Into the Sand Castle: A Lift-the-Flap Book (Cindy Jin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Into the Sand Castle: A Lift-the-Flap Book, written by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Allison Black, an interactive board book that explores an undersea palace and its surprising inhabitants.

In a sea floor sand castle, complete with towering turrets and plenty of doors to explore, there lives a number of oceanic residents. From a friendly shark to grumpy king crab to an artistic octopus, little bookworms can have fun meeting some entertaining critters… and maybe even a magical surprise guest!

Underwater fun. Utilizing a creative cutout design and some absolutely adorable illustrations by Black, this board book takes a pretty basic premise and adds some colorful and engaging flair. The rhyming text is pretty simple to read, and even if the meter is a little inconsistent, the guessing game of who hides behind the lift-a-flap doors – and which door they’re hiding behind, as each spread features 2-3 flaps – is genuinely fun. Plus, I loved that the shark was characterized as “friendly” – anyone who knows about sharks know that they are usually painted as villains, which is pretty unfair for such an at-risk family of species. The length is perfect for the youngest of bookworms, and JJ really enjoyed the bright, colorful artwork and the multitude of interactive elements. Overall, this could be a fun one to kick off the summer, and we liked 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.)

The Vanishing Lake (Paddy Donnelly)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly, an enchanting fable that celebrates imagination, curiosity, and everyday magic.

Meara loves to visit her Granddad and his pet otter, Cara, at his home of the shores of beautiful lake called Loughareema. With cool water to swim in, scattered rocks to jump across, and small islands to explore, Loughareema is a pretty normal lake… most of the time. But sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all, the lake will just up and disappear! Very suddenly, all the water will be gone until it rains again. Meara’s granddad has plenty of ridiculous explanations for this mysterious phenomenon, but Meara knows that there must be an answer in science. She begins to study and gather evidence of where the vanishing lake might be disappearing to, but with no answers and no leads. At last, Granddad offers to show Meara the truth about their disappearing lake… and it’s an explanation that no one expects!

Wonderful! I absolutely love a good plot twist in a children’s book, and this is one of the coolest – and most moving – I’ve ever seen. Loughareema, based on the actual vanishing lake near the author’s childhood home in Northern Ireland, actually does have a fascinating scientific explanation for its periodic disappearances, and one that Donnelly wisely adds in a very informative author’s note. But for the purposes of the story, it’s the magic of the mystery that is more important than solving it, and Paddy nicely balances fact and fantasy to sell the message that both scientific curiosity and imagination have value, especially for children. This is supported beautifully by the lush and atmospheric illustrations that pulls readers into the world of Meara’s lake, creating both a natural and somewhat mystical environment. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed the surprise twist, and loved that Granddad’s otter shared a name with her mom (lol). Overall, this was a wonderful read with a lot of style and a sweet message, 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.)

Home is Where the Birds Sing (Cynthia Rylant)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Home is Where the Birds Sing, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Katie Harnett, a sweet meditation on home and family.

What does “home” mean? Well, “home is where you come in from the rain.” It’s a place for food and fun, of security and acceptance. It’s where you are treated with kindness and respect, and where the surroundings reflect yourself and the things you love. It’s where stories are told and made, and where you are always welcome. It is where you hear birdsong, not only with your ears, but with your heart.

Gentle, loving, and sweet. Rylant’s skill with prose is on display here, as she captures impactful moments big and small in short yet flowing and soothing lines of text that are a pleasure to read. It’s a rhythm that pairs well with Harnett’s warm, cozy paint-and-pencil illustrations, which similarly swirl the large and colorful with the small and meaningful to create scenes of love and family. In addition to a lovely visual theme of birds throughout, Harnett also offers a wonderfully diverse representation of families, from race to composition to ability to socioeconomic status. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the artwork and comforting themes of family and unconditional love. Overall, this one is an absolute treat, and well worth the read – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Common Backyard Birds (Doris Dumrauf)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Common Backyard Birds by Doris Dumrauf, a kid-friendly guidebook to some of the most common North American birds.

Everyone loves looking at the birds in their neighborhood, but not everyone knows how to identify our little feathered friends. Featuring original nature photography the the author and first-person introductions from the birds themselves, Dumrauf introduces little bookworms to twenty of the most-spotted North American species, from the American Robin to the Carolina Chickadee to the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Young birdwatchers can learn about what each species eats, see their specialized features, and get an idea of their personalities and preferences.

Very cool! This indie title is a surprisingly robust look at common “backyard” birds, as well as tips for attracting those species to one’s own yard. The book is not particularly eye-catching design-wise; while Dumrauf is a skilled nature photographer, young readers will likely not be engaged by the bland monochrome backgrounds and large blocks of text. The text itself, however, is very entertaining, as Dumrauf manages to imbue personality into each species of bird while imparting interesting factoids in an entertaining and approachable way. I do wish that more urban species had been featured – such as house sparrows or rock pigeons – which might draw in kiddos who live outside of suburban and rural areas with more immediately recognizable species. Otherwise, the length was best for older elementary students, and JJ really enjoyed looking at the pictures and learning about the birds (perfect timing for us – she just got her own bird-feeder). Overall, this one is a fantastic way to introduce the world of aves to burgeoning birdwatchers, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Henry’s Lollipops (Robert Quackenbush)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Henry’s Lollipops by Robert Quackenbush, a silly fable of a sickly duck and his unusual remedies.

In this reprint of Quackenbush’s 1975 title Too Many Lollipops, readers are quickly introduced to Henry Duck, who is having a rough week. On Sunday, he wakes up with a terrible headache, and contacts his doctor for advice. The doctor tells him to wear a woolen bonnet, to rest, and to eat lots of lollipops. As the week continues, Henry’s luck gets worse and worse, developing a sore throat, smashing a wingtip, and crushing his foot, among other injuries. Each time, the doctor recommends a wooly accessory, more rest, and more lollipops, much to the surprise of Henry’s curious woodland neighbors. At last, after a week of the worst medical advice imaginable, will Henry have any improvement to show for his convalescence… or will he just have a tummyache?

Pure silliness. Readers looking for intricate subtext or a deep message will not find it in this title from the Henry Duck series; this is simply a ridiculous tale of poor medical advice and the perils of too much sugar. However, for those looking for a purely entertaining read, this may fit the bill. We really enjoyed the goofiness of the plot, especially the repetition of call-and-response text that allowed for an interactive “conversation” between adult and child readers. The art definitely shows its era, but has aged relatively well, with over-saturated colors adding to the chaos of action scenes. The length is fine for a storytime, and we really enjoyed reading this one together. Overall, this was a fun, light read, and worth checking out – Baby Bookworm approved!

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