Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science (Lisa Gerin)

Hello, friends! March kicks off Women’s History Month, and we are celebrating with today’s book, Rosalind Looked Closer: An Unsung Hero of Molecular Science, written by Lisa Gerin and illustrated by Chiara Fedele.

Growing up in 1920’s London, Rosalind Franklin was told that girls can’t be scientists, most frequently by her father. Yet her mother encouraged her, and Rosalind’s curiosity could not be contained. All through her younger years, then high school and college, Rosalind continued to study chemistry and crystallography, and produced research that led to safer gas masks. While working in the then cutting-edge field of X-ray diffraction, Rosalind took Photo 51, the first proof of the double-helix model of DNA. However, her lab partner showed the photo to two other researchers without Rosalind’s permission, and the three men wrote a paper taking credit for Rosalind’s discovery. Rosalind was crushed, yet she kept working tirelessly to better understand DNA and RNA, leading to advances in vaccines against diseases. After all, Rosalind wasn’t a scientist for the acclaim; she wanted to help the world.

Fantastic. I’ll be honest, any book that exposes the absolute crime of how Franklin’s contributions to science were stolen and/or forgotten is likely to get a good review from me. Yet beyond this, Gerin and Fedele tell a reverent and poignant story about a brilliant mind who cared most about how scientific discovery could change the world. The artwork is highly atmospheric, using color and light to establish mood and reinforce themes (the scene of Wilkins, Watson, and Crick discussing Franklin’s Photo 51 in what appears to be an academic club or pub, where Rosalind would not have been welcome, is brilliant). The length and subject matter are best for older elementary readers, but JJ and I both enjoyed our read. An important book about a too-long forgotten hero of the scientific world, 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.)

Wonder Dogs! (Linda Ashman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wonder Dogs!, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Karen Obuhanych, a delightful and touching ode to canine companions.

Dogs can do all sorts of amazing things! Agility athletes, super-scenters, brave rescuers, courageous guards, and faithful service pups – there are many dogs that have jobs helping people every day. They come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of coats, features, and talents. So when the roly-poly canine narrator questions what kind of wonder dog they might be, they have to think hard; they’re not a working or service dog, not a guard or a show dog. And yet, while our protagonist pup may not always be perfect, they are an expert at one thing: being a best pal to their young human.

Adorable! Ashman’s rhyming text is written with guileless charm, first exploring the breadth of amazing jobs that dogs can do, then deftly pivoting to an explanation of what makes each dog special: their capacity for unconditional love and loyalty. Obuhanych’s utterly sweet illustrations pair with this perfectly, exploring the diversity of breeds and canine professions while also creating a central character and relationship that will pull the heartstrings. For instance, a late scene in which the protagonist pup listens, ear perked, as their young human confides in them, and offers the comfort of a paw on their knee is one that will strike true to any child who grew up with a trusted canine confidant. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both adored it. This one is an absolute treat for dog lovers of all ages, and we highly 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.)

Animals (Maud Poulain)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Animals, written by Maud Poulain, illustrated by Peggy Nille, and translated by Wendeline A. Hardenberg, part of The Pop-Up Guide series by Twirl Books.

Separated into biomes such as rain forest, backyard, desert, mountains, and so on, readers are introduced to dozens of animal species from all over the world. Pop-up scenes highlight commonly-known favorites like beavers, dolphins, and polar bears, as well as less-familiar critters like ptarmigans, horned desert vipers, and little auks. Brief paragraphs describe each scene and labels identify most of the species.

Pretty but incomplete. Nille’s cartoon illustrations of each nature scene and wildlife species are filled with color and charm, and the pop-up elements are well-designed to create a feeling of dimension that is sure to engage young animal lovers. From there, however, the text adds very little. The paragraphs don’t do more than describe a few elements of the artwork, and labels are inconsistent – sometimes plants are identified, sometimes they’re not; one offers a factoid about sled dogs in “The Far North,” yet this format isn’t replicated anywhere else in the book. Several scenes depict animals that do not share habitats (such as tigers and scarlet macaws), yet the text simply identifies the scene as a rain forest, and no information is provided on where rainforests can be found, what makes the animals suited to each environment, etc. So while this title would likely be enjoyed by young readers for its pictures, those hoping to learn more about animals will bore quickly. Length is variable, but I will say that JJ has enjoyed making up stories about the pop up scenes. Overall, this could be a fun title for little ones, but reserve expectations. 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.)

How to Become a Superhero (Davide Calì & Gómez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How to Become a Superhero by Davide Calì and Gómez, a crime-fighting instruction manual for imaginative play.

So you’ve decided to be a superhero… where should you start? You’ll need a costume, naturally – but should you go for a cape or a mask? You should also probably decide on your superpower: flying? Super strength? Shapeshifting? You’ll need to sort out your transport, and choose a super-sidekick or pet. And of course, you’ll need a secret hideout! And once you’ve got all that figured out, the mighty missions that you take on are up to you! You may even want to team up with some super friends!

Cute but basic. As a handbook for superhero character creation goes, this title actually works pretty well, as it gives kids a checklist of superhero tropes that they can scratch off as they form a hero unique to them. This part was the most enjoyable for JJ and I, as we discussed what our costumes would look like, what our powers be would, etc. However, the book lacks much substance beyond this creation guide; there are no lessons on heroism, kindness, teamwork, or courage. There is a brief nod for the importance of school on the final spread, but this actually feels disjointed and superficial, given the airier tone that precedes it. And while the cast of kid heroes do vary in gender presentation and skintone, that’s about it. Otherwise, the length is fine for a storytime, and we did enjoy our read. I would recommend this one as a supplement to starting superhero-themed imaginative play, but I don’t see it having a lot of draw for repeat readings. Overall though, 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.)

Find Your Brave (Apryl Stott)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Find Your Brave: A Coco and Bear Story by Apryl Stott, a sweet tale of friendship and courage.

Pals Bear and Coco – who fans of Stott’s will remember from the author/illustrator’s previous title, Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light – are a perfect match, even if they are opposites. Bear is big and Coco is little; Bear is shy and Coco is brave. Yet when the pair step up onstage for the final dress rehearsal of their talent show dance performance, Coco sees the small audience and freezes – it seems as though she’s lost her brave! Naturally, her best pal Bear offers to help her get it back, but where should they start? And will they find Coco’s brave in time for the talent show?

Warm and sweet. Stott has a talent for taking highly relatable childhood lessons and exploring them with simple yet resonant stories and charming, fairy-tale illustrations. Bear and Coco’s friendship sets a lovely stage for a classic lesson on being brave, with the resolution stressing that fear and courage often coexist, and one must choose to let their brave be bigger than their scared. The gentle story and artwork strike a perfectly comforting yet encouraging tone for the subject matter, which makes for a lovely read-aloud, It’s a great length for a storytime, and JJ and I absolutely enjoyed it. We definitely recommend this one for a cozy and confidence-boosting read, and 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.)