Listen Up, Louella (Ashley Belote)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Listen Up, Louella by Ashley Belote, a story about communication and cooperation.

Louella the elephant is SO excited for Roar Scout Camp! She’s ready and raring to paint pictures, make music, play games, go canoeing, and much more with her Roar Scout friends. However, in her exuberance, Louella doesn’t notice that she’s made a habit of taking over every activity and ruining the fun for the others. Worse, when her friends try to speak up about it, she simply will not listen! Louella’s behavior is making camp a lot less fun for all her pals… but as it happens, it may also result in Louella missing out on future fun as well. Can Louella learn to calm down, listen up, and cooperate?

A simple story with a welcome lesson. We all know the little ones with the BIG personalities, who may inadvertently steal the thunder of quieter or smaller companions. Using a compassionate narrative and colorful art, Belote tells a story here that communicates the importance of listening and showing consideration while making Louella’s “big personality” sympathetic. In this way, it speaks to both of those types of kids, and encourages understanding all around. A combination of speech bubbles and narrative text means the layout of some pages can get a little confusing, especially when reading aloud, but the artwork is endearing and fun, and length is perfect for storytime, and JJ and I both really liked this (especially since JJ has often been on both sides of this particular communication divide). Overall, a really pleasing title that tackles a common social problem for kiddos, 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.)

Pigeon & Cat (Edward Hemingway)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway, a heartwarming tale of emotional connection.

Cat lives alone in an empty lot in the big city, inside a cardboard box. He has a few essentials, and regularly scavenges for food in the trash bins when he’s hungry. He keeps one eye open when he sleeps, so that he can keep other strays from nosing around his empty lot. It isn’t much, but it’s Cat’s home, and he is fairly content with it. Until the day he finds an unbroken egg in a downed bird’s nest, out from which pecks a baby pigeon. Cat is immediately taken with the tiny bird, and expands his small existence to care for her. In turn, Pigeon cares for him by bringing treasures from around the city every day once she is strong enough to fly. That is, until the day that Pigeon fails to make it home before dark. Dreadfully worried, Cat doesn’t hesitate to leave the lot he’s always known to search for his missing friend… but will he find her in a city so big, and filled with so many strangers?

Touching. Hemingway uses approachable text, evocative art, and a unique gimmick (Pigeon speaks only in emoji “tweets”, something that young readers will undoubtably enjoy) to tackle a surprisingly layered story on emotional connection. Using the classic framework of a character separation narrative, Hemingway tackles surface themes of opening oneself up to others and making connections across languages and other barriers. Yet dig a little deeper, and more complex themes also come into play, including homelessness, poverty, community support, and even art as communication and therapy. It’s deft, engaging, and honestly quite beautiful. Hemingway populates his world with charming animal characters, and while the realities of being unhoused are certainly sanitized here, what’s striking is that the “strays” are never portrayed as pitiable or “less than” for their situation; they are, in fact, humanized (for lack of a better term), something rarely done in portrayals of the homeless in media. Otherwise, the length was great, and JJ and both really enjoyed this story of kindness and friendship. A sweet and affecting tale, and we loved 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.)

Almost Always Best, Best Friends (Apryl Stott)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Almost Always Best, Best Friends by Apryl Stott, a sweet tale of friendship and communication.

Poppy the tiger and Clementine the llama (alpaca? sheep? adorable and fluffy regardless) are best, best friends. They love to spend the day together – playing, doing experiments, baking, and working on their bookmark-crafting business. One afternoon, Clementine is playing at the house of a new friend, Georgia, and Poppy is nervous that Clem will like Georgia better. When Clementine returns singing the praises of Georgia, Poppy feels betrayed and insecure, and lashes out. