Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Jeff Östberg, an empowering collection of three brief picture books on facing one’s fears.

Told in short rhyming couplets and atmospheric full-bleed illustrations, readers follow three young protagonists as they are each faced with a common childhood fear: a thunderstorm, the first day of school, and a doctor’s appointment. Each child is shown working through their fear in a unique way, be it choosing to manage their fear in order to comfort a younger sibling, connecting with a new friend who shares their fear and braving it together, or even having a good freakout and cry before finding the strength to weather the scary situation. But the end, all three learn that their bravery doesn’t stem from fearlessness, but from finding courage in the face of their fears instead.

Fantastic. Clark’s simple, gentle poetry and Östberg’s rich and stunning artwork combine to create a sensitive and empowering volume for young readers. Critically, each story emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with feeling afraid, or even letting fear show; the third, centered around a child who fears receiving a shot at the doctor’s office (a common fear, especially with flu and COVID vaccine season upon us), even notes that his crying and panicking were not marks of failure, but of the fact that he was brave enough to try something so scary in the first place (after centering himself with calming thoughts on the advice of the nurse, he finds the needle wasn’t so scary after all). Östberg’s artwork, with its rich, warm color palette and dynamic use of light and shadow, create a impressive balance that validates the children’s fears while still offering a sense comfort; it’s striking, and fits the theme to perfection. Despite being three books in one, this is not a lengthy read, and can be covered entirely in a short storytime. Lastly, JJ loved it, in particular the gorgeous art and simple-to-read couplets. This is a truly great title for any library, and a wonderful read to encourage that fear is not failure, but an opportunity to be strong. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rot: The Bravest In The World (Ben Clanton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rot: The Bravest In The World by Ben Clanton, a surprisingly sweet tale of courage.

Rot, like all “mutant potatoes”, loves mud. He loves to eat it, wear it, and especially squish around in it. Seeing a marvelously murky mud puddle, Rot excitedly approaches – until his brother Snot stops him with a spooky (and fabricated) tale of the fearsome Squirm, a creature that dwells within the puddle. The Squirm is vicious and sinister and, naturally, just lives for eating up unsuspecting mutant potatoes. Torn between his desire to enjoy the pristinely mucky puddle and his newfound fear of the Squirm, Rot tries his best to steel himself by imagining that he is a series of brave and noble heroes. Yet in the end, he will have to find the courage within himself to face his fears.

Delightful! A sequel to Rot’s previous adventure (Rot: The Cutest In The World, which we have not yet read), this offbeat offering and its decidedly unique protagonist come with a great deal of earnestness and heart. Rot eventually finds that the Squirm is a fabrication, yet the mud puddle does indeed contain a new friend to play with (and, hilariously, allows him to turn the tables on Snot in a prank that is harmless, and even well-received). His series of imaginary heroes are especially charming, while also providing young readers with a useful coping strategy for when they must deal with their own fears. The artwork is a perfect balance of being gross enough to amuse kiddos without being truly disgusting, and offers a number of fun visual gags and fantastic, dynamic typeset to give the text punch. The length was great, and JJ really enjoyed it. Overall, we enjoyed this one so much, and would recommend it to any reader; it’s great fun, and it may even help them find the hero within. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bo The Brave (Bethan Woollvin)


Hello, friends! Our book today is Bo The Brave by Bethan Woollvin, a lovely tale of a courageous young monster-hunter.

Young Bo lives in a castle, in a land of mountains and forests. Her older brothers, Ivar and Erik, are bold monster hunters, and Bo longs to be one too. Yet when she asks to accompany her brothers on their latest hunt, they laugh at and tease her. Determined, Bo decides to set off and catch a monster of her own – yet after a few chance encounters with friendly griffins, helpful krakens, and weepy dragons, Bo begins to question the monster-hunting lifestyle… and who the real monsters are.

Wonderful. Well-realized themes of tolerance, understanding, and compassion are explored in a story that stars a heroine for all little girls (and boys). Bo is indeed brave, but also clever, kind, inquisitive, and resolute. Upon realizing that the so-called “monsters” are only sweet beasts going about their lives, and that the true monsters are her baby dragon-kidnapping brothers, Bo fearlessly faces down her siblings and subdues the frightened, fiery tot. She then dedicates her time to learning about the beasts, rather than hunting them. It’s a wonderful message of judging by character rather than appearance, and thinking critically. The Scandinavian-style illustrations have a limited yet expressive palette, and feature some wonderfully designed characters, settings and creatures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved Bo and her monster friends. This is a wonderful story that explores what it truly means to be brave, and we enjoyed it immensely. 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 Littlest Dragon (Jessica Minyard)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Littlest Dragon by Jessica Minyard, a delightful indie tale of finding one’s courage.

In a distant sea, on the Island of Bones, there lives a tiny dragon named Bimnid. And on an island of great dragons, Bimnid can’t help but feel unimportant. He’s not the biggest, or the most beautiful, or the strongest. He doesn’t have the loudest roar, nor can he breathe plumes of smoke and flame. In fact, Bimnid doesn’t seem to be the “-est” anything… except the small-est. That is, until a ship full of fearsome dragon hunters is spotted on the horizon, and the dragons are thrown into a tizzy about what to do. Will Bimnid hide like the other dragons want to? Or will he find that he is the very best at something after all?

Very sweet. The structure of the story is fairly familiar: a previously unassuming character finds their courage in a moment of truth – Bimnid takes the initiative to march down to the dragon hunters and tell them off; they, not speaking dragon language and never having seen a dragon before, take in his comparatively towering size, growls, and hisses, and make a quick getaway. It’s a nice moment that proves one does not have to be the biggest, strongest, or loudest to be the bravest. The sentence structure in the text and the illustrations are slightly more uneven, though the incredibly creative character design of the different dragons is worthy of applause. The length is fine, and JJ liked this one a lot. A bit rough around the edges, but this dragon tale is definitely worth a look – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Jason Rekulak)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Buffy The Vampire Slayer, based on the series created by Joss Whedon, written by Jason Rekulak, and illustrated by Kim Smith.

Buffy is a slayer – a brave and tough defender against the forces of darkness. But she recalls a time when even she felt afraid. When she was only eight, she was terrified of her closet: creaking and bumping noises would sound from behind the door nightly. Buffy’s friends, Xander and Willow, offer to help her face her fear with a sleepover. Yet despite their fun, none of them can bring themselves to open the spooky door. The kids then turn to their school librarian, Giles, who explains that Buffy will be a great warrior someday, but that she already has greatness within her. He recommends that she find her courage and face her fears – it may even make the monsters think twice about messing with her. Buffy, Xander, and Willow have another sleepover, and when the creepy noises begin again, Buffy steels herself. Will she have the courage to open the door and face what’s inside?

A delightfully nerdy ode to the original show in kid-friendly form. While this tale is by no means canon – fans of the show will know that the Scoobies didn’t meet until high school – this classic tale of facing one’s fears is given a delightfully subversive (and very Buffy-style) twist. Buffy and company find that there’s nothing to be scared of; oh, there’s monsters a-plenty (in a wonderfully fan-service spread featuring some of the show’s favorite villains), but they aren’t as scary as they seem. And while some diehard Whedonites may balk at monsters like The Gentlemen or Sweet happily playing with the kids at the end, everyone will have a laugh at Buffy’s mom Joyce’s reaction to a bedroom full of partying demons. The length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the fantastic cartoon-style illustrations. A fun adventure for little bookworms, and a delightful trip down memory lane for adult fans – Baby Bookworm approved!