Creepy Crayon! (Aaron Reynolds)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Creepy Crayon!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown, third in the pair’s Creepy series starring Jasper Rabbit.

At the opening of this entry, the reader finds Jasper struggling at school; in fact, art class seems to be the only place he is excelling. That is, until the day that Jasper happens upon a purple crayon dangling over the storm drain, one that seems… oddly happy to see him. When using the purple crayon in class, Jasper finds that the correct answers write themselves! He no longer has to concern himself with studying, as the crayon does all the work for him, earning praise from his teachers and classmates. However, Jasper begins to grow uncomfortable with his accolades, especially when the crayon begins taking over his art projects and writing creepy messages around him. How will Jasper find his way out of this spooky situation?

Genuine creeps with a subtle lesson. Reynolds and Brown have a knack for creating spooky picture books that perfectly walk the line of unsettling yet not overly scary, and this might be their best effort yet. Not only was JJ “spooked out” by the purple crayon, even I was legitimately starting to get the willies from this disquieting art supply! Best of all, underneath the creeps lies an important lesson on academic effort, particularly that a mediocre improvement earned through one’s hard work will always be more satisfying (and less stressful) than cheating or taking the easy way out. Brown’s grayscale-and-purple visuals are wonderfully atmospheric and often cinematic, the length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this one. A great title to check out during spooky season, 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.)

Dude! (Aaron Reynolds & Dan Santat)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dude!, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat, a delightful look at the many emotions that the titular word can express.

Using only one word of dialogue, the story follows two friends – a beaver and a platypus – as they meet up at the beach for a day of surfing. They make for the waves, and are enjoying the day (with a few small hiccups) when a shark arrives and sends them scrambling… that is, until they realize that the shark was only trying to be friendly. The duo make amends with ice cream and a spare surfboard, and the three friends continue their fun – just look out for those rocks!

Tons of fun! From their greetings, to acknowledgement of some treacherous rocks, to expressions of excitement, apprehension, encouragement, and affection, the word “dude” is emphasized in different ways through context clues in the illustrations and the design of the text. It makes reading the story fairly easy for little bookworms, and provides excellent practice in connecting tone and story through the art, which is filled with Santat’s wonderful sense of action and silliness. The details are hilariously goofy (the shark having the empty leg flopping off one side of his swim trunks, for example), and the exuberant nature of the story makes for an entertaining read-aloud. JJ adored the art, and was joining in with her own “Duuuuude!” by the end. A funny, zany, and charming summertime 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.)

Nerdy Birdy Tweets (Aaron Reynolds)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nerdy Birdy Tweets, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies, a fable of friendship for the digital age.

A sequel to Reynolds and Davies’ Nerdy Birdy, the story picks up with best friends Nerdy Birdy and Vulture. While the two may not have a lot in common, they still enjoy being together, making funny faces and taking silly photos. One day, Nerdy introduces Vulture to an app called Tweetster, where he can play games and make hundreds of internet friends. Vulture is not very interested, and begins to feel left out as Nerdy spends all his time on his phone when they hang out. She attempts to get into the app so she and her friend can have more in common, but when Nerdy unthinkingly posts an embarrassing picture of her, she feels betrayed and ends their friendship. Nerdy doesn’t know what to do – and his 500 internet friends aren’t interested in helping. Can Nerdy Birdy find a way to win his best pal back?

As you can tell, this one covers some modern issues that kids face while trying to navigate friendship in the age of social media. It makes for a wonderfully unique and poignant story, teaching children that they need to respect others online, and that “likes” from strangers may feel good, but are no substitute for real social interaction from real friends. In a time when internet bullying and exploitation is having devastating real-world consequences on kids, this is an important lesson to instill early on, and this story does a great job of introducing it. Davies manically energetic pen and ink illustrations are a delight, crafting unique, memorable characters. The length is fine for little bookworms, and JJ really enjoyed the birdies. This is a wonderfully modern tale that can help young ones understand the importance of digital caution, and we loved 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.)

President Squid (Aaron Reynolds)

Hello, friends! Today, we read President Squid, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Sara Varon, the tale of a squid who knows what he wants: to be the president of the United States!

Squid is positive that he deserves to be president. He even has a top five list of reasons why, such as 1) he looks great in a tie, and 4) he talks the most out of anybody. But he’ll come to find that being a leader is more than living in the biggest house and bossing people around. Will Squid be the greatest president ever, or is he all washed up?

Well, I’ll be honest: I am completely conflicted on this book. On the positive side: the dialogue is very silly and funny, and a hoot to read aloud. The illustrations are also a high point, being colorful and fun as well. However, there were some issues. First, Squid learns that helping people is part of being president, but instead of taking this to heart, he decides that he’d rather be king instead (“All the power! None of the work!” he concludes). Taken at face value, that’s a pretty awful message. And while the book is more likely intended as satire, well, very young readers probably won’t grasp that sort of nuance. And while the text is fun to read (save a cringe-worthy Titanic joke), the length is fine, and JJ enjoyed the voices and art, I was left pretty dissatisfied with it, overall. Maybe this was satire that would have been funnier if it weren’t quite so true. Regardless, I can’t say I recommend it for baby bookworms, despite its positive qualities. Not one of our favorites, which was a major bummer, as we usually adore Aaron Reynolds’ work (you should absolutely check out Nerdy Birdy or Here Comes Destructosaurus! instead).

Nerdy Birdy (Aaron Reynolds)

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is the wonderful Nerdy Birdy, written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Matt Davies, an adorable and unexpected story about the nature of true friendship.

Nerdy Birdy is not like the cool birds: he wears glasses, has a birdseed allergy, and loves reading and video games. The popular birds like Eagle and Cardinal pick on him, excluding him for his nerdiness. One day, however, Nerdy Birdy finds that he is not alone – there are lots of nerdy birdies who look like him and have the same interests too! Nerdy Birdy thinks that he’s finally found his place… that is, until Vulture comes along.

This was a fabulous book about friendship that had a wonderfully fresh take on cliques and what makes a real friend. In the end, Nerdy Birdy’s decision to do what’s right instead of following popular opinions is a great message for children on true friendship, and it’s ability to bond people (or birds) who may otherwise have little in common. The illustrations, done in Davies’ unique style, breathe life into the characters, and the dialogue has a lot of unique voices that make it tons of fun to read aloud. Length is great, and JJ really enjoyed it. This one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!