Little Monster Trucks Go! (Doug Cenko)

Hello, friends! Back with another special weekend review! Our book today is Little Monster Trucks Go! by Doug Cenko, a fun and fast-paced tale of competition and teamwork.

Five little uniquely-shaped monster trucks are ready for race day! Each one has their own special style and flair, and is prepared to take on the challenging racetrack. There are plenty of perils ahead, but each little monster truck is equipped with special tools and features that help them jump over gaps and plow through mud. But wait – at the end of the track, a giant boulder blocks their path? None of the trucks can do it on their own… but with a little tricky transformation, these ingenious trucks are not out of the race yet.

A fun ride with a sweet message. Telling a pretty straightforward tale of teamwork with bouncy yet somewhat underwhelming rhymes, it’s Cenko’s unique art elements that elevate the story to something special. For one thing, the play on words of “little monster trucks” is doubly delightful; it’s both an oxymoron and a double-meaning, as the vehicles themselves are not just monster trucks but also trucks that are monsters. What’s more, I loved that two of the trucks had distinctly “feminine” designs – it shows that interest in vehicles need not be something perceived as strictly “masculine.” The bright colors and comic book-style action sequences were exciting visually, and it enhanced the story immensely; even the endpapers, which feature the track map and stats for each car, are creative and fun. The length was great for a quick storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this one, especially the unicorn car that left a wake of rainbows. Overall, this one is an enjoyable adventure with a nice message on working together, and some great subtext on inclusion. We liked it, 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.)

All You Need (Howard Schwartz)

Hello, friends! Sorry we missed you the past few days – we had some family commitments that we couldn’t miss. To make it up to you, we have two special weekend reviews today and tomorrow! Our book today is All You Need, written by Howard Schwartz and illustrated by Jasu Hu, a beautiful ode to the simple necessities of life.

“All you need,” the spare verse begins, weaving a quiet contemplation of the things one needs for life. A planet, a warm sun, clouds to gather rains, trees to clean the air. Good food, fresh water, plenty of sleep. A land of welcome and people to watch over you. The freedom and ability to share your lovely thoughts and the beating heart to give you life. What a person truly needs is simple, really – life, love, health, and joy.

Beautiful. Schwartz and Hu do something rare here: telling two different stories through the text and art that weave together beautifully in theme and tone. Schwartz’s uncomplicated free verse poetry highlights the theme of simplicity, neatly choosing a list of needs that is both almost entirely accurate and evocative of emotion. The story Hu tells with the stunning watercolor artwork reflects the early life story of a young child in China, growing amongst beautiful scenery and loving family before striking out into adulthood, yet maintaining a connection to home. These elements all combine to tell a heartwarming story about life, connection, nature, culture, and love, and the result is breathtaking. The length is great for a storytime at any age, and JJ adored the dreamlike artwork and easy-to-read text. Overall, this one is an absolute work of art, and we loved 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.)

Ask a Pilot: A Pilot Answers Kids’ Questions About Air Travel (Justin Kelley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ask a Pilot: A Pilot Answers Kids’ Questions About Air Travel, written by Justin Kelley and illustrated by David Miles, a compact and informational guidebook of the questions that little ones love to ask about planes and flying.

There are plenty of mysteries that little bookworms – and, let’s face it, big bookworms – often have about air travel. For instance, where do the bags go? Why is it so bumpy? Is “airplane mode” on our devices really that important? And how do those big, heavy planes get off the ground in the first place? Pilot and dad Justin Kelley is here with answers to all these questions and more, and to help inquisitive young aviators learn the ins and outs of flying by airplane.

