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.)

Animal Architects (Amy Cherrix)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Animal Architects, written by Amy Cherrix and illustrated by Chris Sasaki, a look at some remarkable creatures and their building skills.

Have you ever heard of an animal building a trapdoor? Or body armor? Or a 30-foot skyscraper? If not, then you’ve not met the trapdoor spider, the carrier snail, or the termite! This beautiful, fact-filled nonfiction picture book spotlights eleven species in total, each with their own unique talent at crafting and construction. Readers can learn about beaver dams, prairie dog towns, gentoo penguin rock nests, and more.

Awesome information with a few hiccups. Cherrix’s text is engaging and fun, and provides some genuinely fascinating facts about the featured creatures. Sasaki’s art is simply gorgeous, using bold brushstrokes and color schemes to create incredibly compelling nature scenes. However, the layout can be mildly confusing – each animal’s profile takes place over the course of a pair of two-page spreads, without any notable transitioning or segueing between them. This often creates a feeling of disorientation when moving from one critter to the next. Another review of this book also mentioned some factual errors in the section on honeybees, which is worth noting, especially in a nonfiction title. Otherwise, the length was fine for an elementary story time, and JJ did earnestly enjoy several of the animal’s talents and the artwork that represented them. Overall, this is an entertaining, visually striking, yet slightly flawed title; we still think it’s worth a look, especially for animal lovers. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Here Comes Fall! (Susan Kantor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Here Comes Fall!, written by Susan Kantor and illustrated by Katya Longhi, a sweet celebration of fall fun.

A group of adorable forest friends celebrate the arrival of fall, and all the fun that comes along with it. They rejoice in the red and gold of the autumn leaves, the cooler weather, and the crisp air. Donning their cozy sweaters, they gather together to pick apples and carve pumpkins, and jump in crunchy leaf piles. And of course, fall brings cool nights with frosty windows, perfect for enjoying moonlit skies or cozying inside with friends and family.

Generic yet sweet. This colorful board book of autumnal themes doesn’t have anything particularly groundbreaking to offer, but what it does, it does very well. The text is simple and easy to read, yet does a good job of capturing the sensations and excitements of fall weather and activities. The illustrations are very cute, and all of the wide-eyed animal pals are endearing and cuddly-looking. Allusions to autumn holidays are scant; only Halloween is referenced, but is not mentioned by name. The length is great for a quick read through, and JJ enjoyed the cute animals and fall themes. Overall, a sweet little book whose approachable style makes up for lack of substance; if you’re looking for a simple fall board book, this one will do the trick – Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals (Laura Gehl)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Odd Beasts: Meet Nature’s Weirdest Animals, written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Gareth Lucas, a board book look at some unusual creatures.

Very early readers can take a look at eight odd adaptations in the animal world with this simplified version of a nature primer. Introduced in brief rhyming quatrains (of which there are only three; four animals covered in each of the first two, then a delightfully humorous sign-off in the last), readers can meet the pangolin, the sunfish, the bush baby, and other unique animal pals.

Ambitious. It’s interesting to see such a broad subject get the board book treatment, and I’m on the fence over whether it works or not. The text for each of the eight animals is so brief that it really struggles to illuminate what makes their adaptations so unique; for instance, “this insect’s jumps are strong”, which is not only a bit of an understatement for the giant jumping stick, but fails to even give name to the insect. The artwork, while colorful and pleasing for young eyes, also struggles with this, especially in trying to establish scale on a massive creature like the sunfish. Gehl does include photographs and more details about the animals on the last two spreads, which helps immensely with the educational aspects, but is definitely framed for a slightly older audience. I don’t want to say this book doesn’t work, because honestly, we enjoyed it – JJ loved the artwork and especially the closing lines. The length of the main body makes for a quick read, and reading the supplemental material extends that. Overall, this one is simply a cool concept that falters a bit in its execution, but is worth checking out, especially for young animal enthusiasts; Baby Bookworm approved.

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