Roly Poly (Mem Fox & Jane Dyer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Roly Poly by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer, a sweet and wintery tale of brotherhood.

Roly Poly lives alone with his mother and father, and that’s just fine with him. He has his room and his bed all to himself, he gets to eat the fish he catches without having to share, and when he plays with his favorite walrus tooth, nobody bothers him. That is, until he wakes one morning to find someone else sleeping in his bed: Monty, his new brother. And now, everywhere that Roly goes, Monty tails behind. The newcomer is always climbing all over him, trying to play, and trying to touch his fish and favorite walrus tooth! So when Monty accidentally gets stuck on an ice floe – one that is slowly drifting out to sea – Roly Poly initially says good riddance. But when Roly hears his little brother’s pleas for help, he finds he can’t abandon Monty in his hour of need.

Sweet. This tale of new siblinghood hits some of the classic beats one might expect, and the resolution is heartwarming with a touch of realism; Roly Poly accepts and loves his brother, even though he still finds him annoying sometimes. Yet Fox and Dyer – veteran kidlit creators – know exactly how to make a simple concept sparkle. The guileless, matter-of-fact tone of the text perfectly captures the inner dialogue of a little one, and the incredible needle-felted characters against miniature backgrounds create visuals that are simple, accessible, and full of heart. JJ was particularly drawn to this one, with the earnest characters who behaved like believable children (despite being polar bears), and the cuddly-cute artwork. The length was great for a storytime, too. This one would be a great gift for any big siblings who may be dealing with their own little brother or sister woes; a reminder that irritation is temporary, and family love is far stronger. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rocco The Buffalo And The Lost Toothbrush (Liz Somerville)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rocco The Buffalo And The Lost Toothbrush, written by Liz Somerville and illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka, the story of a young buffalo and a morning search, plus a few other lessons he learns along the way.

After breakfast, Rocco’s morning routine includes brushing his teeth. He heads to the bathroom and finds his toothpaste, but oh no! His toothbrush has gone missing. With help and guidance from his mother, Rocco sets out to find the toothbrush. First, he uses his memory to try and remember where he had it last. Then, he believes he remembers his baby brother taking it, and momentarily loses his temper. Mama Buffalo encourages him to calm down, however, and eventually Rocco finds his toothbrush in his room, then helps teach his brother how to brush his own teeth as well.

To be honest, this one has a lot of issues. The story is a bit unfocused and often without clear direction; it ends up taking on too many themes and then rushing through them without fully exploring any. The rhyming text is also a bit of an issue here, as the meter lacks consistency and the rhymes often feel clunky and forced. The illustrations have ambitious character design, but have a glassy, dull overall look that some digital art tends to suffer from. The length isn’t objectionable, but JJ lost interest pretty quickly, as did I. The creators were clearly trying for something here – a unique look, a layered story – and the intention is commendable, but it ultimately fell short for us.

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