The Polar Bear in the Garden (Richard Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Polar Bear in the Garden by Richard Jones, a warm and comforting tale of loving and letting go.

One Monday, a child finds a polar bear in their garden. The creature is small enough to fit in the palm of their hand, and the child offers the tiny bear assistance, thinking that it must be lost. Each day, the bear grows a little bit larger, first fitting into a pocket, then a hat, and so forth. By Wednesday, the child decides that it’s time to take the little polar bear home, and sets sail on a ocean voyage to reunite the bear with its family. By the time they’ve reached the icy floes, where a family of polar bears welcome them, the polar bear has reached full size. But how can these friends, who have been through so much together, say goodbye?

Lovely. With gentle, soothing text and adorably tender illustrations, Jones weaves a story that is both bittersweet and uplifting, an delicate balance to achieve. While the reader will empathize with the necessity of the friends’ goodbye, the story’s main message is clear – that their time spent together was far more meaningful than their parting. For caregivers, this will especially tug at the heartstrings, and for kiddos facing tough goodbyes, it could be a wonderful source of comfort. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved it, especially the incredibly charming illustrations of the tiny polar bear. Overall, a cozy tale with an impactful lesson, 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.)

Stanley’s Secret (John Sullivan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stanley’s Secret, written by John Sullivan and illustrated by Zach Manbeck, a sweet story about sharing one’s talents with the world.

Stanley is a quiet kid. He tends to spend parties reading in the corner, he speaks softly during book reports, and doesn’t speak up when the lunch lady makes his sandwich with mayonnaise, even though he’d asked for no toppings. So when he engages in his greatest passion, tap dance, he definitely doesn’t like to have an audience, unless it’s his pet mice, Squeaker and Nibbles. But one day, while dancing in an empty room, he is spotted by the school principal, who raves over his talent. She convinces him to join the school talent show, but while Stanley dreams of performing in front of an audience, he is still so nervous! Can he overcome his stage fright in time?

Heartwarming. Shyness and/or stage fright is something that plenty of young kids deal with, and while no one should be forced into the limelight against their will, Sullivan wisely makes it clear that Stanley’s dream is to find the courage to perform publicly. From there, the books reads as a subtle guide to overcoming such fears: performing for gradually larger audiences, gaining confidence through practice, even closing one’s eyes to help feel centered and not overwhelmed. Paired with Manbeck’s brilliant use of color, shadow, and light to show Stanley’s growth and the sparkling impact of his talents, and this makes for a wonderfully encouraging story for kiddos hoping to overcome their own bashfulness. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. Absolutely worth a read, 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.)

A Flag for Juneteenth (Kim Taylor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Flag for Juneteenth by Kim Taylor, a stunning tale of emancipation and hope told through a unique medium.

The morning of June 19, 1865, young Huldah, an enslaved Texan, wakes up with anticipation; she is eager to have the teacakes her family made to celebrate her tenth birthday. However, their morning is shaken when a large group of soldiers rides into the plantation housing area, and a uniformed man jumps down to make a shocking decree: by order of the president, all slaves are free, and have been for two years. Huldah’s family and her neighbors burst into cheering, singing, crying, and prayers, and declare the day to be a jubilee. They get to work sewing freedom flags and carving flagpoles, all while Huldah observes. Her birthday has taken on new meaning, as it is now the birth of something else: her family’s freedom.

Powerful. The first thing that readers of this title will likely notice is the outstanding art style, in which the scenes are created through quilted collage, echoing the craftwork of the impromptu freedom flags. Taylor’s master craftwork is striking, managing to create atmosphere and emotion through her featureless characters. The story is likewise skillfully created, with immaculate pacing in particular; Taylor intersperses moments of quiet contemplation and explosive energy in a way that allows the reader to better connect to Huldah’s emotions. This is not a comprehensive overview of Juneteenth, but gives an intimate perspective from a child’s point of view that readers, especially young ones, will undoubtedly connect with. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. Absolutely worth the read, 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.)

Kobe Eats Pizza! (Ashley Wian)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kobe Eats Pizza!, written by Ashley Wian with Cate Berry and illustrated by Joy Ang, a sweet story that shows one is never too young to develop their culinary skills.

Based on the popular social media star of Kobe Eats, the reader meets young Chef Kobe, a toddler who has taken early command of the family kitchen. He has a staff consisting of two dogs and a parent helper, and he cooks all by himself… mostly. With assistance from mom, Kobe prepares some dough, spreads some sauce, and assembles a pizza, with lots of fun along the way. The result is delicious, but one final touch is needed – after all, good food is best when it’s shared with family.

Simple yet charming. Having a little chef of our own, we know the fun that can be had when kids are allowed to help in the kitchen, and Kobe’s story is a sweet, if not particularly innovative, celebration of culinarily-inclined kiddos. Wian’s simple text is great for reading aloud or early readers, and Ang’s wonderfully warm illustrations bring loads of personality to Kobe, his family, and his pet dogs (plus, she makes the food look scrumptious). Especially nice to see is body modification representation; both of Kobe’s parents are heavily tattooed, something that adults are rarely depicted as being in picture books (unless they’re bad guys), and it will surely make inked caregivers feel seen. Otherwise, the length is great for a storytime, and Chef JJ really enjoyed it. A thoroughly enjoyable culinary tale, and we 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.)

Will it Be Okay? (Crescent Dragonwagon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Will it Be Okay?, written by Crescent Dragonwagon and illustrated by Jessica Love, a beautiful ode to optimism, perseverance, and the reassurance of love.

Originally published in 1977 (when it was illustrated by Ben Shecter), the dialogical text follows a conversation between a child and parent. As the child thinks up worrisome scenarios from the mild (“what if there is snow?”) to the serious (“what if you die?”), the parent calmly talks them through what would happen next. To face the snow, for instance, the child would dress for the weather. To face her parent’s death, they would remember that a person’s love doesn’t die with them. With each response, the parent encourages the child to be resilient and positive when facing challenges, assuring them that even in times of darkness, it will be okay.

Heartwarming. Dragonwagon’s dialogue reads with the language and cadence of a poem, and is timeless in its affection and comfort for worried minds. Paired with Love’s gorgeous illustrations, which use fantastic character design, sharp lines, and a muted color palette to bring energy and emotion to each scene, the effect is a story that is as much about the love between caregivers and children as it is about finding courage in adversity. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed pondering each of the child’s questions for herself – yes, even the death one. She’s recently been curious about loss and it was helpful to read Dragonwagon’s words on how we keep the love of the ones that we lose. Overall, a timeless story with a wonderfully fresh look, and we highly recommend 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.)