What Happens Next (Susan Hughes)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What Happens Next, written by Susan Hughes and illustrated by Carey Sookocheff, a thoughtful story on bullying.

The unnamed protagonist (also cleverly portrayed as genderless) lays things out in a matter-of-fact way: “Why I Don’t Want To Go To School Today: Bully B.” Bully B. is a mean girl who teases and intimidates the protagonist, seemingly daily. “What Her Friends Do: Laugh. What Everyone Else Does: Nothing.” Sad and isolated, the victim trudges through days, taking comfort only in their science books and dog, Sparky; answering their mother’s inquiries about their day with a mumbled “Fine.” At last, the protagonist confesses the bullying, and mom responds with empathy and comfort. She presents several solutions, including one that may take a bit of courage, and a lot of understanding…

Books about bullying are hard, because each bullying situation, each bully, and each victim is so different. But that’s precisely what sets this story apart: it attempts to create connection and empathy with all parties involved. It features a main character defined by their emotions rather than physical attributes, allowing readers to easily place themselves in the subject’s shoes. It lays out facts, feelings, and dialogue in the same no-frills tone, giving equal importance to all. I loved that the mother encouraged empathy with the bully to make sense of their actions, and offered to intervene but also gave the protagonist a chance to settle the conflict themselves. Even the art plays into these themes beautifully, portraying the main character as blue and the bully green, and the rest of the world as colorless and gray during the harassment, then shifting the vibrant colors when a tentative peace is reached. It’s a quiet, reflective take on bullying, and a good way to talk to young readers – both the bullied and the bullies themselves – about its impact. Baby Bookworm approved!

Milk Goes To School (Terry Border)

Hello, everyone! For our book today, we chose Milk Goes To School by Terry Border, a story about making friends and what can happen when we rush to judgement.

It’s Milk’s first day of school, and she’s nervous. Her dad gives her a new backpack and tells her that she is “la creme de la creme,” so she tries to be confident and face her fears head-on. But a series of misunderstandings and snap judgements turn a few of the kids against her, and some decide that she is “spoiled.” Will Milk be able to get through her first day, and prove that she is not spoiled, but sweet?

This book had some ups and downs, to be frank. On the positive, Border’s food model photography, which comprises the art of the book, is full of life and personality, and brings an incredible amount of character to what would otherwise be inanimate objects. And for the most part, the story is good; it deals with the fact that a simple misunderstanding over a word or action can lead us to assume too much about a person, and encourages the reader to look at others from their perspectives, which is novel for a book like this. The text is FILLED with food puns, so take that as you will, as I know puns can be a little divisive. The length was also a bit much for baby bookworms, but JJ made it through okay, and this books could conceivably be intended for older readers anyway. I guess what bothered me was the resolution, which seemed very swift, abrupt, and a bit too tidy, especially after Milk was bullied so mercilessly by some of the other characters. More realistic, perhaps, but with a book about talking food items, I guess realism wasn’t really what I was expecting. Still, this one had some nice elements, and JJ loved the photos, so this one is Baby Bookworm approved.

Wolfie The Bunny (Ame Dyckman)

Hello, everybody! Today, we read Wolfie The Bunny, written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora. This adorable book tells the story of a little bunny and her very unusual little brother.

One day, the Bunny family comes home to find a bundle on their doorstep: a baby wolf! Mama and Papa bunny are delighted, but Dot is aghast: “He’ll eat us all up!” she exclaims. Still Mama and Papa Bunny care for Wolfie, under the untrusting eye of Dot, until one day when the two are at the grocery store and a big bear comes and threatens Wolfie. Dot bravely stands up for her little brother, and realizes that she cares for him more than she first thought, and decides that maybe having a little wolf for a brother isn’t so bad.

This book was indescribably cute! The story is sweet, full of unique voices and lots of fun to read, and the lessons it imparts are great for young readers: don’t judge someone by their appearance, stand up to bullies, and give your new little sibling a chance because you might grow to love them. The illustrations are great, and the length is great for baby bookworms. We both really enjoyed this one! Baby Bookworm approved!

Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth (Jarvis)

Hello, everyone! Our book today is Alan’s Big, Scary Teeth by Jarvis, a story about bullies and the secrets they sometimes hide.

Alan is a fearsome, scary alligator with sharp and gleaming teeth. Everyday, he goes out into the jungle and snaps and growls at all the animals, terrifying them. But Alan has a secret, and when the animals find out about it, they laugh at him until he is in tears. That night, as they listen to his embarrassed weeping, the animals realize that big, scary Alan has feelings, too. So they animals strike up a deal: if Alan stops scaring the animals, they won’t tease him. The creatures all become good friends, and Alan only scares them with a friendly campfire story or two.

This was a really great book about bullying. The metaphor of bullies like Alan having a secret insecurity that makes them act scary is well-executed, and I love that the animals realized that by making fun of Alan’s secret, they become bullies themselves. It’s a great message wrapped in a cute, fun-to-read story and some exciting, colorful illustrations. The length was great for baby bookworms, and JJ really liked it! Baby Bookworm approved!