Chinese Kite Festival (中国风筝节) (Rich Lo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Chinese Kite Festival (中国风筝节) by Rich Lo, a lovely bilingual dance through the sky with some unique kite creatures.

Join a menagerie of high-flying animals in a simple title that combines animal names with their symbolic meanings in Chinese culture and the Simplified Chinese written language. Readers can spy a bird soaring from its nest, a tiger pouncing across the sky, and a turtle sliding from a rock, among others, creating a sky-high dance of color and light.

Beautiful. Bringing together serene yet engaging artwork with gentle, simple sentences – both in English and Simplified Chinese – Lo creates a soothing early-reader look at animals that serves two languages with equal aplomb. Short sentences of soothing text, with a bold color highlighting each animal’s name in both languages, pair perfectly with digital watercolor artwork that give the kites themselves texture, depth, and motion. Backmatter explains what the animals represent in Chinese culture, a neat addition, though the text here is English-only for some reason, and I might have liked to see some information on Chinese kites and their cultural relevance as well. Otherwise, the length is perfect for a quick storytime for younger bookworms, and JJ loved the artwork. Overall, this is lovely read that brings together two languages and some lovely visuals, and definitely worth checking out. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bright Star (Yuyi Morales)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the utterly stunning Bright Star by Yuyi Morales, a complex and beautiful tale of life, family, community, and hope.

As a whitetail fawn takes its first breath, it is greeted by an unidentifiable voice, who welcomes its new “hermosa creatura”. As the fawn and its mother explore its beautiful desert surroundings, the voice celebrates the miracle of existence, and the preciousness and promise of this young fawn. But then, in the distance, darkness looms. A gray dust begins to overtake the land, and the fawn’s mother urges it to lie low for safety. When the dust settles, the fawn’s mother is gone, and a concrete and barbed wire wall separates the fawn and other animals from the rest of the world. The voice encourages the fawn to have courage – that even in the darkness, the brightness of their star cannot be dimmed, and someday the world will be beautiful once more.

Absolutely remarkable. Obviously, we are big fans of picture books as a medium, but sometimes a picture book comes along and reminds you that they are an unsung vehicle for the fine arts. Morales has constructed a visual and lyrical story in this book that is so layered, so nuanced, and so deeply moving that it feels impossible to capture in a review. Perhaps most striking is the “twist” ending, and its bold tone that combines heartbreaking honesty with indefatigable hope. Incredibly detailed illustrations draw the reader into both the fawn’s world and its tumultuous journey, and the combination of English and Spanish text is both authentically representative and inclusive to dual language speakers. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ thought it was gorgeous. Simply put, this is a perfect book, and we can’t recommend it enough. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

A Christmas Too Big (Colleen Madden)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Christmas Too Big by Colleen Madden, a heartwarming look at what makes the holidays special.

The day after Thanksgiving, Kerry’s family goes into mega-Christmas-mode. Dad is obsessed with lights, Mom turns into a Christmas-song-jukebox, grandma becomes a cookie-baking tornado, and her little brother hides elves in every corner of the house. The whole neighborhood seems to be overtaken by this oversized, flashing, jingling, headache-inducing version of Christmas… except Mrs. Flores. After assisting her elder neighbor, Kerry is invited in for cocoa and learns about some of Mrs. Flores’s holiday traditions from Mexico The two make crafts, sing songs, and talk of faraway family. As a thank you, Kerry helps Mrs. Flores set up a tablet to video chat with her son’s family in Mexico. While walking home, Kerry decides that it’s fun to explore different kinds of Christmas, and brings home her lessons from Mrs. Flores to share with her own familia.

Wonderful. This sweet holiday story starts with humor and ends with heart, all the while incorporating lovely lessons in kindness, friendship, and cultural appreciation. The story is sure to note that, while Kerry’s family can be overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with their enthusiasm for Christmas; it only suggests that there are lots of ways to celebrate, and all of them can be special. The Spanish/Spanglish dialogue is another treat, especially for bilingual readers; context clues keep monolingual English speakers from getting lost, and some moments – such as when Mrs. Flores and her son weep tears of joy upon seeing each other over video chat – are universal enough to not need translation. The artwork is perfect, visually reflecting the chaos of the initial scenes, the calm and exuberance of Mrs. Flores’s house, and the festive balance of the two in the final act; details are numerous and often hilarious. Backmatter includes instructions on making the flores de Navidad featured in the story and a very cool visual Spanish vocabulary page. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I loved it. This is a great read to start off the holiday season, and it’s 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 Love You, Baby Burrito (Angela Dominguez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love You, Baby Burrito by Angela Dominguez, a charming bilingual book for welcoming a family’s newest addition.

“¡Hola, bebé!” begins this adorable read, as the artwork shows a mother and father arriving home with their newborn baby. The parents address their little one directly, introducing the baby to their home, themselves, and fawning over the baby’s little carita, manitas, and deditos. After a quick meal and snuggles, bebé is swaddled for a nap – like a burrito – and wished buenas noches.

Cozy, comforting, and sweet. A universal experience of bringing baby home for the first time is given a very welcome bilingual update through the use of Spanglish in the text; while some Spanish words are followed immediately with English translations, many are not, leaving illustrations to give context clues for non-Spanish speakers. It’s a wonderful way to create a unique narrative for English-Spanish bilingual families without leaving monolinguals stumped, and there’s even a full glossary with pronunciations in the endpapers. Illustrations are bright and rich in color, yet simple and soothing enough for very young eyes, and the affection between the parent and baby characters is heartwarming. The length is perfect for a quick read, and JJ absolutely loved this one – she is learning Spanish in school and loved the seamless integration of the Spanish vocabulary. Overall, this one is a real treat for any reader, especially bilingual Latinx families. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A. (Diana Cohn)

¡Hola amigos, y feliz cinco de Mayo! To celebrate, we wanted to read a book that recognizes a group of brave Latin-Americans, as well as their language, with the wonderful ¡Sí, Se Puede!/Yes We Can!: Janitor Strike In L.A., written by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Francisco Delgado, the story of the 2000 L.A. janitor’s union strike through the eyes of one Mexican-American family.

Carlos, or Carlitos as his mother calls him, is tucked in every night with her warm words: “Sleep with the angels.” Then his Mamá takes a bus downtown and spends all night cleaning the office buildings. As hard as she works, she still must work two more jobs to make ends meet, and she cannot afford Carlos’s abuelita’s medication. So one night, she sits Carlos down and explains that she and the other janitors in her union are going on strike, demanding fair compensation for all the hard work they do. Carlos supports his mother’s choice, and wishes he could help her. Finding that his classmates also have family members on strike, he knows exactly what to do. Following his mother’s example, he organizes, makes signs, and takes the lead to support the striking workers in their fight for fair pay.

This was a wonderfully moving story about a strike that changed that lives of many disenfranchised workers. Through the events of the strike, Cohn also tells a story of family, community, and the fundamental right to equal pay for equal work. The illustrations are gorgeous, blending the colors and styles of traditional South American art with a modern tale. The length might be stretching it for the littlest readers, but JJ sat through it happily and loved the art. Best of all, the text is presented in both English and Spanish, so readers of all ages and levels of fluency in each can enjoy the story AND connect the two languages to each other. This book is positively fantastic, and we highly recommend it. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!