Noni the Pony Counts to a Million (Alison Lester)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Noni the Pony Counts to a Million by Alison Lester, a simple and sweet counting book from the Noni the Pony series.

Starting from a simple count of the numbers one to ten, then expanding to concepts of dozens, hundreds, thousands, and millions, the reader follows Noni the pony and her animal pals as they spend a day taking in the nature around them. Racing cows, meeting wallabies, and playing hide-and-seek with puppies are all wonderful ways to practice counting skills, and as the sun begins to set, they can watch thousands of car headlights and admire millions of stars.

Understated, gentle, and charming. The adorably rounded Noni and her pals are sure to appeal to any young bookworm, being affectionate, cheerful, and full of curiosity. Lester’s rhyming text has an uncomplicated cadence that is easy and fun to read aloud, and the easy transition between core counting skills and more complicated concepts of multiples is one that engages without overwhelming. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved Noni and her friends, and especially counting each of the multiples of animals in the illustrations. Overall, a great basic to get kids curious and excited about counting, and we absolutely 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.)

This Book is My Best Friend (Robin Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is This Book is My Best Friend by Robin Robinson, a moving tale of friendship and the power of books and reading.

Two children – unnamed in the story but identified as Sunny and Aarush on the front flap – meet unexpectedly as they reach for the same picture book in the library. Each gently explains to the other that they NEED the sole copy of the book, Factory Friends, because the book is their best friend. Sunny loves it because it stars a robot and it helps make the long hours at hospital for Mom’s health problems less scary. Aarush loves it because it stars a mouse and brings moments of peace and quiet to an otherwise hectic home life. Both kids do their best to help the other find a suitable replacement, but there is just nothing to compare to the friendship that their chosen book provides. After all, it’s so hard to make friends, and when you find one that really gets you and your feelings, you want to hold on tight. But maybe books are like people, and they can have more than one best friend?

Wonderful. Robinson’s quietly amusing, touching, and insightful tale brings together all the best things about books and friendship: what each give to us, how they can enrich our lives, how they can help us cope with tough times, and how they can bring people together. The dialogical text speaks as guilelessly as two children would, and reads easily with different typefaces between the characters. The artwork is warm and sweet, and I loved the diversity between Sunny and Aarush, especially in their body types; while many picture books are paying more attention to inclusive representation in their character models, body type still sees limited diversity, especially in child characters. Otherwise, the length is great, JJ loved this one, and we absolutely recommend it to every book lover. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Jessie: Queen of the Road (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jessie: Queen of the Road by Lindsay Ward, a loving yet misguided tribute to female motorcyclists of the early 20th century.

Zipping through the busy streets of New York brings Jessie joy, but it’s tough being the only female motorcycle on the streets, especially when the boy motorcycles are bullies. So Jessie sets off on a cross-country trip, making headlines as she climbs mountains and travels the coastlines. She tries to volunteer to run messages in WWI, but is rejected for being a girl; instead, she becomes a stunt rider in carnivals and fairs. After recovering from a terrible accident, however, she finds that war is once again threatening – will she be allowed to serve this time?

Heartfelt but deeply misdirected. Inspired by an assortment of lady cyclists from the first half of the twentieth century in the US, Ward amalgamates their achievements into the sentient Jessie, who drives riderless. While this concept worked well in Ward’s previous title Rosie, which followed a anthropomorphized tractor through WWII, it simply does not in Jessie. While Rosie was clearly established a tool created and used by remarkable women laborers, the emphasis on Jessie as a completely autonomous creature visually and historically erases the accomplishments of the actual female motorcyclists, who operated machines like her to make the achievements that Jessie is being celebrated for. And while Ward briefly covers these women (including her mother) in an author’s note, it doesn’t stop the story from feeling divorced from the real-life human women who made history. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed Jessie’s determination and her inspiring motto, but I can’t help but be disappointed that this one took a wrong turn in concept. Worth a look, but I would instead recommend the powerful Rosie: Stronger Than Steel for a historical girl-power tale.

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

Turkey’s Valentine Surprise (Wendi Silvano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Turkey’s Valentine Surprise, written by Wendi Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper, a pun-filled story of secret admirers and wild disguises.

After receiving a delightful valentine from a surreptitious source, Turkey is inspired to dress in disguise and present his friends with mysterious missives of their own. Yet while he puts quite a bit of effort into his costumes, the best that can be said of them is that he looks like a dog, or cat, or owl… almost. While his barnyard pals love his punny valentines, Turkey is disappointed to have not succeeded in his subterfuge – until he thinks up the kindest surprise of all! But can he pull it off?

Charming. Those familiar with Silvano and Harper’s Turkey Trouble series will know what to expect from the newest title: wacky humor, warm friendship, and puns galore. Silvano uses tongue-in-cheek text and repetition to make an entertaining story, especially when read aloud, and Harper’s illustrations are inventive, expressive, and filled with clever details (including what, I am almost positive, is a subtle tribute to Kermit the Frog). The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved Turkey’s antics. Overall, a wonderfully silly read for Valentines that focuses on kindness, friendship, and laughs, 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.)

Wally the World’s Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat (Ratha Tep & Camilla Pintonato)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wally the World’s Greatest Piano-Playing Wombat by Ratha Tep and Camilla Pintonato, a humorous and heartwarming take on competitive proficiency.

Nothing brings Wally Wombat more joy than playing the piano, and he delights in practicing every day under the eucalyptus tree. He’s practiced so much that he was the best piano-playing wombat in the world! Well, emphasis on WAS, as a new wombat has strolled in and bested him. Eager to put himself back on top, Wally adds tap-dancing to his routine… only for the other wombat to do the same! Fine, if Wally can’t be the best, he won’t play piano at all! But is not holding the top spot worth giving up what he loves?

Delightful. Tep and Pintonato spin a wholesome and hilarious tale with an important message for young bookworms: one doesn’t need to be the best at something to enjoy doing it. In fact, as Wally learns, friendly competition can inspire us to improve our skills while supporting our friends’. Wally and his soon-to-be pal, Wylie, are illustrated with great charm and a fantastic use of white space to highlight their antics, and the twist ending is one that will make kids giggle. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. A great message in an entertaining package, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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