Extraordinary Ordinary Ella (Amber Hendricks)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Extraordinary Ordinary Ella, written by Amber Hendricks, and illustrated by Luciana Navarro Powell, a fantastic story of kindness.

Ella has an issue. Everyone she knows is talented at something: her sister Carmen is a graceful dancer, her cousin Kenji is a virtuoso pianist, her best friend Maria is a wizard at baking, and so on. In fact, it seems that everyone at Ella’s school is brilliantly talented at something… except for Ella. So when the school talent show is announced, Ella is excited to enter… but clueless as to what her talent will be. All week, she attempts different routines – ribbon dancing, juggling, knitting – but to no avail. Still, she can be there to support her friends, who often run into problems with their own performances that Ella is quick to assist with or solve. At last, the day of the big talent show arrives, and Ella eagerly watches all her friends perform from the audience. Yet, thanks to her grateful pals, Ella may still get her moment in the spotlight, and find that she’s extraordinarily talented after all.

Lovely. This sweet tale has a great message for little ones: we can’t all be great at everything, and sometimes a hobby or sport or artistic pursuit doesn’t work out. What we can all do, however, regardless of innate ability, is exercise “ordinary” talents: being kind, helpful, and generous with our time and resources. In fact, one of Ella’s most inspiring qualities is that she shows no jealousy or spite towards her peers, even as she struggles; they are her friends, and she wants them to succeed. It’s great modeling for young readers, showing that no matter what our individual talents are, we are all capable of being good to one another. The charming and diverse illustrations add to the warm tone, and the length is perfect for a storytime – JJ loved it. An earnest tale with a timeless lesson, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Sophie And Little Star (Amber Hendricks)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sophie And Little Star, written by Amber Hendricks and illustrated by Raissa Figueroa, a gorgeous fairy tale of friendship.

Little Star lives up in the clouds, anxious for the day she will find her shine and be able to bring her own light to the sky. Once night, she is so restless that she tumbles out of her cloud bed and to the earth, taking the form of a little girl in a pale nightgown. Scared and alone, she is comforted by human Sophie, who promises that they will find a way for Little Star to go home. They ask various nature spirits for their assistance, and while some try, no one has the strength or reach to put Little Star back. At last, a kindly cloud agrees to bring her home, and Little Star suddenly glows brightly with happiness – only to immediately dim when she realizes that she must leave her new friend behind. But once again, Sophie assures her: she will look for the brightest star in the sky each night, and know that it is Little Star.

Magical. While the story itself lacks a overt central message, it beautifully explores themes of friendship, empathy, loyalty, and hope. Sophie’s kindness, especially in the face of supernatural forces and a rather daunting task to achieve, is a wonderful example for little ones in how to care for others in need, even if it’s just providing support. The real standout here is the artwork, which was absolutely ASTOUNDING. Figueroa’s sweeping fantasy scenes and creatures are breathtaking in their originality and creativity, and she has an impeccable eye for angles, composition, color, and tone. Readers will easily be swept away by illustrations of towering sentient oak trees, graceful breeze-entities, and sassy talking birds. The length was great, and JJ and I loved it. A strikingly gorgeous fairy tale of sisterhood, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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