Fun and informative! Written in an interview/guidebook style, each question about being a pilot, airline travel, and aeronautics is answered in one to three pages of conversational text accompanied by stylized yet edifying illustrations. Kelley covers most of the FAQs that little bookworms are likely to have about air travel, and plenty that adults might wonder about as well! Scientific and/or industry-specific terms (such as “crabbing” or “TCAS”) are bolded and explained in approachable terms, leaving readers of all ages with a better understanding of how planes, flight crew, and airports operate. In addition, the lightweight design makes this ideal for a plane trip read (and/or distraction) for young and inquisitive travelers. The length and content makes this one better for older elementary and middle-grade readers, but JJ enjoyed some of the sillier questions and the colorful art. Overall, this is a great one to look into pre-travel, or for any little one obsessed with planes. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

When I’m Not Looking (Farren Phillips)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When I’m Not Looking by Farren Phillips, a ridiculous and hilarious interactive picture book that asks a question for the ages: what do our pets do when we’re not looking?

Young philosopher Legs has big questions – questions so big that even her Moms can’t answer them! But the one that truly troubles her? What does her pet duck do when she’s not looking? While the mild-mannered duck may seem like your average feather-brain, Legs cannot help but wonder if it’s all an act, and if her pet duck is in fact doing dastardly, dangerous, or disgusting things! Is she growing ten legs? Wearing Legs’s best pants? Gathering an army of ducks to take over the world? There are more outrageous things that even Legs cannot predict… and that’s where the reader comes in.

Innovative and delightful. While all of Legs’s hilarious hypotheses on her pet duck’s unobserved activities are wonderfully wacky, what makes this book unique are the interactive elements. While some traditional interactions are included – such as seek and finds throughout the quite cluttered house that Legs shares with her Moms – readers are also invited to draw, sketch, and invent their own crazy predictions of what the pet duck will do, including fill-in-the-blanks and prompts to provide drawings, fingerprints, coins, and a stamp. This allows each reader to truly make the story their own, while preserving their own silly ideas for future readings. It’s a clever concept that Phillips employs wonderfully though both art and text, and we were excited to imagine and create along with the story we were enjoying. But beware: potty humor again. Never my favorite, but comedic gold for the six-year-old. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really loved this one. So as much as potty humor will always make me cringe, I can’t deny that this one is incredible unique and a whole lot of fun. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Goldie’s Guide to Grandchilding (Clint McElroy)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Goldie’s Guide to Grandchilding, written by Clint McElroy and illustrated by Eliza Kinkz, a goofy guidebook for the care and training of grandparents.

It’s grandparents day at school, and Goldie is more than happy to impart her wisdom on how to care for one’s grandparents. She can acknowledge that they are often silly – and occasionally smelly – but with a little work and a lot of patience, “you will find that grandparents can be loyal and loving companions.” Goldie goes over the do’s and don’ts of playtime, mealtime, exercise, and bedtime. She imparts helpful tips, such as keeping grandparents away from confusing technology and being patient when they ask you AGAIN if you have to use the potty. At the end of the day, grandparents can be a lot of work, but they are more than worth it!

I have some truly mixed feelings on this one. While several scenes are legitimately amusing (such as the idea that grandparents love to feed their grandkids all the things that parents say they can’t have) or tenderly touching (such as Goldie’s grandpa singing her a personalized version of “Rainbow Connection” at bedtime), much of the rest fell flat for me. Part of the problem is that Goldie’s grandpa has a very specific personality type: loud, gregarious, and incredibly fond of potty humor. For kids with this type of grandparent, they would probably get a laugh from this outrageous depiction, but readers whose grandpas are more introverted or fastidious will likely struggle to understand the humor, especially since the guidebook-style storytelling implies that Goldie’s grandpa is model of the average grandpa. Otherwise, the scribbly artwork is delightful and works very well with the theme, the length is fine, and while I am not a fan of potty humor, JJ (like most six-year-olds) is, and I’d be lying if I said she didn’t cackle maniacally at the fart jokes. Overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of this one, but JJ was, and I think a lot of kids whose grandpas share the personality quirks of Goldie’s will as well. I would suggest giving it a quick read before deciding if it’s right for your family, but otherwise, Baby Bookworm approved!

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