Piper and Purpa Forever! (Susan Lendroth)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Piper and Purpa Forever!, written by Susan Lendroth and illustrated by Olivia Feng, a sweet story of growing up and coping with change.

From the moment Piper saw the knit purple sweater in the box of hand-me-downs, she fell in love – before she could even pronounce the word “purple”. Her exclamation – “PURPA!” – became the nickname of her beloved sweater. When she first wore it, it came down past her knees, but she didn’t care. It was an outfit, a cape, a Halloween costume (three years in a row), and a cozy, familiar friend. So when Piper’s family, and eventually Piper herself, realize that she is rapidly outgrowing Purpa, what can be done?

Like a favorite sweater, soft and comforting. I’m a big fan of when children’s books give actionable solutions while connecting with common struggles and imparting life lessons, and Lendroth’s simple yet sweet story does both beautifully. Readers are not only given a subtle yet universal lesson on growing up – that it’s unavoidable but part of life, and we can still carry our childhood memories with us – to child readers, while also giving a very specific and helpful idea to adult readers on how to preserve a child’s favorite outfit once it’s been outgrown. Feng’s colorful digital illustrations have warmth and childlike energy, yet minimal diversity; a few of Piper’s classmates in the final spread have features that suggest they are POC, but every other character presents white. Otherwise, the length was great for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed Piper and Purpa’s tale. This was a fun and heartwarming read, and we can definitely recommend it, especially for readers going through similar challenges as they get bigger. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Jacob’s New Dress (Sarah & Ian Hoffman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jacob’s New Dress, written by Sarah and Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case, the story of a boy and his parents making an important wardrobe decision.

When it’s dress-up time at Jacob’s school, he and his friend Emily always go straight for the dresses. His classmate Christopher is irritated, and demands to know why Jacob won’t wear any of the “boy costumes”. Later, Jacob tells his mother what happened and she is sympathetic, assuring him that boys ARE allowed to wear dresses. She happily helps him put on his Halloween dress, but when Jacob asks to wear it to school, she hesitates – dresses have been an at-home activity so far. But Jacob is determined, and he uses a towel to create a “dress-thing” to wear. His parents reluctantly allow it, and Jacob is delighted to show off his creation… until Christopher steals the outfit and mocks it. Jacob heads home crying, and asks his mother once more for a real dress; this time, she agrees. She and Jacob make a dress together, and while Jacob’s dad is concerned, he supports his son’s garment. And when Christopher inevitably teases him again, Jacob decides to ignore the bully’s taunts – his dress is his armor and his wings, and he’s happy to finally be comfortable in his own clothes.

Wonderful. Young bookworms are given a lesson in why little boys may like to wear “feminine” clothes, and that this is both allowed and okay; the given explanations of comfort and ever-changing attitudes towards clothing and gender are good starting points. Adult readers will identify with Jacob’s parents, who want their son to have the freedom to express himself but also worry about how the world will treat him – it’s beautifully nuanced and really hits home. The sunny illustrations keep things mostly light, and the length is just fine. JJ and I both enjoyed it – a wonderful lesson for both kids and parents about gender nonconformity, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!