You Matter (Christian Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Matter by Christian Robinson, a book of self-esteem that reminds us of the preciousness of life.

As the book begins with a little girl peering at microorganisms through her microscope, the unadorned text lists a number of beings in our world; from the “small stuff too small to see”, to the “first to go and the last”, to the ones who “feel lost and alone”. For each of these descriptions, the text assures us: you matter. It doesn’t make a difference how small or seemingly unimportant, how different or unique, how old or how young, or our feelings of sadness, worthlessness, or pain. All life has value, each and every one of us upon this ball of blue floating through space.

Wonderful. Combining Robinson’s distinctive and always-charming art style with a message that is so desperately needed now and always, this simple message of self-respect and compassion towards others is another heartwarming title from the creator. The concept of each illustration being connected in some way to the ones preceding and following it are also a lovely touch, further impressing the importance of connection and empathy as well as giving the book a clever and often moving visual story all its own (I particularly liked the visual comparison of a colony of ants to a human city viewed from an airplane window). And in troubling times like this, the subtle inclusions of children of color, in hijab, and in wheelchairs is particularly important; these kids are often the ones who need this reminder most. The length is perfect for any storytime, and JJ loved the artwork. A beautiful story for a difficult time, 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.)

Another (Christian Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Another by Christian Robinson, a wordless picture book that embraces the strange in the search for adventure.

In the dark of night, a portal opens up into a little girl’s bedroom, and a small black cat – identical to her own but for a different-colored collar – pops in. When the feline swipes a toy, the girl and the cat decide to follow it into the portal, which opens into a crazy negative space with very few rules. Up is down, left is right, and the world is a strange and wonderful collection of more portals, more kids, and more doppelgängers. Adventuring through this topsy-turvy world, the girl finds her own double, who kindly returns the toy. Then girl and cat head home for a good night’s rest… or did they?

Delightfully bizarre. I love a picture book that challenges its young readers, and this one definitely inspires some creative thinking. Robinson does a great job of telling a purely visual story, playing with orientation and direction in a way that allows readers to physically become part of the story through turning the book and re-examining the art from another perspective. Even with such a strange premise, the bright colors and equally bright smile on the girl’s face clues the reader in that there’s no danger in the alternate dimension, even with a tantalizingly ambiguous ending. This one works well for all ages – younger kids will have fun with Robinson’s classic and colorful papercut-style-art, and older kids will enjoy the unique premise and the curiosity it inspires. The length is fine for everyone, and JJ loved it. A little dark, a little light, a little fun, and a little weird: a wonderfully entertaining combination. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Carmela Full Of Wishes (Matt de la Peña)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Carmela Full Of Wishes, written by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a subtle and moving story of a little girl’s birthday wish.

It’s Carmela’s birthday, which means she gets to go with her brother into town today. After a breakfast of pancakes adorned with birthday candles, the children set off, she following on her scooter as he goes about running errands. The unnamed brother, only older by a few years, is annoyed by his sister’s presence, often snippish as she plays or intentionally rattles her bracelets to annoy him. During the course of their day, Carmela finds a dandelion puff and is testily informed by her sibling that she must make a wish when she blows on it. Mystified by the concept, Carmela thinks of several wishes: a machine that dispenses treats, a soft bed for her mother like the ones she makes in the hotel all day, that her father’s papers will be fixed so he can finally come home. As she ponders over which one to choose, she trips and falls, destroying her “wish”. Her brother’s irritation falls away, and he set about lifting her spirits, showing her a place where wishes know no limits.

Touching and beautiful. A careful and delicate tale that follows a day-in-the-life narrative, its the perspective of the characters that is pitch perfect and unique. Carmela acts, thinks, and speaks as a 7-year-old would, and while larger themes such as immigration, Mexican culture, farm labor, and poverty are seen, to Carmela, they are not nearly as interesting as a dandelion puff or accompanying her brother into town – indeed, something she views as an adventure while he views it as a chore (laundry, quite literally). It’s authentically representative in a way that few books are, and encourage discussion yet maintain a childlike innocence that reminds the reader that children, no matter their circumstances or surroundings, are always still children. The art is lovely, especially the innocently heartbreaking wishes depicted on papel picado. The length is great, and JJ and I loved it. Baby Bookworm approved.

Top 5: Back To School


Hello, friends! As summer winds down and we start heading towards fall, we wanted to bring you a new Top 5 list! This month’s theme: Back To School! We’re taking a look at some of our favorite books about school and education. We’ve chosen books that recognize the trepidation that little bookworms may be feeling as the first day grows near and celebrate all there is to love about going to school: new friends, new experiences, and the power of education.

So please enjoy our Top 5 list, in no particular order, of our favorite Back To School books:

1. School’s First Day Of School (Adam Rex, illus. Christian Robinson)


One summer, a special building is built on an empty lot, and named Frederick Douglass Elementary. School thinks that’s a very nice name for himself, and he enjoys spending his days with Janitor, who comes to clean him. He tells Janitor as much, only to be surprised by his reply: soon, School will be filled with teachers and children who come to learn and play! How scary! Will they like School? Will they be nice to him? Will he make any friends like Janitor? The story follows School through his tumultuous first day and shows that even School gets first-day jitters.

