The Little Bear (Nicola Killen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little Bear by Nicola Killen, latest in the author-illustrator’s My Little Animal Friend series of charming, animal-themed adventures.

It’s the eve of the first day of school, and Ollie – known to fans of the series as an imaginative little girl who loves dressing up in animal costumes – is feeling a little nervous. After packing her backpack and practicing classroom behavior, she tries to drift to sleep, but is awoken by the call of an owl. Following the owl out into the woods, Ollie finds herself racing alongside more animals towards something – a little schoolhouse in the middle of the forest! There, she meets a little bear, a fellow student who is also feeling nervous about his first day. Ollie suggests that they stick together, and both students end up having a fun- and learning-filled evening of lessons.

Absolutely adorable. Fan of Killen’s series will be well-pleased with this entry, as it is filled with the wholesome energy, engaging text, and heartwarming illustrations of previous installments. Those new to Killen’s work will also find plenty to love, as the story explores a common kidlit theme – anxiety about starting school – in a cheerful, encouraging, and fresh way. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed this sweet tale, especially the subtle cutouts and shiny gold accents in the artwork. Overall, a great back-to-school tale for little readers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Meet Your School! (Cindy Jin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Meet Your School!, written by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Melissa Crowton, an adorable interactive look at what makes a building a school.

With short rhyming couplets of text and a large cast of bipedal animals as students and staff, this lift-the-flap board book walks little readers through some of the common rooms found in a school. Bookworms follow the students of various species as they attend class, make projects in the art room, get active in the gym, eat their lunch in the cafeteria, and more. Along the way, there are secrets and surprises to explore behind the flaps, and fun details to find in the illustrations.

Delightful! From the cheerful, sweet illustrations that feature a variety of animal friends (including one in a wheelchair) to the bouncy rhymes that are easy and fun to read aloud, this makes for a great back-to-school read. The lift-the-flap theme lives up to its promise, and there are around 10 flaps to peek under on each two-page spread, letting readers peek into cabinets and drawers, behind doors and windows, and even just showing motion and activity in the classrooms. It’s a quick read, but JJ had a blast checking out all the flaps and exploring the different school rooms. This is a wonderfully fun way to celebrate the start of the school year, and we definitely 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.)

Turkey Goes To School (Wendi Silvano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Turkey Goes To School, written by Wendi Silvano and illustrated by Lee Harper, fifth in the pair’s series featuring the shenanigans of Turkey and his barnyard friends.

Farm kids Max and Millie are preparing excitedly for the first day of school, but even more excited are their collection of livestock, who seem convinced that they will be attending school alongside the children. After all, the first week’s theme is “Farm Days”; who wouldn’t want such a clever and curious group of farm animals to join in the educational fun? Yet when the animals line up to board the bus on the first day, they are denied! Finding their own way to school, the team plots ways to sneak into the classroom and partake of the learning, most centered around Turkey disguising himself with a series of (almost) convincing getups. But as each attempt fails, the animals begin to lose heart… until Turkey comes up with one last foolproof plan.

Silly fun. Fans of Silvano and Harper’s series will recognize the plot structure, in which Turkey and pals attempt to solve a problem through Turkey’s laughably lackluster disguises; the scenes in which the costumes are being prepared are especially humorous, using clever visual gags to up the absurdity. The text is pun-HEAVY, with mixed success; some elicited a giggle, some are groan-worthy. Harper’s ink and watercolor illustrations are colorful, and the animal characters are very endearing, though the human characters are occasionally… oddly proportioned. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed it, especially the sing-along portion (though she was put out that the author’s lyrical twist on “Old MacDonald” did not finish the musical phrase – I was strongly encouraged to go back and finish the song before she would allow the story to continue). Overall, this is a slightly uneven effort, but has enough heart, humor, and fun to make for an entertaining read. 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.)

I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow! (Tina Gallo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!, written by Tina Gallo and illustrated by Clair Rossiter, a Crayola-themed board book of back-to-school colors.

How do you feel when you go back to school? Do you feel “school bus yellow” while you’re waiting for the bus, bright and excited? Do you feel fun and cheerful, like Blue Violet, when you sit down in your new classroom? Do you feel like energizing Jungle Green as you learn about lizards in the library? What colors do you feel at school?

Disappointing. Despite a very promising premise, this lackluster board book is far more interested in being a marketing tie-in than actually providing any entertainment or education for little bookworms. Only FIVE colors are featured, two of which are simply different shades of yellow, and two of which are, conveniently, proprietary shades of the Crayola company. Every color is described in the most innocuous and bland manner possible, and often in a way that is incongruous with the color in question (Blue Violet does not particularly strike me as “fun, cheerful”). The only bright spot is the artwork, which features anthropomorphized crayons attending and interacting at school, and are charmingly detailed, even featuring a touch of diversity (one crayon uses a wheelchair). Overall, however, this title has little to recommend it – there are a thousand other books about colors, back-to-school, and/or both that leave this colorful ad-campaign-in-disguise rather pale in comparison. A pass from us.

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

If Animals Went To School (Ann Whitford Paul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Animals Went To School, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker, fourth in the pair’s series of animal what-ifs.

If animals went to school, Beaver would be nervous: “I don’t want to go!” he protests to his father, shuff-shuffling along as Kangaroo bounds by to be the first inside. As Beaver’s first day commences, the other animals in his class go about their activities, from stacking blocks, practicing letters, identifying shapes, sing-a-longs, and storytime, all under the watchful eye of Ms. Cheetah. As the day unfolds, Beaver begins to grow more comfortable with his friends, even joining in their play and learning. At last, when Papa comes to pick him up again, he protests once more: “I don’t want to go,” he whines, stuff-shuffling all the way home.

Very cute. The storyline is that of classic first-day-of-school jitters, with the menagerie of creatures providing gentle laughs and a celebration of all the things that make school fun for little learners. And while the animals’ characteristics are mostly anthropomorphized, there are a few nods to their beastly sides, such as goat chomping down on a book during reading time. The illustrations are light, colorful, and feature an adorable cast of cuddly young animals. The length is fine, and JJ had plenty of giggles for the animals’ antics. Overall, this one was very sweet, and we 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.)