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.)

The Most Important Thing (Antonella Abbatiello)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Most Important Thing by Antonella Abbatiello, translated by Angus Yuen-Killick, a sweet and simple tale of celebrating differences.

One day, a group of animal friends are having a rather loud discussion over whose distinctive features are the “most important.” Rabbit insists that it’s long ears, while hedgehog is sure that it’s quills. Elephant extols the virtues of being big and having a trunk, while frog insists that everyone would find that being green is the way to be. With each new suggestion, the animals imagine themselves with such an adaptation: long necks like a giraffe, wings like a bird, or webbed feet like a duck. Finally, owl suggests that the answer to what the “most important thing” is perhaps more obvious than they realize…

A simple story with a classic message. This Italian import was first published in 1998, but has aged particularly well, likely due in part to its simplicity and genuine charm. Abbatiello’s illustrations are approachable and amusing, and the fold-out spreads of the animals imagining themselves as sharing the features of their friends are inventive and entertaining, especially for younger readers (JJ got a lot of laughs out of what a giraffe would look like with a trunk, or an alligator with beaver teeth). The text is uncomplicated and fun to read aloud, and Yuen-Killick did a great job with establishing meter in the rhyming refrain in this translation. The length is perfect for a storytime with young bookworms, and JJ loved it. An enjoyable title that imaginative animal lovers are sure to appreciate, 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.)

The Perfect Party (Laurel P. Jackson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Perfect Party, written by Laurel P. Jackson and illustrated by Hélène Baum-Owoyele, a raucous tale of diversity and inclusivity.

It’s Little Robin’s birthday, and all his animal friends have turned out to make his party something special. The perfect party requires the perfect music and food, right? But as the animals from the United States, Portugal, Jamaica, Germany, Korea, India, and more try to raise their voices over one another – first in fighting whose song is the best, then over whose native cuisine should be served – they only end up making a lot of noise and a big old mess. How can all the animals work together to give Little Robin the party he deserves?

Confusing and convoluted, yet fun. Jackson’s story starts with a good premise and an always-worthwhile theme, but never marries the two completely. While the glimpse into how different languages/cultures interpret animals noises (the Portuguese rooster sings “Cocoricó!” while the Nigerian ones sings “Kukurukuu!”, for instance) is interesting, it never really explains to young readers why the animals’ noises are interpreted differently before moving to the next concept. In contrast, the solution for the issues of multiple languages and cuisines – that the animals all sing together and the food all be mixed together – feel a little oversimplified (wouldn’t the individual cultures’ foods be better enjoyed at a shared banquet that equally celebrated each dish as its own unique creation, rather than a stone well of mushed-up food?). However, while the narrative is a bit messy, its theme of inclusivity is still solid for young readers, and the extremely vibrant and lively watercolor-and-digital artwork will delight animal lovers. The length is fine for an elementary-aged storytime, and JJ enjoyed the illustrations, though she was puzzled about the differing animal noises. Overall, this one is a little chaotic, but it still kind of works, especially as a celebration of the things that make us different. Baby Bookworm approved!

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