There’s Only One You (Kathryn Heling & Deborah Hembrook)

Hello, friends! Our book today is There’s Only One You, written by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, and illustrated by Rosie Butcher, a lovely celebration of diversity.

As a young red-headed girl gets dressed, the unseen narrator opens with a universal truth: you are unique! There is only one of you in the whole universe. The girl heads to school, spends time playing with her friends, and enjoys a class field trip to the zoo, as the text reflects on all the wonderful ways we can be different: hair color and style, skintone, personality, how we handle emotions, interests, talents, and much more. Each page applauds these differences, and points out that different people make stronger groups: each member thinks their own way and has a fresh perspective. At last the narrator points out that families can be different too, as the red-haired girl’s two moms pick her up from school, along with a group of equally diverse families picking up their own littles ones. The families enjoy some evening fireworks together as the narrator concludes that being unique is simply the best way to be – it’s one more thing we all share.

Delightful yet poignant. There can never be too many children’s books that encourage little ones to embrace their differences and unique qualities; what sets this book apart is the sheer breadth of diversity covered in both the text and artwork. Children and adults are in a multitude of skintones; multiple vision- and hearing-impaired children feature, as well as children with physical impairments. Boys are shown dealing with emotions, girls are shown displaying courage and interest in science. Freckles and tattoos (on adults) are highlighted, and a diversity of family types (single-parent, multi-generational, LGBTQ, etc.) are shown. In fact, the only area of diversity seemingly unexplored is faith (a Hindu mother is shown, but her faith is not discussed), and it’s kind of a shame; I would have loved to see this area covered as well, especially by a book that hits so many right notes in the other areas. Still, the message is phenomenal, the length perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A great way to celebrate diversity, 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.)

Chrysanthemum (Kevin Henkes)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes, a sweet tale of the joys of being unique.

When Chrysanthemum was born, her parents chose a name that encapsulated everything they felt about her, that she was precious and priceless and beautiful and fascinating. As she grew, Chrysanthemum loved her name – the way it looked written out, the way it sounded when her parents said it, and simply that it was hers. But when she starts school, and the other children tease her for her distinctive name, she suddenly feels ashamed of it. As the mean girls, lead by Victoria, cruelly bully her, even her parents’ love and support can’t stop Chrysanthemum from feeling sick over her name. However, their class is about to meet a very cool and popular teacher… one with a unique name of her own.

Using a cute plot with a sharp of edge of honesty to it, this story examines how bullying can hurt long after the words are spoken. It’s heartbreaking to watch the cruelty of others turn something a child loves about herself into something she feels shame for, but is definitely a story that many kids can relate to. As a parent, it’s tough to watch the little mouse’s own parents do everything they can to buoy Chrysanthemum’s spirits at the end of each day, only for her to still have nightmares, anxiety, and then her heart broken again the next. The ending is a little tidy, and I wish Chrysanthemum could have found a way to love her name again without having to be validated by another outside source. Also, it seemed petty that Victoria’s blunder in the epilogue is then mocked by Chrysanthemum – she shouldn’t need to sink to her bully’s level. But as a story of knowing how to recognize which people’s opinions to value, and loving yourself for who you are, it’s still a pretty special story. A little longer, but JJ didn’t mind because the story and text were compelling, and the illustrations are a bit dated but still adorable. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

I’m NOT Just A Scribble! (Diane Alber)

Hello friends, and Happy MLK Day! Today’s book is I’m NOT Just A Scribble! by Diane Alber, the story about the importance of being yourself and accepting others for who they are.

Once there was a little scribble, a unique little fellow whose lines wobbled and wiggled. He could be any color or size that he pleased, and he liked that about himself – it was always fun to be something different and colorful. One day, Scribble comes across a house drawn in black lines, and asks to play. The house is grumpy and dismissive, turning Scribble away and making rude comments about his colors and his haphazard shape. Later, Scribble finds a sun and some clouds that are similarly monochrome. He asks to play with them, and they are equally dismissive. Isn’t there anyone who can appreciate Scribble’s uniqueness?

This one had a lot of good things going for it! First, the art is fantastic: freeform crayon drawings over various pieces of paper give the book a fresh visual style with a fun sense of whimsy. The rhyming text flows well, and the themes are classic: the importance of being yourself, of trying new things, and accepting people as they are. There were a few areas where it faltered: the resolution seemed a little abrupt (though I did like that it came about because Scribble was unwilling to compromise himself), and the theme of diversity might have been explored a little better if there had been many scribbles of multiple colors and shapes instead of just one who could change his appearance; it could have shown that different people each bring something unique to the table. However, it was a good length, a fun story with great visuals, JJ enjoyed it, and the included stickers to make scribbles and encourage creativity in readers all combine to make this one a winner. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Wonderful Things You Will Be (Emily Winfield Martin)

Hello, friends! Today, our book was The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin, a sweet and beautiful book about the uniqueness and boundless potential of every child.

Told in lovely, flowing rhyme, the book starts by explaining that every baby and child is unique, and that “this is the first time there has ever been a you.” From there, it explores some of the endless possibilities for who “you” can be: a musician or storyteller or scientist or superhero, nothing is off the table. For whatever amazing, remarkable thing a child turns out to be, the most important thing is that they are what is most precious: themselves.

What a positively wonderful book! As usual, Martin’s signature illustrations steal the show, creating distinctive and enchanting characters and environments on every page. The text is peaceful yet inspiring to read, and moves at a nice pace that makes the book a perfect length for baby bookworms. The theme is classic and timeless, and has a message that can appeal to any child or parent. And I loved that the book is so inclusive: there are characters of every race and color, and they do not adhere too strictly to gender norms: girls are depicted as rock stars and superheroes, boys are shown sewing clothes and having tea parties. A superb book from start to finish, and enthusiastically Baby Bookworm approved!

Never Say Boo! (Robin Pulver)

Halloween Week, Day 5: Hello, everyone! Today, we read Never Say Boo!, written by Robin Pulver and illustrated by Deb Lucke, the story of a very different little boy learning that sometimes it’s better to stand out than blend in.

Gordon is new to Boonieville Elementary, and he feels out of place. At his last school, all the children were ghosts, but here, he’s the only one. To make matters worse, his teacher and classmates are all frightened of him, especially when he says any word containing the letters B-O-O. So he tries to keep to himself and blend in, but it means hiding when he knows the answers to questions and his special talent: his very scary “BOO!” One day, however, an emergency takes place at school, and the sirens to alert the students and authorities are broken! Can one very spooky student save the day?

This was a great little book! It had a great ghostly sort of tone, making it a fun Halloween read, and the message was fantastic: sometimes being different means being the one person who can save the day with their special talents. Gordon’s ghostliness becomes a great metaphor for anything that might make a child feel out of place, and it was great to see his classmates make an effort to make him feel welcome despite their own fears and nervousness. The illustrations were suitably creepy but not too scary for little readers, and though the length might be stretching it for some baby bookworms, slightly older children would have no problems. Baby Bookworm approved!