Remarkables (Lisa Mantchev)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Remarkables, written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by David Litchfield, a magical tale of the families we make.

Going for a dive in the sea, a child happens upon a mermaid. The two become fast friends, sharing laughs and stories, and the mermaid shows the child the underwater kingdom that was once her home, now wrecked and abandoned. The child sees that the mermaid is alone, and invites her to come live with his immediate family, and their extended “family”: a traveling circus. The circus folk and mermaid are shy around each other at first, but quickly grow friendly, and then eventually as close as family. The mermaid makes her debut as an attraction at the circus, amazing crowds and finding joy in entertaining. But still, looking out from her tank, she misses the sea… and once more, sensing her sadness, her young friend and new family helps her to feeling complete.

Charming. To get it out of the way, this is certainly a glamorized version of circus life: the performers appear to have an egalitarian way of life, where the circus folk are treated with respect and reverence by each other and their audiences, and even the animals roam about freely and comfortably. It’s idealized, yet with purpose: the mermaid, left orphaned and alone by seeming tragedy, finds a place within the group of “others”, which include families of diverse skintones and physicalities, a tattooed couple, a pair of clowns, and even the sly inclusion of a mixed-race gay couple. It’s a deeply sweet metaphor for found family, even if a slightly unrealistic one (however, this is a story about a MERMAID, so some creative license seems fair). The rich, gorgeous illustrations and sparse text work together nicely to form an uplifting narrative, and the length is great for a quick read or even a longer perusal of the art. JJ really liked this, and so did I. A fantasy with a message of love, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: This review was featured on Twinkl in their article “Fantasy Books for Kids,” which can be read here.)

Olivia Saves The Circus (Ian Falconer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Olivia Saves The Circus by Ian Falconer, the second book in the delightful Olivia series.

In the morning, Olivia wakes up and makes breakfast for her new little brother, William, and her old little brother, Ian. This is a big help to her mother, and she only dirties ALMOST every pot and pan in the kitchen to do it (leaving them piled up in the sink for Mommy, of course). Then Olivia gets dressed for school; she must wear a boring uniform, but she can always accessorize… with every accessory she owns. At school, it’s presentation day, and Olivia is excited – she is at her best with an audience. She tells them the absolutely 100% true story of the time her mommy took her and Ian to the circus, but all the performers were sick, so Olivia performed every single act (perfectly, of course – she’s an expert at practically everything). Her teacher expresses his stern disbelief in the accuracy of Olivia’s story, but Olivia is unperturbed; that’s how it happened, to the best of her recollection anyway.

As with the first Olivia book, this one is just pure fun. Between the dry, deadpan narration and the hilarious dialogue, Falconer perfectly captures the mind of an imaginative and precocious little girl, and with a huge personality and a flair for the dramatic, Olivia jumps off every page. The art is lovely as always, using the Falconer’s signature spare palette of white, black, gray, and red to create grand and sensational environments. The length is perfect for little readers, and JJ always loves an Olivia story. An entertaining jaunt through the imagination of a clever little pig, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!