Animals (Maud Poulain)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Animals, written by Maud Poulain, illustrated by Peggy Nille, and translated by Wendeline A. Hardenberg, part of The Pop-Up Guide series by Twirl Books.

Separated into biomes such as rain forest, backyard, desert, mountains, and so on, readers are introduced to dozens of animal species from all over the world. Pop-up scenes highlight commonly-known favorites like beavers, dolphins, and polar bears, as well as less-familiar critters like ptarmigans, horned desert vipers, and little auks. Brief paragraphs describe each scene and labels identify most of the species.

Pretty but incomplete. Nille’s cartoon illustrations of each nature scene and wildlife species are filled with color and charm, and the pop-up elements are well-designed to create a feeling of dimension that is sure to engage young animal lovers. From there, however, the text adds very little. The paragraphs don’t do more than describe a few elements of the artwork, and labels are inconsistent – sometimes plants are identified, sometimes they’re not; one offers a factoid about sled dogs in “The Far North,” yet this format isn’t replicated anywhere else in the book. Several scenes depict animals that do not share habitats (such as tigers and scarlet macaws), yet the text simply identifies the scene as a rain forest, and no information is provided on where rainforests can be found, what makes the animals suited to each environment, etc. So while this title would likely be enjoyed by young readers for its pictures, those hoping to learn more about animals will bore quickly. Length is variable, but I will say that JJ has enjoyed making up stories about the pop up scenes. Overall, this could be a fun title for little ones, but reserve expectations. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Moonlight Zoo (Maudie Powell-Tuck)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the stunning tale of The Moonlight Zoo, written by Maudie Powell-Tuck and illustrated by Karl James Mountford, a nighttime journey through a magical menagerie.

Young Eva gazes out her window at the high moon, unable to sleep; her cat Luna has been missing for two days, and she is worried sick. Hearing strange noises beneath her bed, Eva crawls down to take a peek, and finds the improbable entrance to a spectacular zoo! A talking wolf greets her and explains that The Moonlight Zoo protects lost and displaced animals through the nighttime, and offers to help Eva search for Luna within. The pair explore several fantastical biomes, but as dawn nears, Eva begins to lose hope. Will they find Luna before The Moonlight Zoo fades with the night?

Unique and wonderful. Powell-Tuck crafts a classic hero’s journey through a wholly original setting, and one that will surely inspire the imaginations of young bookworms. Eva is a well-fleshed out character, a mix of courage and vulnerability, and her wolf companion is equally well-rounded as a sensitive male caretaker. The sumptuously illustrated biomes of the zoo are stunning, and offer ample opportunity for closer examination of cutout elements and subtle details in the artwork. Eva even provides awesome disability representation in the form of Eva’s hearing aids that are easily visible but not narratively relevant, making her the rare disabled protagonist whose story does not revolve around disability. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and both loved it. An exciting adventure for animal lovers, and we highly recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Lost and Found (Kate Banks & Galia Bernstein)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lost and Found by Kate Banks and Galia Bernstein, a lovely forest fairytale of discovery and love.

One day, as wood mouse and rabbit are playing in the woods, they come upon an unusual object: a rag doll. They marvel over the unknown thing as more of their woodland pals approach and offer their own impressions. While the friends are all familiar with the sights, sounds, and scents of their forest home, everything about the rag doll is curious and new. Determined to discover the doll’s origin, they follow the small footprints out of the trees and on an adventure of exploration and emotion.

Warm and sweet. After crossing an unfamiliar stretch of gray (a road) and finding a very unique-looking den (a house), the animals complete their quest to return the doll to its home fairly quickly. This leads to a final “twist” in the story – one that emphasizes the idea that while details and environments may be unfamiliar, the feeling of love and care is universal – all the more unexpected and satisfying. Banks’s text is lovely to read aloud, managing to bring a lot of character to the collection of forest friends, something expanded on even further with Bernstein’s gorgeous illustrations. Each animal character feels fully-fleshed out and immensely endearing, adding to the emotional punch of the penultimate page. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this sweet and simple tale of love. A lovely story and well worth the read – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Look After Us: A Lift-The-Flap Book (Rod Campbell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Look After Us: A Lift-The-Flap Book by Rod Campbell, an animal conservation board book from the creator of the classic Dear Zoo.

Everyone loves wild animals! Lions, tigers, elephants, and orangutans are all such incredible creatures, but when the narrator decides to visit where they live, they are surprised to find that there aren’t many left in their natural habitats. “We need to look after them better,” the text repeats, with the narrator imploring the reader to look after these unique and special animals. At last, they visit the ocean, where there are lots and lots of whales. People are looking after the whales, so their numbers are strong, just as they should be.

Clumsy but sincere. While Campbell doesn’t quite recapture the magic of Dear Zoo in this lesson on species conservation for the littlest of bookworms, the genuine intention of inspiring readers to be conscious of endangered species is evident. The text is a little clunky, but uses repetition to its advantage, especially with an intended audience of very early readers. And while the idea that whales are no longer a concern for conservationists (about half of the great whale species are still endangered or vulnerable), Campbell chooses a good mix of kid-favorite critters to highlight; I was particularly surprised to find that Bactrian Camels are endangered in the wild. Simplistic illustrations are charming and a whitespace-heavy layout allows little ones to focus on the animals and their environments. Length was fine for the littlest of bookworms, and JJ enjoyed lifting the flaps. A very basic book to introduce kiddos to the idea of taking care of our wild animal pals, but effective. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Ocean of Love (Janet Lawler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ocean of Love, written by Janet Lawler and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, an undersea celebration of the love between mother and child.

Just as they do on land, the moms of the ocean are dedicated to sharing their love with their little ones. Whether it’s a minnow mom picking out just the right “school” for her young, or a mama dolphin playing all day with her pod, or a mother octopus untangling her wee one’s tentacles, there’s no shortage of ways moms can express their love. After all, while there are plenty of creatures in the deep blue sea, no one loves them more than their mamas.

Very cute, if slightly shallow. The classic theme of a mother’s love is a perennial favorite for picture book treatment, and this one does a serviceable job of exploring it with a collection of ocean-dwelling creatures. Most of these depictions are far from accurate visually or scientifically (clams and jellyfish have large and prominent eyes, sharks and hermit crabs care for their young, etc.), which may be confusing for young readers who are not familiar with the animals and/or do not understand the subtle parallels being drawn between the fictional creatures and human mothers. The book’s standout feature is the colorful digital illustrations, with characters designs so adorable that they manage to make even barnacles endearing; I particularly liked the inclusion of a multiracial mother and child pair used for the final spread. The length is fine for an elementary storytime, and JJ enjoyed the artwork a lot. Overall, this one is a little lacking, but still worth the read, especially as an ode to motherly devotion. Baby Bookworm approved.

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