“The illustrations are cute and colorful, and really bring School and his inhabitants to life, and the story is just great. It’s perfect for any child who might be feeling a bit unsure about heading to school.”

2. Dad’s First Day (Mike Wohnoutka)


After an entire summer of playing with his dad, Oliver is ready to for the next adventure: his first day of school. But the first day of school can be a nerve-wracking thing… for Oliver’s dad! His dad complains of tummy aches and foreboding feelings, but Oliver reassures him: school will probably be lots of fun! The day that Oliver goes, dad gets left behind, and begins to worry more than ever. But after seeing Oliver happy with his new friends, we realizes that it’s time to let his little buddy strike out on his own.

“It’s enjoyable how the story flips expectations and has the father as the one most nervous about Oliver’s first day – not only is this humorous for little readers, but it’s a clever and subtle way of showing that nervousness about school is natural, and even parents can feel it. It also opens up the possibility for a discussion of these feelings so that parents and kids can help each other settle their nerves.”

3. I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About A Simple Act Of Kindness (Kerascoët)


Vanessa, a new girl at school, is shy around her more boisterous classmates. When school ends, she walks home alone, where she is stopped by a bully who taunts her to the point of tears. Vanessa runs home crying, much to the dismay of another girl, who has watched the entire exchange. The girl worries over it all night, until she has an idea over breakfast. On her way to school, she stops by Vanessa’s house and offers to walk together. Vanessa accepts, and they chat as they go, until another friend joins them. Then another, then another, until a whole crowd of children is walking Vanessa to school, and she is protected from the chagrined bully. That day, Vanessa begins getting to know her new friends, finally feeling safe enough to come out of her shell.

“It speaks to the sheer perfection of Kerascoët’s art that words aren’t needed to tell a compelling, touching, and uplifting story; in the absence of text, the bully’s harsh words are still cutting and cruel, the downcast expressions of the two girls speaks volumes, and the reader can practically hear the chatter of friendly, supportive children during the final scenes. The simplicity of the story can speak to readers of any age: hatred and callousness always loses when good people come together to stand against it.”

4. Ruby’s Wish (Shirin Yim Bridges, illus. Sophie Blackall)


In a big house in China, a long time ago, there lived an enormous family. One of the grandchildren was Ruby, a little girl so called because she loved red and wore it every day. Ruby’s grandfather hired a teacher for the many grandchildren, and while it was unusual for the time, he allowed both the boys and the girls to attend lessons. Ruby loved school, and worked hard every day to master her subjects (harder even than the boys, because she had to spend her free time learning cooking and homemaking as well). One day, Ruby writes a poem for school  that expresses her sadness at being born a girl. Her grandfather is concerned: why does Ruby think that the boys of the home are treated better? Will Ruby have the courage to speak her mind, and tell her grandfather of the opportunities she longs for?

“This was a fantastic story, made all the more moving because it’s true. Ruby is a wonderful role model for little ones: she tells her grandfather of the special treatment the boys get, and expresses a desire to attend university. Moved by her passion, her grandfather secures her entrance to a school, both he and Ruby bucking the gender limitations of the time. It’s a triumphant ending, and teaches an important lesson: both men and women must fight for gender equality.”

5. Goodbye Brings Hello (Dianne White, illus. Daniel Wiseman)


Changes can be daunting, especially the big ones. But it’s important to remember that when we say goodbye to the old, we say hello to the new. You may be sad that you’ve outgrown your beloved old sweater, but it makes room in your closet for a fresh new winter coat. It may be hard to give away your old tricycle, but it means that you’re ready to take your big girl bike out for a ride. Haircuts, new shoes, flying in a plane from home to go visit grandparents – leaving the old might be scary, but it allows to new into our lives. And after all that changing and growing, you might just be ready for the next step, and the one after that, knowing that for each goodbye, there’s a chance to say hello.

“This is a great way of discussing change with kids, and encourages them to find what’s exciting about what that change may bring. The simple yet adorable illustrations give plenty of examples – culminating in the children’s first day of school – but the lesson and language is broad enough to help little ones through any sort of major or minor life changes they may be dealing with. A cheerful, diverse cast of kids are featured in the art, which keeps things minimal but still manages to express emotion and humor wonderfully. […] A dose of encouraging words for the unsure that can help during difficult transitions, and we loved it.”

That’s our list! Did we miss any of your favorites? Do you have a book you would like to recommend to us? Let us know in the comments, or message us from our Contact page. Thanks so much!

When’s My Birthday? (Julie Fogliano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When’s My Birthday?, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a fun and festive book about birthdays that asks the important questions.

When is my birthday? Where is my birthday? Is it in spring? In winter? I know there will be cake, and presents, and you can wear fancy clothes and costumes, and we’ll play games and have balloons. I’ll ask for a pony, or maybe a chicken, or maybe a bouncy ball. Oh! There will need to be candles on the cake! And chocolate! And how many days until my birthday, again?

This one was a lot of fun, and felt wonderfully fresh compared to other books about birthdays. Told in free verse, the text is simple, engaging, and fun to read, and celebrates all the best things about birthdays: food, fun, presents and friends. Robinson’s signature paper-and-paint art is as endlessly charming as always, the length is great, and JJ and I had a lot of fun with it. A delightfully contemporary book that can enjoyed year-round, but especially you-know-when. Baby Bookworm approved!