Pink is Not a Color (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pink is Not a Color by Lindsay Ward, an identity-affirming follow-up to This Book is Gray.

Seeing her friends the Primary and Secondary colors setting up for a party, popular Pink offers to help. She’s excited to hear about the festivities for the upcoming “Rainbow Extravaganza,” and wonders why she’s never heard of it before. The answer is, as Orange notes, a bit awkward: Pink is technically not a color of the rainbow. This sends Pink for a loop; she’s never really thought about her place in the color spectrum before, and it’s confusing to realize that she is not a rainbow color. After learning a bit more about tints (her classification) and shades from Brown, she feels better, yet still confused. Does being a tint make her less important than the primary colors? At last, she runs into Gray – an achromatic color and subject of the previous book in the serious – and confesses to having a “midcolor crisis.” Will Pink ever find her place in the world of color?

A creative look at identity. Based on the very real debate as to pink’s classification as a color, which the author-illustrator gives a little background on in the author’s note, Ward manages to weave a fascinating and approachable consideration of what our identities mean to us, and how our self-concept can relate to and be informed by them. Like many who can have their self-image shaken when exploring their identities, Pink struggles with the idea that she may be a “less important” color, or even not a color at all. Remembering how much joy she brings to people helps her remember her worth, and it’s honestly very touching. I especially liked that Ward mixed in some less-expected uses for the color Pink for the character to feel proud of, like dinosaurs, soccer balls, and a microscope; while Pink uses she/her pronouns, it’s good to remember that the actual color has no gender. In addition, there’s a beginner lesson in here on color theory, and one that even many adult readers will find enlightening. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed it. A very cool and creative way to explore an important message, and we loved it. 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 Day the Dung Beetle Defeated the Dark (Estelle Cheuk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Day the Dung Beetle Defeated the Dark, written by Estelle Cheuk and illustrated by Arina Procenko, a tale of learning to love who you are.

One day, at Savannah School (a spelling that may frustrate American readers), all of the young animals are discussing their wild families and what makes them amazing – cheetahs are fast, meerkats are tough, giraffes are tall. All the critters find something to be proud of… that is, except for Scar the dung beetle. After being teased by her classmates, her father attempts to comfort her, but Scar still goes to bed wishing she could be anything but a dung beetle. The next day, however, the entire savanna wakes to darkness! Some naughty nocturnal animals have stolen the sun from the sky and hidden it, and nobody knows what to do. But Scar’s father has an idea, and it will lead him and Scar on an adventure that will show everyone that even little dung beetles can have mighty powers.

A solid story with uneven execution. Scar’s story is certainly a classic one, and one that does a great job exploring both the idea that our differences make us uniquely talented and capable, and that every creature (even the small and silly-sounding ones) can have some pretty awesome adaptations. However, this tends to be bogged down by overly-lengthy paragraphs of text and largely flat digital illustrations. Where the wildly inventive story, reminiscent of a classic pourqoui tale, works very well, there are details that feel distracting or unnecessary, such as the main character’s name being “Scar,” or overuse of the word “poo” during weighty emotional moments. The art absolutely goes for gold, but is limited by juvenile character design. Otherwise, while it does lean on the longer side, the length is not bad for a storytime. JJ mostly enjoyed the story, but it was difficult to keep her from giggling at the word “poo” during scenes that should have a more somber tone. There’s an ambitious story here, with art that the illustrator clearly put a good deal of effort into, but the final product is a bit uneven. Worth looking into, but temper expectations. Still, Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Noodle and the No Bones Day (Jonathan Graziano)

Hello, friends! It’s JJ’s seventh birthday, and we’ve saved a special book for the occasion! Our book today is Noodle and the No Bones Day, written by Jonathan Graziano and illustrated by Dan Tavis, an adorable tale about self-care featuring TikTok’s favorite senior pug.

