Into the Sand Castle: A Lift-the-Flap Book (Cindy Jin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Into the Sand Castle: A Lift-the-Flap Book, written by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Allison Black, an interactive board book that explores an undersea palace and its surprising inhabitants.

In a sea floor sand castle, complete with towering turrets and plenty of doors to explore, there lives a number of oceanic residents. From a friendly shark to grumpy king crab to an artistic octopus, little bookworms can have fun meeting some entertaining critters… and maybe even a magical surprise guest!

Underwater fun. Utilizing a creative cutout design and some absolutely adorable illustrations by Black, this board book takes a pretty basic premise and adds some colorful and engaging flair. The rhyming text is pretty simple to read, and even if the meter is a little inconsistent, the guessing game of who hides behind the lift-a-flap doors – and which door they’re hiding behind, as each spread features 2-3 flaps – is genuinely fun. Plus, I loved that the shark was characterized as “friendly” – anyone who knows about sharks know that they are usually painted as villains, which is pretty unfair for such an at-risk family of species. The length is perfect for the youngest of bookworms, and JJ really enjoyed the bright, colorful artwork and the multitude of interactive elements. Overall, this could be a fun one to kick off the summer, and we liked 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.)

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies (Mike Ciccotello)

Hello, friends! Our book today Beach Toys vs. School Supplies by Mike Ciccotello, an end-of-summer tale of teamwork and cooperation.

Shovel and the other beach toys are having a lovely, lazy day at the beach – until Ruler and his fellow school supply pals show up. There’s clearly some bad blood between these implement gangs: the beach toys accuse the school supplies of being stuffy know-it-all’s, while the school supplies write the beach toys off as frivolous and silly. Only one way to settle this summer showdown: a sand-castle building contest. And while the beach toys think they’ve got an obvious edge, the school supplies are more skilled than they expected. Who will triumph? And can the instruments find a common ground, or will they draw a permanent line in the sand?

Punny summer fun. As kiddos start making the transition from the end of summer to the start of school, this entertaining tale does a great job of showing the importance of balancing talents and knowledge through teamwork and communication. In the end, the school supplies create a better castle, but the expertise of the beach toys saves it from the rising tide of the surf; it’s a good example of cooperation that also works as a metaphor for the summer/school transition. The dialogue is punny, though not obnoxiously so, and fun to read aloud. The illustrations are cartoonish and fun, using cinematic angles and expressive characters to add to the excitement. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ loved the clever mashup of the tool groups and their beach tale. This is a great one to check out as summer winds down, 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.)

Hidden Treasure (Elly MacKay)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hidden Treasure by Elly MacKay, a sweet, summery ode to the small yet priceless treasures to be found all around us.

A young girl makes for the beach with her Papa and her dog, excited to hunt for treasures. There are things in the shops they pass that others might deem valuable, but the girl knows that the best treasures are found for free at the quiet seashore; in the surf, in the grass, in the seabed, and even in the sky. There are unique stones, a whale’s tooth, a moth’s cocoon (though that last treasure, she insists, is best left alone to simply enjoy through observation). After a day of diving and beach-combing, she and her Papa choose the best additions to her treasure box, and she notes that the very best treasures are the ones that cannot be held in hand at all – sometimes, they’re just a day spent together at the beach.

Gorgeous. With a combination of calm yet playful text and warm, soothing visuals – done in a dreamy diorama style that blends real-life materials with charming cutout illustrations – MacKay perfectly evokes the quiet adventure and exploration of a childhood day at the beach. The art is the standout, creating scenes that feel both fantastically grand yet wildly intimate, such as the girl lining up her treasures on a dock as she treads water beneath it, or a massive sunlit cloud that suggests the shape of a pirate frigate. The rich and meditative text is gentle and relaxing, and the length is perfect for a storytime. JJ and I both really enjoyed this one: it’s a great way to wind little bookworms down after a busy summer day. Overall, a lovely and sunny 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.)

Jules Vs. The Ocean (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jules Vs. The Ocean by Jessie Sima, a sweet and funny story of a summer’s day.

When Jules hits the beach, she has a clear mission: she wants to build the biggest, most awesome sand castle ever to impress her big sister. She sets to work right away, but as soon as she’s making progress – SPLASH! A wave rolls in to wash her castle away. Her sister promises that this happens to everyone, and encourages her to keep trying. Jules begins again, and again, yet each time the ocean sends a massive wave targeting her efforts. On her third try, it even snatches away her bucket, and she cries out in frustration. Her sister arrives once more to console her, and together they begin work on a masterpiece: the biggest, most fancy, most wonderful castle ever created! And no sooner are they done then – CRASH – the sea destroys their work once more. Yet this time the girls laugh and find joy in the shared experience, running off to tell their mother of their epic battle against the ocean waves.

Delightful. This adorable day-in-the-life tale uses a simple story with a distinctively childlike voice to explore a classic rite of passage and a loving relationship between sisters. The gentle humor – including a hilariously offbeat ending – gives the narrative a light and sunny feeling, perfect for a summer storytime. Sima’s art is colorful, fun, even edging on epic at times, enchanting to the “girl vs. nature” theme. The length is great, and JJ loved it. This is a fun read with a little humor, a little adventure, and a good deal of heart. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Lula And The Sea Monster (Alex Latimer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lula And The Sea Monster by Alex Latimer, a nature-loving tale of friendship and courage.

Lula has lived all her life in her cozy home on the beach with her parents, but that’s all about to change. A big highway is being built, and despite protests, Lula and her family must leave. In her final days beachside, Lula wanders the shoreline and tidepools, soaking up her memories and love of her home. It’s during one of these walks that she finds a tiny creature, the tiniest she’s ever seen, attempting to escape a hungry seagull. After chasing off the seagull, moving her new little friend to a safer spot, and sharing a few snacks from her packed lunch, Lula names the tiny, pink squid-like fellow Bean, and promises to return to check on him tomorrow. And sure enough, Bean is there waiting for her the next day – but twice the size he was the day before! With each passing day (and each friendly meal Lula shares with her friend), Bean grows larger and larger, soon towering over the little girl, until the day he seems to simply disappear. That afternoon, as Lula’s parents are packing up their home and the bulldozers are bearing down on them, the young girl is suddenly fed up with this intrusion, and faces down the machines on behalf of the creatures of the shoreline… along with a rather LARGE surprise visitor who comes to support her protest.

Very cute. The story is a nice lesson in the importance of every tiny creature, and the equal importance of our kindness to them. It’s a message that can be taken both literally and figuratively, and results in a happy ending for all involved by the end (except, perhaps, the frightened bulldozer operators). The resolution is a little telegraphed, but counters this with a touch of wry humor and a great deal of heart; the bond between the adorable-at-any-size Bean and Lula is undeniably charming. The artwork is sweet, yet captures the tone of the oceanside setting and even the high stakes for Lula’s family very well through choices in color and shadow. The length is perfect, and JJ really enjoyed this one. A heartwarming environmentalist tale with a twist, 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.)