Friends (Daniela Sosa)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Friends by Daniela Sosa, a surprisingly candid look at the world of friendship for young readers.

What is a friend? It could be someone you’ve known since birth, or someone you’ve only just met. Someone who was your friend for just a short while, or someone whose friendship will follow you for decades. Friends can be imaginary, or live far away, or perhaps be someone you haven’t met yet. Friendships can teach us, test us, hurt us, and heal us. We can make friendships and lose them, or sometimes we simply grow out of them. But one thing is for sure: even if you feel like you’ll never find a friend, be patient and look closer – a friend may be nearer than you realize.

Boldly realistic yet uplifting. Even for children, friendships can be complicated and mutable things, and Sosa takes a unique approach to the concept with a book that explores both the highs and lows of interpersonal relationships. Adult readers will recognize the sometimes bittersweet aspects of friendship that Sosa describes, yet she manages to do so in a way that never loses sense the excitement, support, or joy that comes from friendships (even temporary ones). It’s a far more complex and honest look at friendships, and one that leaves younger bookworms with realistic understandings and expectations than simply being “best friends forever.” A diverse cast and soft, homey, emotive illustrations nicely match the subject matter. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one, especially the sincere yet hopeful tone. Overall, this is a unique title for children who may have questions about friendship and want frank answers, and we 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.)

Mary Had a Little Plan (Tammi Sauer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mary Had a Little Plan, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, a lovely tale of determination and community.

Fashionable Mary, first introduced in the title Mary Had a Little Glam, is passing by a vacant lot with her parent one day when she is struck with inspiration. She knows that giving the trashed and overgrown lot a makeover will be a major undertaking, however, so she sets about making a plan to succeed. She reaches out to community businesses to donate materials and works her fingers to the bone, but she is left exhausted with plenty more to do! Should she give up? Or can more help be found in the hands of neighbors and friends who may be eager to join her cause?

Energetic and energizing! Brantley-Newton’s cheerful illustrations combine with Sauer’s impeccable rhyme scheme (seriously, she manages to flawlessly incorporate a five-syllable word in one line) to create a tale of a community project, teamwork, and perseverance. So many things are done right here, like “glam” Mary not shying away from the physical work needed to make her goal a reality, the diverse and inclusive cast, the fun nods to familiar nursery rhymes, and the perfect balance of a story that does not require readers to have read the previous book, but adds in fun details for fans who are returning for the sequel. It’s the perfect length for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. Overall, this is a light but extremely well-constructed title that is absolutely worth the 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).

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World- Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid (Katie Mazeika)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World- Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid by Katie Mazeika.

Growing up in Australia, Annette loved to sing and dance, but an illness in childhood weakened her legs to the point of requiring apparatus in order to walk. Hoping to help her regain her love of movement, her parents took her swimming, where she was not only able to strengthen her legs, but to develop a new passion for movement through water. Whether competing in races or performing “ornamental swimming,” a style of underwater ballet she would go on to develop over her entire life, Annette broke records, raised eyebrows, fought unfair laws, inspired fashion trends, and changed the world of swimming, especially for women, forever.

A fascinating story of a lesser-known feminist icon. Not only a groundbreaking disabled female athlete and artist, Annette Kellerman also reinvented swimming fashion for women, which was cumbersome and even dangerously restrictive at the time. Her story and the breadth of her achievements are truly interesting to learn, and Mazeika does a wonderful job in getting all the noteworthy elements of Kellerman’s life story to shine equally while leaving a final product balanced, well-paced, and occasionally exhilarating. The art is also well done, managing to convey aquatic grace and endurance, as well as Kellerman’s determination and talent. One greatly-appreciated page is one that includes swimmer in hijab while explaining that women should be able to wear whatever makes them feel comfortable while swimming; it’s a small but important note on inclusively and body autonomy. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both enjoyed it – overall, a wonderful look at a disabled, female pioneer and the impact of her life’s work. 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.)

The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! (Mo Willems)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the eagerly-awaited return of a beloved picture book character in The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! by Mo Willems.

The opinionated pigeon is back and so. very. ready. to ride the roller coaster today. He knows that riding the roller coaster will NOT be easy. He will need a ticket (but he will HAVE a ticket). There will be a line, but he will “demonstrate exemplary patience!”. And when he arrives at the front of the line and it’s his turn to ride? Oh. BOY. He will experience an inimitable topsy-turvy adventure like no one has ever seen! He will be EXCITED, and DIZZY, and PROUD, and he will be ready to do it all over again! Before he knows it, he is to the front of the line! He has his ticket! You know what comes next! Or do you?

Hilarious fun. Fans of the Willem’s The Pigeon series will be well pleased with this new installment, which sees the titular bird and his trademark manic energy tackle a brand new and amusingly subversive adventure. Readers who are unfamiliar with Pigeon and his bombastic style of delivery may be caught off guard, but will still be entertained by a story of preconceptions not always preparing us for reality. The length is perfect for a storytime, and if you don’t find yourself reading this one with Mo Willem’s distinctive Pigeon delivery, then you’ve never seen the hysterical animated shorts adapted from the previous books (which you absolutely should). JJ, who is a fan of both the previous books and the shorts, was ecstatic to have a new Pigeon story to enjoy, and rolled with laughter at the twist. So overall, a highly satisfying return of a kidlit favorite, and we can absolutely 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.)

Mouse Calls (Anne Marie Pace)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mouse Calls, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Erin Kraan, a lovely mashup of wordplay and community support.

After a spotting a mighty storm over the sea with her spyglass, Mouse rushes off to inform the animal citizens of her coastal community. Mouse calls Moose, who calls Goose, who calls Dog and Hog and Hare. This haphazard game of telephone continues as the message of the storm spreads through the grapevine, and the artwork periodically checks in on the creatures as they gather in a cave for shelter. At last, when every last animal has found their way to safety, the friends band together to thank Mouse for her courage and consideration.

Heartwarming fun. The bouncy, rhythmic text is based entirely on fun wordplay surrounding the names of animal species, pairing unexpected characters like Loon and Raccoon, or Kangaroo and Caribou, and it’s a delight to read aloud. It pairs well with Kraan’s charmingly quirky illustrations, which fill each character with personality by way of their wardrobe or hobbies. The repeating visual of the cave filling up with the neighbor animals is wonderful, and it’s fun to pick out all the animals the reader has met so far and see how they are interacting. Furthermore, the ending ties together on a nice message of community banding together in times of trouble and taking care of one another. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this one. A delightful must-read that bookworms of any age can enjoy, abd 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.)