Animals (Maud Poulain)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Animals, written by Maud Poulain, illustrated by Peggy Nille, and translated by Wendeline A. Hardenberg, part of The Pop-Up Guide series by Twirl Books.

Separated into biomes such as rain forest, backyard, desert, mountains, and so on, readers are introduced to dozens of animal species from all over the world. Pop-up scenes highlight commonly-known favorites like beavers, dolphins, and polar bears, as well as less-familiar critters like ptarmigans, horned desert vipers, and little auks. Brief paragraphs describe each scene and labels identify most of the species.

Pretty but incomplete. Nille’s cartoon illustrations of each nature scene and wildlife species are filled with color and charm, and the pop-up elements are well-designed to create a feeling of dimension that is sure to engage young animal lovers. From there, however, the text adds very little. The paragraphs don’t do more than describe a few elements of the artwork, and labels are inconsistent – sometimes plants are identified, sometimes they’re not; one offers a factoid about sled dogs in “The Far North,” yet this format isn’t replicated anywhere else in the book. Several scenes depict animals that do not share habitats (such as tigers and scarlet macaws), yet the text simply identifies the scene as a rain forest, and no information is provided on where rainforests can be found, what makes the animals suited to each environment, etc. So while this title would likely be enjoyed by young readers for its pictures, those hoping to learn more about animals will bore quickly. Length is variable, but I will say that JJ has enjoyed making up stories about the pop up scenes. Overall, this could be a fun title for little ones, but reserve expectations. 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 to Become a Superhero (Davide Calì & Gómez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How to Become a Superhero by Davide Calì and Gómez, a crime-fighting instruction manual for imaginative play.

So you’ve decided to be a superhero… where should you start? You’ll need a costume, naturally – but should you go for a cape or a mask? You should also probably decide on your superpower: flying? Super strength? Shapeshifting? You’ll need to sort out your transport, and choose a super-sidekick or pet. And of course, you’ll need a secret hideout! And once you’ve got all that figured out, the mighty missions that you take on are up to you! You may even want to team up with some super friends!

Cute but basic. As a handbook for superhero character creation goes, this title actually works pretty well, as it gives kids a checklist of superhero tropes that they can scratch off as they form a hero unique to them. This part was the most enjoyable for JJ and I, as we discussed what our costumes would look like, what our powers be would, etc. However, the book lacks much substance beyond this creation guide; there are no lessons on heroism, kindness, teamwork, or courage. There is a brief nod for the importance of school on the final spread, but this actually feels disjointed and superficial, given the airier tone that precedes it. And while the cast of kid heroes do vary in gender presentation and skintone, that’s about it. Otherwise, the length is fine for a storytime, and we did enjoy our read. I would recommend this one as a supplement to starting superhero-themed imaginative play, but I don’t see it having a lot of draw for repeat readings. Overall though, 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.)

Find Your Brave (Apryl Stott)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Find Your Brave: A Coco and Bear Story by Apryl Stott, a sweet tale of friendship and courage.

Pals Bear and Coco – who fans of Stott’s will remember from the author/illustrator’s previous title, Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light – are a perfect match, even if they are opposites. Bear is big and Coco is little; Bear is shy and Coco is brave. Yet when the pair step up onstage for the final dress rehearsal of their talent show dance performance, Coco sees the small audience and freezes – it seems as though she’s lost her brave! Naturally, her best pal Bear offers to help her get it back, but where should they start? And will they find Coco’s brave in time for the talent show?

Warm and sweet. Stott has a talent for taking highly relatable childhood lessons and exploring them with simple yet resonant stories and charming, fairy-tale illustrations. Bear and Coco’s friendship sets a lovely stage for a classic lesson on being brave, with the resolution stressing that fear and courage often coexist, and one must choose to let their brave be bigger than their scared. The gentle story and artwork strike a perfectly comforting yet encouraging tone for the subject matter, which makes for a lovely read-aloud, It’s a great length for a storytime, and JJ and I absolutely enjoyed it. We definitely recommend this one for a cozy and confidence-boosting read, 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.)

I Love My Body Because (Shelly Anand & Nomi Ellenson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love My Body Because, written by Shelly Anand and Nomi Ellenson, and illustrated by Erika Rodriguez Medina, an affirmation on body positivity.

All bodies are miracles. They take us where we want to go, either physically or in our imaginations. They let us express ourselves, and how we feel about the people we care about. They hold brilliant minds that are capable of anything, and kind hearts that lead us to be the best that we can be. And just as every body is different, every body is beautiful, no matter its size, shape, color, or ability. After all, every body holds a unique and special person within it, and that makes each one miraculous and marvelous.

Wonderful. Anand and Ellenson’s gentle text explores the importance of bodies far beyond their appearance, while also delicately encouraging self-care and subtly undermining standards of beauty and “acceptable” body types. Medina supports this perfectly with an incredibly diverse and inclusive cast across size, skintone, ability, religious attire, hair type, and more. Readers will know that I’ve occasionally complained on this blog that picture books often forget about body type when they aim for inclusive casts; this book absolutely does not. Intersectional children of all sizes are shown being active, playing with friends, and most importantly, feeling confident in their appearances. In addition, the length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I really loved it. This is a fantastic story to explore body positivity and inclusive beauty, and we recommend it for every young reader – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

In Every Life (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is In Every Life by Marla Frazee, a lovely meditation on the ups and downs of being alive, and the thread of love that connects us all through it.

In every birth, the blessing is in the wonder of that new life. In every smile, the blessing is in the light that the smile brings to those who experience it. With simple call-and-response text that finds grace in the building blocks of the human experience (such as hope, sadness, and love), the reader is shown that there are blessings to be found in every moment, good or bad, that is spent with the people who fill our lives with love.

Gorgeous. Though Frazee’s text is spare, each phrase is packed with universal relevance, especially when combined with her meticulously detailed and lifelike artwork. Each page of text is filled with 8 to 14 vignettes that illustrate the phrase that they accompany (“In every hope, blessed is the doing,” for instance, features characters of various ages potty training, watering a garden, preparing a turkey for the oven, playing the guitar, etc.), while the following two-page spread is a full-bleed, textless landscape that shows the scale of quiet moments in human life against a vast natural setting. The characters featured are incredibly diverse across a number of identities, including race, age, ability, gender, sexuality, family composition, body type/modification, and more. Combined, it is humbling, uplifting, and deeply resonant, giving a sense of human connection to both our loved ones and to strangers. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved it. This is a stunning work and a must-read, and we can’t recommend it enough. Baby Bookworm approved!

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