied closely to almost anyone’s identity, become something unrecognizable in this new dialect is striking. It’s an element of crossing culture barriers that had never occurred to me, and was thought-provoking for both JJ and I. Manoli is sure to end on a hopeful and affirming note, and Mora’s warm and atmospheric artwork takes the reader on a visual journey that ties in perfectly to the tone of the text. The length is perfect for a storytime, and we liked it a lot. Overall, an affecting immigrant narrative that can help foster empathy and validation for little ones, 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.)

Friends (Daniela Sosa)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Friends by Daniela Sosa, a surprisingly candid look at the world of friendship for young readers.

What is a friend? It could be someone you’ve known since birth, or someone you’ve only just met. Someone who was your friend for just a short while, or someone whose friendship will follow you for decades. Friends can be imaginary, or live far away, or perhaps be someone you haven’t met yet. Friendships can teach us, test us, hurt us, and heal us. We can make friendships and lose them, or sometimes we simply grow out of them. But one thing is for sure: even if you feel like you’ll never find a friend, be patient and look closer – a friend may be nearer than you realize.

Boldly realistic yet uplifting. Even for children, friendships can be complicated and mutable things, and Sosa takes a unique approach to the concept with a book that explores both the highs and lows of interpersonal relationships. Adult readers will recognize the sometimes bittersweet aspects of friendship that Sosa describes, yet she manages to do so in a way that never loses sense the excitement, support, or joy that comes from friendships (even temporary ones). It’s a far more complex and honest look at friendships, and one that leaves younger bookworms with realistic understandings and expectations than simply being “best friends forever.” A diverse cast and soft, homey, emotive illustrations nicely match the subject matter. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one, especially the sincere yet hopeful tone. Overall, this is a unique title for children who may have questions about friendship and want frank answers, and we 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.)

Mary Had a Little Plan (Tammi Sauer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mary Had a Little Plan, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, a lovely tale of determination and community.

Fashionable Mary, first introduced in the title Mary Had a Little Glam, is passing by a vacant lot with her parent one day when she is struck with inspiration. She knows that giving the trashed and overgrown lot a makeover will be a major undertaking, however, so she sets about making a plan to succeed. She reaches out to community businesses to donate materials and works her fingers to the bone, but she is left exhausted with plenty more to do! Should she give up? Or can more help be found in the hands of neighbors and friends who may be eager to join her cause?

Energetic and energizing! Brantley-Newton’s cheerful illustrations combine with Sauer’s impeccable rhyme scheme (seriously, she manages to flawlessly incorporate a five-syllable word in one line) to create a tale of a community project, teamwork, and perseverance. So many things are done right here, like “glam” Mary not shying away from the physical work needed to make her goal a reality, the diverse and inclusive cast, the fun nods to familiar nursery rhymes, and the perfect balance of a story that does not require readers to have read the previous book, but adds in fun details for fans who are returning for the sequel. It’s the perfect length for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. Overall, this is a light but extremely well-constructed title that is absolutely worth the read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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