Keep Your Head Up (Aliya King Neil)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Keep Your Head Up, written by Aliya King Neil and illustrated by Charly Palmer, a beautiful story about dealing with bad days.

D’s morning is not starting off well. No one greeted him when he woke up, his sister used up all his favorite toothpaste, and he forgot his gym uniform and couldn’t play kickball. From there, no matter how hard he tries to keep his head up, he feels his frustration building as things keep going wrong. His “bad day face” goes to feeling “scrunchy” until finally, he has a full-on meltdown. His understanding principal lets D calm down in the office and calls his parents. As he leaves school, D’s day doesn’t look like it’s going to get much better, but even though he doesn’t feel like it, he decides to keep his head up anyway – the important thing is that he wants to try.

Gorgeous in every way. From Palmer’s incredibly expressive impressionist painting-like illustrations to Neil’s lyrical, emotional text, each page is a masterpiece in telling a universally-relatable story in a unique and moving way. Readers of all ages will recognize the feeling of having a day go from bad to worse, and feeling powerless against the frustrations and sorrows that can inspire. Neil chooses to end the book perfectly, showing that sometimes, a bad day is just a bad day to its end, and all we can do is try our best to get through it with grace. Equally affecting is her metaphor for vinyl LPs as people, which honestly brought a tear to my eye. Palmer’s artwork is simply gorgeous, rich in color and tone, and each page could hang framed in a gallery. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved it. This is an absolute stunner with a powerful message, and we absolutely 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.)

Allie All Along (Sarah Lynne Reul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Allie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul, a tale of a big brother helping his little sister with her emotions.

When Allie’s crayon broke during coloring time, she became – quite suddenly – and furry red ball of rage. After screaming, shouting, and letting it out-ing, the Allie-monster sheds her layer of red fur, revealing a smaller orange monster inside. From there, big brother attempts to help, giving Allie ways to deal with her anger – hugging her favorite toy as hard as she can, taking a deep breath and blowing out pretend candle, etc. Each activity helps Allie feel a little better, and shed another layer of fur: orange to green, green to blue. At last, Allie and her brother have worked to calm her feelings, and the real Allie – a regular little girl – emerges from the last monster layer, requesting a hug.

A very interesting take on runaway emotions. I loved the practical ways of helping oneself or others calm down, which are always great for both kids and parents to have in their back pockets. And the metaphor for different levels of anger is both clever and cute – the rage monsters never really appear scary, but more a manifestation of those all-too-familiar tantrums (it should be noted when discussing with kids, monstrous tantrums like that may be appropriate for little ones, but are not acceptable for adults). The illustrations are colorful and thoughtful, and JJ loved watching the monster change. It might have helped to have an earlier indication that there was a little girl underneath all that anger – JJ seemed confused by that – but otherwise we really enjoyed it. A nice book for little readers’ emotional toolkits, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Horrible Bear! (Ame Dyckman)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Horrible Bear!, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora, a charming story about what can happen when we lash out in anger.

A little girl’s kite flies into a bear’s cave while he sleeps, but when the girl tries to retrieve it, he unknowingly rolls onto it and snaps it! Upset over her broken toy, the girl wakes him with, “HORRIBLE BEAR!” and storms out and all the way home. Puzzled and offended, the bear storms out too, intending to wake her from sleep with yelling and general horribleness. But when he arrives, what he finds just might change his mind.

This was a very cute story about the dangers of being quick to anger or judgement without considering things from all points of view (which is, frankly, a lesson the whole world could use these days). The conflict between Bear and the little girl is very relatable for parents and children, and has a wonderfully sweet resolution. The adorable illustrations are packed with fun details and lots of charm, and even an Easter egg or two for fans of Dyckman and OHora’s previous collaboration, Wolfie The Bunny. The length is perfect, and JJ loved it, so this one is very much Baby Bookworm approved!