Acorn Was a Little Wild (Jen Arena)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Acorn Was a Little Wild, written by Jen Arena and illustrated by Jessica Gibson, a playful tale of one very adventurous young seed.

Acorn was the first of his generation to take a flying leap from the tree. The great oak warned him not to, that squirrels would get him, but Acorn didn’t care – he was ready for an adventure. This began the little seed’s journey into the wider world, filled with ups, downs, a plenty of surprises along the way. What will become of our little acorn? Will the squirrels get him after all? Or is he destined for something more.

Positively delightful. Acorn’s entrance into the unknown is amusing and heartening, especially when viewed as a metaphor for a child striking out on their own. What makes this narrative especially enjoyable, however, is Acorn’s unflappable optimism and zest for life, even in times of trouble. It keeps the tone funny and cheerful, encouraging an adventurous spirit and a sunny outlook to young readers. Arena’s text is energetic and fun to read aloud, and Gibson’s cartoonish naturescapes give lively personality to every plant and creature. The length is perfect for any storytime, and JJ had a ton of fun with this one. Overall, an absolute treat, and we highly 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.)

How to Be an Explorer: Outdoor Skills and Know-How for Young Adventurers (Tiger Cox)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How to Be an Explorer: Outdoor Skills and Know-How for Young Adventurers, written by Tiger Cox and illustrated by Kim Hankinson, an awesome guidebook for the budding wilderness scout.

Gear up, explorers! Because as any good adventurer knows, the key to a successful foray into the unknown wildness is preparation, and this handy hardcover is the perfect place to start. Walking young readers step-by-step through skills like water filtration, building shelter, lighting a fire, and even basics like what to pack and wear, bookworms can get a crash course in the basics of outdoor adventuring, and even learn about six real-life explorers along the way.

A fantastic reference guide for the adventurous bookworm. Covering skills that range from basic (like interpreting maps and tying knots) to more advanced (like identifying edible versus poisonous plants), Cox has compiled a commendable compendium of the types of outdoorsy activities that kids love to learn about. A nice addition are the mini-biographies of the historical explorers, a lineup that includes a diversity of genders and ethnicities. The design, photography, and illustrations are all eye-catching, well laid-out, and colorful. There is a notable scarcity of adult supervision warnings for potentially dangerous activities (using a knife gets one, but lighting a fire does not, for example). This, plus the nature of the content, make this a title best for older elementary and middle-grade readers, though JJ did enjoy learning about the explorers. Overall, a pretty stellar guidebook for young explorers, but caregiver supervision is advised. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Hey Grandude! (Paul McCartney)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hey Grandude!, written by Paul McCartney (yes, THAT one) and illustrated by Kathryn Durst, a playful adventure tale with a magical twist.

On a dreary, humdrum day, Lucy, Tom, Em, and Bob are bored and listless. That is, until their grandpa – affectionately called “Grandude” – appears with a handful of postcards and a compass. Inviting his “Chillers” (grandkids) along for an adventure, Grandude is able to use the compass to whisk all five of them away to a sunny tropical beach, to play and sun the day away by the shore. That is, until an invasion of punchy crabs appears. Staying positive, Grandude uses postcard-and-compass to transport them to a dusty cowboy frontier, but it’s not long until their adventure there is interrupted as well! Third time’s the charm? Or perhaps not! No matter though – Grandude is there to get the kids back home safely and get them settled in for bed after a day of adventure and peril… before taking a well-earned rest himself.

Strange yet sweet. The legendary McCartney’s first children’s book hits the mark in a lot of ways: the series of misadventures are entertaining for little ones, and the gentle care of Grandude towards his Chillers at the end will warm adult hearts. A few of the jokes fall flat, but the dialogue and text is paced well and fun to read. The illustrations are especially standout, including the nice choice to make the family members racially diverse; a small detail, but a wonderfully welcome one. The action scenes are particularly well-done, managing to be exciting and compelling without veering scary. The length is okay; better for slightly more patient bookworms, but not overly long. JJ enjoyed this one, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Along The Tapajós (Fernando Vilela)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Along The Tapajós by Fernando Vilela, translated by Daniel Hahn, a riveting tale of riverside life in the Amazon.

Cauã, our narrator, and his little sister Inaê wake in their stilt home on the Tapajós River in Brazil, one of the largest in the Amazon rainforest. They eat breakfast with their parents, then head to school by motorboat. Along the way, they “play” with the alligators and remark on a priest traveling to town to perform many weddings in a single weekend. At school, however, the weather begins to turn dark and stormy, and it’s clear that the yearly rains have arrived. The siblings race home to help their parents pack up everything in their home and move it to their boat; they will head to a safer part of the river for the season, where the entire village will construct temporary shelter and continue their lives. But once they arrive and set up their new home, Inaê makes a heartbreaking discovery: in the commotion, the family’s pet tortoise Titi has been left behind! She pleads with her parents to go back, but they say it is not possible. Unwilling to leave Titi to the mercy of the river, Cauã and Inaê come up with a rescue plan – but it will pit them against great dangers, the like of which they’ve never faced before…

Fascinating! Taking a peek into a culture that little (or big) readers may not be familiar with, this tale of life on the river takes a rather gripping turn into an adventure that’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a clever tactic that allows the reader to learn and connect with Cauã and Inaê, rather than simply observing their life in a clinical way. The sequences at the end during Titi’s rescue may be a little intense for the youngest readers, but older kids will be riveted (JJ and I certainly were). The artwork, which blends classic illustration with hints of traditional South American art, is simply beautiful; spreads showing the torrential downpours, friendly porpoises, and the reflections of flooded structures against still waters transport the reader to this unique part of the world. The length is good, and we 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.)

Deep Underwater (Irene Luxbacher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Deep Underwater by Irene Luxbacher, a dreamy and surreal adventure to the ocean floor.

A young girl named Sophia invites the reader along as she dives down deep into the sea. She knows all the ocean’s secrets, and she’s glad to share them. Down into the dark, where bubbles swirl and creatures swim and sunken ships hide their treasure. There’s all that and more: mysterious shapes and colors, beings and possibilities. It seems almost to be the stuff of dreams, and perhaps it is…

Unique and lovely. The first thing that strikes me is the unusual color scheme – while many undersea books opt for bright blues and whitish sand, this one paints its setting in the deep blue-greens and shadows of the actual ocean, a far more natural and realistic choice. This works perfectly for the elements of fantasy to come, providing a more familiar background to te mixed-media imaginings of first real marine life, then more odd and otherworldly lifeforms and scenes as the story progresses. The final page gives a lovely bit of context for the preceding adventures in a heartwarming illustration. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A weird and beautiful adventure that celebrates curiousity, courage, and imagination. Baby Bookworm approved!