A Unicorn Named Sparkle (Amy Young)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young, a silly yet sweet story of friendship, responsibility, and the bond between a girl and her unicorn.

Lucy finds the advertisement – 25¢ for a unicorn – and dashes off to mail in her quarter. While she waits for her new friend to arrive, she decides to name him Sparkle, and plans all the amazing things they’ll do: going for rides, braiding his pink mane, and taking him to show and tell. But when Sparkle arrives, he’s not quite what Lucy had imagined. He’s smaller, for one; he smells and has fleas for another. He won’t let her ride him, and he eats the flowers and tutu she puts on him. Frustrated, she decides to send her troublesome pet back… but will she have the heart to say goodbye?

This was a great little story! It’s a funny tale on the surface (Sparkle is, quite obviously, a goat), but it carries a great message about pet ownership and friendship in general: when Sparkle doesn’t live up to Lucy’s idealization of a “unicorn,” she is quick to dismiss him. However, after forming a bond with him, finding the things she likes about him, and ultimately seeing how broken-hearted he is to be sent away, she realizes that even though he’s not perfect, Sparkle loves her and she loves him. It’s a great metaphor about being a good friend despite imperfections, and being responsible for creatures you’ve promised to care for, and I loved it. The illustrations are charming and funny, the length is great, and JJ adored it. All in all a winner, especially for those who would enjoy a different sort of unicorn story. Baby Bookworm approved!

Hiding Heidi (Fiona Woodcock)

Hello, everyone! Today’s book is Hiding Heidi by Fiona Woodcock, a sweet story about friendship and fairness.

Heidi is, simply put, the best hide-and-seek player ever. She barely even has to try; everywhere she goes, she seems to effortlessly blend in. Her friends are good at the game, but Heidi is GREAT, and always wins. Because of this, she always has her friends play hide-and-seek so she can show off her skills. Unfortunately, this tends to leave her out of group at times; while they’re busy hunting for Heidi, they get to spend more time together. Can Heidi learn to be a better friend and share the spotlight… or rather, step out into it from hiding?

This was a very cute book with a great message: Heidi eventually realizes that it’s wonderful to celebrate what makes you special, but good friends celebrate their friends’ special gifts as well. The conclusion that Heidi shouldn’t dim her shine but instead let her friends shine with her is perfect for teaching children consideration without asking them to limit themselves. The illustrations are very cute, and Heidi’s camouflaging skills make it fun to spot her on each page. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed this one! Great story about being a supportive friend, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Leo: A Ghost Story (Mac Barnett)

Hello, everybody! Today’s book is Leo: A Ghost Story, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a wonderful story about friendship and acceptance.

Leo is a ghost. He’s not a scary ghost mind you, just a little boy ghost who has lived alone in his abandoned house for a long time. So when a family moves in and says unkind things about their home’s specter when he tries to be welcoming, Leo is hurt. He decides to leave home and explore the city, but it has changed so much from before. Leo feels lost and lonely, until one day he finds a girl name Jane, a girl who can see him! But Jane thinks Leo is her imaginary friend! Should Leo risk telling the truth about his ghostliness and risk losing her friendship forever?

This was a fantastic book that had some complex layers of meaning. On the surface, it’s a playful tale of friendship and kindness, with fearless Jane welcoming Leo into her life without hesitation when he is feeling lonely. Beyond that, however, it’s an allegory for the acceptance that defines true friendship: Leo is scared of revealing his true self, especially after being treated so poorly by the other humans. But Jane loves him just as he is, and readily shifts her preconceptions when Leo reveals the truth. It’s a fantastic message for children and adults. Robinson’s art is as simple yet gorgeous as always, following a muted blue and gray color scheme that fits the themes of the story well. The length is fine, and JJ absolutely loved it. This one is a definite winner, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Story Of Fish And Snail (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Story Of Fish And Snail by Deborah Freedman, a lovely tale about friendship and compromise between two unusual friends.

Fish and Snail live together in their book, and are the best of friends. Every day, Fish goes out to explore the other books, but Snail prefers to wait where it’s safe and quiet until Fish comes home with stories to share. One day, Fish comes to tell Snail that he’s found an amazing book with a vast blue ocean, and pirates! He implores Snail to come with him to see. But Snail doesn’t want to play pirates (they are scary), he wants to pretend to be something safe like kittens instead. Fish snaps at Snail in frustration, and the two get into an argument that ends with Fish storming off to another book. But now Snail misses his dear friend. What is a timid Snail to do?

This is such a wonderfully unique book! The concept of Fish and Snail being characters in a library book that can explore other books is so neat, at gives the story a magical subtext that ignites the imagination. But the core story, that sometimes even best friends will fight, is perfect too. The best part was that the resolution showed compromise between the friends: Snail gathers his courage to follow Fish into the other book because he wants to make his friend happy; and Fish, touched, decides that they can play “kitten-pirate” so Snail feels more comfortable. It’s a great lesson in being compassionate and considerate of one’s friends, and it’s executed beautifully. The art is sweet, soothing, and fits the fantastical elements of the story just right. The length is perfect for baby Bookworm, and JJ loved this one! Totally Baby Bookworm approved!

The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig)

Hello, everybody! Our book today is The Invisible Boy, written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton, the story of a shy little boy making a new friend.

At school, Brian seems to be invisible: no one ever picks him for their team, they don’t invite him to parties, even his teacher forgets about the quiet boy sometimes. Until one day, when a new student named Justin comes to school. On his first day, some of the other kids tease Justin, so Brian decides to not be invisible for once, and offers Justin an encouraging note to cheer him up. In return, Justin might just be the one to help Brian become visible again.

This is a classic story about friendship and shyness, and we liked it. I especially liked that the book didn’t try to force Brian out of his shell into being the most popular kid: being shy and/or quiet is fine if that’s who you are! The important thing is having the courage to reach out occasionally, especially to be kind or encouraging. I also loved that Justin was as much a driving force for friendship: he repaid Brian’s gesture by reaching back to invite him into his circle of friends and support Brian’s talents. It’s a good way for kids to learn how they can help their more timid friends. The art is lovely, subtly using color, and occasionally its absence, to tell the story as much as the text does. The length was fine, and while JJ didn’t go as wild for this one (likely due to the more muted color scheme and subdued text), it’s a great story for older kids to learn about making friends, and being a good friend in return. Baby Bookworm approved!