Winter Lullaby (Dianne White)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Winter Lullaby, written by Dianne White and illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki, a sweet tale of a bear family and the approach of winter.

The autumn in coming to a close and the air is crisp and cold, so Mama Bear calls for her little one to prepare for sleep. Seeing other animals like mouse, raccoon, skunk, and others scurrying about on the fallen snow, Small Bear asks why they must go to sleep if the others are all staying up. Mama Bear patiently explains that all the other animals are making their own last-minute preparations before going into hibernation themselves, just like bears do. She promises that when spring comes and the world is green again, they will wake and play. Until then, Mama Bear and Small Bear snuggle in tight and let the warmth of their den and the winter night’s lullabies soothe them to sleep.

A delightful wintertime bedtime tale. Caregivers will easily see the parallels between Small Bear bemoaning the fact that others get to stay up later, and White uses this as a nice way to counteract childhood bedtime FOMO as well as to explore how different animals hibernate over the winter. Kaulitzki’s illustrations are precious, using long lines and a contrast of warmth and cold to create cozy spaces, brisk landscapes, and charming animals, especially the bear families. The switch between regular and bolded text for the dialogue can be a little confusing at times, and two different fonts may have been a better choice. However, everything else works beautifully, and the length is great for a elementary-age storytime. JJ loved the all animals, especially the bond between Mama Bear and Small Bear. Overall, this is a winter bedtime treat that’s perfect for curling up with on cold nights. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Hibernate With Me (Benjamin Scheuer & Jemima Williams)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hibernate With Me, written by Benjamin Scheuer and illustrated by Jemima Williams, a sweet look at that special person who makes us feel safe and loved.

Following the lyrics of Scheuer’s song of the same name, two bears (neither their genders nor specific familial relationship is defined) spend their days together. Spoken and/or sung from the perspective of Big Bear, the older explains to their diminutive counterpart that life will often be full of uncertain times. Small Bear may have moments in which they feel worried, or timid, or scared, and they may not even know why. There will be times they may feel lost, or need to escape from the wider world. In these times, Big Bear assures, Small Bear can always count on them to guide or comfort or simply provide a place to take a deep breath or a good night’s sleep and start again.

Absolutely adorable. Telling a timeless tale of unconditional love in the author’s own very personal words (Scheuer originally wrote the song for Williams, his wife), the lyrics of the song have a pleasing earnestness that young bookworms will connect to and older ones will be moved by. The rhythm can be a little complex, however, something that would likely be rectified by listening to the song – it’s as-yet unreleased at the time of this review, so I can’t comment on that definitely, but sheet music is available in the backmatter). The deft decision to leave the bear characters’ specifics ambiguous is wise, as it gives the story a wide range of inclusivity; Small Bear can represent either a male or female child, and Big Bear can be a parent, grandparent, older sibling, or really any nurturing adult influence. The illustrations themselves are lovely, using storybook settings and charming characters to create a sense of comfort, yet occasionally adding in more atmospheric scenes; one such spread integrating Ursa Major and Minor is particularly lovey. The length is great, and JJ adored it. This is a perfect bedtime book for any Big Bear to share with their cub, and Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Nothing Can Frighten A Bear (Elizabeth Dale)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nothing Can Frighten A Bear, written by Elizabeth Dale and illustrated by Paula Metcalf, a fun-filled modern fairytale about a bear family dealing with a few nighttime scares.

Snuggled into their cave in the woods, the Bear family – Mama, Daddy, Grace, Ben, and Baby – are awakened when Baby is startled from sleep by a mysterious roar. Insisting that he won’t be able to sleep until the source of the noise is identified, the bears head out on an expedition to help Baby face his fears. Various noises greet them but are easily explained away (a crow, a deer, a frog, etc.), all while Daddy Bear cheerfully proclaims that nothing can frighten a bear. But neither he nor Baby have noticed that the other family members are being left behind, caught up in various sticky yet non-threatening situations. And when the two realize they are alone, and more mysterious noises are headed their way, even Daddy Bear begins to feel a little nervous. Especially of those strange shadows approaching from the woods…

Wonderfully amusing fun. I don’t want to give away the ending because it’s delightful, but I promise that there is nothing even vaguely scary about this book; the bears are never in danger, and their fear is played for some really enjoyable laughs. The layout of the story is wonderful for encouraging the involvement of little readers, with easily identifiable animals and rhymes that they can join with their adult in reading aloud, and filled with bouncy text that is easy and fun to read. The illustrations are absolutely adorable and filled with lovely details, the length is great, and JJ loved it. A fantastic story about facing the fear of what goes bump in the night, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Hello, Door (Alastair Heim)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Hello, Door, written by Alastair Heim and illustrated by Alisa Coburn, a cheeky spin on a classic tale.

In a twist on the Goldilocks fairytale, a sneaky fox in classic prowler’s attire creeps into the home of the Bear family while they are out. Rhyming text greets the things he sees (“Hello, door”, “Hello, sink”, “Hello, snack”, etc.) as he avails himself to the home’s food, fancy furnishings, and family treasures. But as he is admiring himself decked out in his soon-to-be-stolen gains, the Bear family returns home to teach him a lesson in respecting others’ property.

Man, I really wanted to like this one. The art is phenomenal, having a wonderful cartoon style in a simple yet exciting color palette and wonderfully designed characters and environments. The text is simple and fun to read aloud, and enjoyable for little ones like JJ who are learning to identify household objects. And even though the fox was being very naughty, there was a sense that his comeuppance would come, and it did… sort of. Mama Bear picks up the thieving Fox and hurls him far into the air, a satisfying punishment for his crime – until he lands in the yard of an even bigger and fancier home, smirking at the reader while the text indicates that the treasures inside are his next targets. It’s honestly a little unsettling, especially because the fox wasn’t merely being mischievous but committing a FELONY. It would have been far more satisfying to see him properly disciplined for his crimes. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ did enjoy the art and text. With a different ending, this one would have been a gem, but as is? Not for us.

The Littlest Family’s Big Day (Emily Winfield Martin)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is The Littlest Family’s Big Day by Emily Winfield Martin, a sweet story of a tiny bear family’s move to a new neighborhood.

The Bear family has just moved to the forest, and they are excited to explore their new neighborhood. They aren’t like regular bears; only five inches tall, different colors, and their youngest child an adopted fox cub, they look very different from their neighbors. Still, the neighbors welcome them with cheer and hospitality as the family goes for a wander around their new home. But after much wandering, the family finds that they are lost! Fortunately, a kindly owl carries them home, where they find that the neighborhood has put together a huge party to welcome them to the forest.

This is a very cute book. As always, Martin’s art is the star of the show: her delicate yet rich environments and characters capture the magic of the forest. The story is simple, but there are some great lessons to be found about acceptance, being neighborly and welcoming, and showing kindness to new people. It feels very much like a metaphor for the immigrant experience, which is cool, and definitely includes a non-traditional, mixed-race adoptive family, which is even cooler. The length is great, and JJ always enjoys Martin’s art, as there are so many details to pick out. We really enjoyed this one, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!