Noodle is a sweet, silly, and stubborn elderly pug with a ton of personality. He loves his life with his human, Jonathan, and all the things they do together. Noodle loves to go for walks, sit outside and bark at neighbors, and especially munch on snacks (chicken is his favorite, but he even enjoys broccoli). But one day, when Jonathan calls Noodle for their walk, Noodle doesn’t seem to want to get out of bed. Even when Jonathan picks him up and sets him on his paws, Noodle only plops back down (“It’s like he doesn’t have bones!” Jonathan muses). Noodle isn’t sick or hurt – and he’s still got his appetite – so Jonathan asks if he would just like to stay home and cuddle instead. Noodle replies with a definitive “yes” in the form of a sneeze, and the two develop a new understanding – oftentimes it’s fun to go out and have a day full of excitement, but sometimes, we all need a “No Bones Day” to rest and recharge.

Precious. Self-care and avoiding burnout are topics that are slowly making their way into kidlit (The Good Egg by Jory John is a fantastic and well-beloved example), and Graziano tells the real-life narrative behind Noodle’s TikTok fame in a way that explores this concept for young readers. Fans of the real Noodle’s antics (which we are) will absolutely adore the picture book version, captured in all his cozy, cuddly glory with Tavis’s soft and affectionate artwork. But even readers not familiar with Noodle’s social media presence can find a lot to love here, especially in the universal lesson that it’s okay to take a day for yourself sometimes. The length was perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved this one, especially the darling illustrations. Overall, this is a great one for curling up with on your own No Bones Day, 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.)

I’m Not A Girl (Maddox Lyons & Jessica Verdi)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’m Not A Girl, written by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi, and illustrated by Dana Simpson, a touching and empowering story about a young child’s journey of self-discovery and self-actualization.

The red-headed narrator opens our story by explaining that today is picture day – he HATES picture day, because he always has to wear a dress. Just like at Halloween, when the salesperson and Mom only let him pick costumes from the girl’s side. He tries to communicate the things he wants – like cutting his hair short – but people just don’t seem to listen. The little boy isn’t a tomboy, and he acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with being a girl – but he is NOT a girl, and nobody seems to understand that. That is, until the day he meets a pair of new friends at the pool who teach him a new word: transgender. Suddenly, our young hero has the words to explain how he feels, and he might just be ready to show his parents, and the world, who he really is.

Wonderful. Written from the perspective of a transgender child, this story of gender discovery and transition does a fantastic job of walking readers through the emotional frustrations and triumphs that accompany that journey. Co-authors Lyons (who is himself transgender) and Verdi do an incredible job of explaining the feelings of living with gender dysphoria in a way that audiences young and old can empathize with. Simpson, also transgender, puts a great deal of heart into the artwork, and while the composition can occasionally feel flat, the emotions of the characters are beautifully portrayed through facial expressions; the final illustration and Easter egg in the backmatter tug the heartstrings. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved this one – it was a great way to celebrate the anniversary of the Stonewall uprisings and have our own conversation on gender identity. Overall, this is a great book to introduce the concept of being transgender, for kids who may be struggling with their own dysphoria and for allies who want to better understand their perspective. We highly recommend this one, 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.)

The Little Bear (Nicola Killen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little Bear by Nicola Killen, latest in the author-illustrator’s My Little Animal Friend series of charming, animal-themed adventures.

It’s the eve of the first day of school, and Ollie – known to fans of the series as an imaginative little girl who loves dressing up in animal costumes – is feeling a little nervous. After packing her backpack and practicing classroom behavior, she tries to drift to sleep, but is awoken by the call of an owl. Following the owl out into the woods, Ollie finds herself racing alongside more animals towards something – a little schoolhouse in the middle of the forest! There, she meets a little bear, a fellow student who is also feeling nervous about his first day. Ollie suggests that they stick together, and both students end up having a fun- and learning-filled evening of lessons.

Absolutely adorable. Fan of Killen’s series will be well-pleased with this entry, as it is filled with the wholesome energy, engaging text, and heartwarming illustrations of previous installments. Those new to Killen’s work will also find plenty to love, as the story explores a common kidlit theme – anxiety about starting school – in a cheerful, encouraging, and fresh way. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed this sweet tale, especially the subtle cutouts and shiny gold accents in the artwork. Overall, a great back-to-school tale for little readers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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