The Bear’s Garden (Marcie Colleen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Bear’s Garden, written by Marcie Colleen and illustrated by Alison Oliver, a tender ode to the importance of greenspaces.

In a darkish, grayish city, where it seems everyone is rushing off to somewhere, there lived a little girl and her bear. And while other people seemed content to keep their heads down and ignore the neglected and empty spaces between the buildings, the little girl couldn’t help but imagine her city as a magical place, full of potential for things to grow and blossom. The little girl plants a dandelion seed in a can, but the can tips over and falls to the ground… yet the flower takes root in the concrete itself! Nurturing her little seedling with water, love, and even a garden party, it blooms and spreads more seeds in the empty lot. Passersby begin to notice the greening space and the little girl’s dedication to her plants, and it warms their hearts. Soon, the girl must travel away for a while, and she becomes concerned that, in her absence, the garden will suffer. So she leaves her trusty bear in charge to watch over her small blooms. And when she returns, she finds that something even bigger than her flowers have taken root…

Lovely. This darling tale, inspired by the Pacific Street Brooklyn Bear’s Community Garden, is a gentle and meditative look at the importance that greenery and growth can have to not just one person, but entire communities. Drawn with simple illustrations and characters, the artwork deftly plays with dark, light, and color to show how the community grows together as their garden takes shape. The text is soothing and sweet, and makes this one ideal for storytime or a bedtime read. The length is perfect for any age, and JJ really enjoyed the story and art. A comforting and inspirational tale that any green thumb will enjoy, 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.)

Be Bold, Baby!: Michelle Obama (Alison Oliver)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Be Bold, Baby!: Michelle Obama by Alison Oliver, an adorable and inspirational board book primer for the 44th First Lady.

Be bold. Be brilliant! Be an ally. Be inspired by the ones you love, be encouraging of the ones you inspire in return. These motivational statements are accompanied on each page with an illustration that follows former First Lady Michelle Obama through her life of accomplishment: from eager student (“Be brilliant!”) to powerful lawyer and urban works organizer, to young mother (“Be loving.”), to health and education activist as First Lady and beyond (“Be inspirational.”). Also included are a smattering of quotes from Michelle and a short, toddler-friendly biography in the back. The book concludes with a mirror for little readers to see themselves, with the most important sentiment of all: “Be you!”

Lovely! The simple, bold rallying cries of the text pair nicely with the vibrantly colorful illustrations, which use simple color- and pattern-block shapes to construct engaging characters and scenes. The quotes included are well-chosen, though I could have stood to have seen a few more with broader appeal; “I want to be this really fly 80-, 90-year old,” is a fun quote, but she‘s said a great many other things about the importance of physical fitness that might be a bit more inspiring to young readers. However, the abundance of unabashed girl power more than makes up for it. It’s even a nice touch that Barack is only mentioned briefly at the end of the bio – Michelle is so often tied in people’s minds to him and his accomplishments, it’s nice that this book solely focuses on all the work she has done and achievements she has made all on her own. The length is great, the mirror is a great touch that the youngest readers will love, and JJ and I both enjoyed it greatly. Baby Bookworm approves!