Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale (Lynne Marie)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightfully spooky Moldilocks and the Three Scares: A Zombie Tale, written by Lynne Marie and illustrated by David Lorenzo.

In a creepy mansion, the three Scares – Papa (a Frankenstein-esque monster), Mama (a science-loving mummy with an iconic black-and-white bouffant), and Baby (a young, ginger vampire boy), prepare for a dreadfully delicious dinner. But the Alpha-Bat soup that Papa has cooked up is still too hot, so the three take their ghost hound, Plasma, for a walk while it cools. That’s when Moldilocks, a recently risen zombie girl, comes across the mansion. Filled with warm food and cozy furniture, Moldilocks makes herself at home, testing the three Scares’ accoutrements (often finding one of them to be “just right”). Taking a nap in Baby Scare’s bed, she doesn’t hear the spooky family return to their rifled-through items and already-eaten meal. Yet when the family finds the culprit, their reaction may come as a surprise…

At first, I figured this would be a typical fairy tale with a spooky filter that you see around the holiday; nothing against them, they can be fun if done well. However, I was SO pleasantly surprised by the real twist of this tale: it’s an adoption story. Teased early in the narrative that there’s a empty space in the Scares’ lives, when they find Moldilocks in Baby’s bed, they happily welcome her into their home and declare her part of the family. It’s a surprisingly heartwarming turn that gives the otherwise fun, silly monster story some emotional weight, and introduces a bit of inclusion for non-traditional families. The “horror” elements are relatively tame; even as a “zombie”, Moldilocks isn’t decayed, nor does she hunger for brains. The illustrations are a cute sort of creepy that kids who love Halloween spookiness and puns will appreciate. The length was great, and JJ loved it. This was a delightful surprise of a book, and a festive way to remember that a family doesn’t have to be biological to be “just right”. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A Most Unusual Day (Sydra Mallery)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Most Unusual Day, written by Sydra Mallery and illustrated by E. B. Goodale, a beautiful book about a distracted little girl.

Most days, Caroline is eager to get out of bed and start her day – but not today. She feels unusually nervous and stressed, and it shows in her demeanor in different ways. When rushing to the bus, she’s unusually forgetful, leaving without her lunchbox or socks. At school, she is unusually clumsy and inattentive – she tries to participate in lessons and help clean up after, but she ends up making a mess of both. The reader is given hints – that her grandmother is watching her, that she is preparing for changes at home, that air travel is on her mind – that something big is coming. And sure enough, when her parents arrive to pick her up from school, they are exhausted and excited, and holding a blanket-bundled little baby from very far away – Caroline’s new baby sister. Caroline decides that this was indeed a most unusual day; it’s the day her family became complete.

Really, really lovely. From the way the plot slowly teases and unfolds the cause behind Caroline’s odd behavior, the honest display of both the apprehension and joy of welcoming a new sibling, even the fact that Caroline’s family is of color (nearly every adoption book I’ve seen up until now features a white family, especially transracial/transnational adoptions); every detail makes the story sweet, honest, yet wonderfully unique. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and full of classic storybook charm that feels timeless. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A fantastic book for big siblings getting ready to welcome a new baby, via adoption or otherwise, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

A Home For Leo (Vin Vogel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Home For Leo by Vin Vogel, a lovely story about family, identity, and home.

Leo doesn’t look like the other sea creatures, but he definitely is one just the same. Lost at sea as a baby, Leo was raised by a family of sea lions. And while he loves his home in the sea – playing with his marine-life friends, diving and swimming through the water, sleeping under the stars – he can’t quite shake the feel that he doesn’t quite belong. One day, he discovers a creature who does look like him, and it causes quite a tizzy. He’s taken inland and his face splashed across the papers, but now Leo feels even more out of place. When his birth parents arrive, he is delighted to finally see familiar faces, and begins to feel a bit more at home and loved. But even as his family does everything they can to make him comfortable, Leo has trouble adjusting. He misses the sea, and the family that raised him. So he sets out to find a way to make everyone happy, and bring his two worlds together as one.

LOVED this. As the definition of family becomes more complex and inclusive, children in non-traditional families can often struggle with identity, and this is a story that gently introduces these themes through a modern fable version. Bright, cartoonish illustrations are hilarious and heartbreaking in turns, and create real empathy for not only Leo but his two families as well. They also work perfectly with the text, which knows precisely when to keep things simple and let the art do the talking. It reminded me a lot of Jessie Sima’s fabulous Not Quite Narwhal, but in all the best ways – showing little ones that family is love, and that finding who you are starts with people who makes you feel comfortable being you. The length was great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I’ve Loved You Since Forever (Hoda Kotb)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’ve Loved You Since Forever, written by Hoda Kotb and illustrated by Suzie Mason, a heartfelt love letter from parent to child.

When does a mother or father begin to love their baby? From the day they meet them? No no, the love between a mother or father and their baby began long before that. It began before the flight of birds, and before bees made honey. It came before rivers and sunsets and even the silvery glow of the moon. Before all of that, there were two bright points of light traveling through the stars, destined to meet – and that’s when a parent’s love begins, and waits for the day that ”you and me” becomes a ”we”.

Sentimentally sweet, elegant yet earnest. There’s a sea of parent-and-child books out there, but there are a few choices that were made here that really makes this one stand out. Inspired by the adoption of her daughter, Kotb is careful to keep the story gender-neutral (with the exception of one illustration) and open a diverse cross-section of families: the narrator could represent a mother or a father, and could be a biological, adopted, step-parent, or other types of caregiver, allowing for many types of families to feel a personal connection to the story. Both the text and the art have a soothing, dreamy quality that makes for a perfect bedtime read, including a gorgeous reoccurring cosmic motif that serves as a beautiful visual metaphor for the story’s theme. It’s a relatively short book, which makes it fine for even the smallest bookworm, and JJ especially loved the hugably adorable animals. A wonderful update on a classic message, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Not Quite Narwhal (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is the lovely and touching Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima, a story about a little “narwhal” learning about himself and the meaning of family.

Kelp was born under the ocean, but isn’t quite like the other narwhals: his tusk isn’t as long, and he’s not quite as strong a swimmer. Still, he loves his home and his friends, who always make him feel safe and loved. But one day, a strong current sweeps Kelp away from his home. He ends up near an island, where he sees a fabulous creature that looks just like him! He learns that the animal is called a unicorn, and he is one too! The unicorns welcome him gladly, and teach him more about being a unicorn. Yet while Kelp is happy to be with unicorns like him, he misses his narwhal friends in the ocean. Kelp is caught between two worlds – which should he choose?

We LOVED this one. The story was wonderfully sweet, and had a lot of great humor. The illustrations are just adorable, full of colors and charming characters that JJ went crazy over, and the length is perfect. But best of all is the message: there’s nothing wrong with being different, even from your own family. Kelp’s experiences with the narwhals and unicorns can especially be read as a touching allegory for being LGBTQ or adopted, with both communities loving him, even his connection to each bringing the two groups together to bond. It’s a great way to show children that with supportive friends and family, being different can be the very thing that makes you special. It’s a wonderful story wonderfully told, and we loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!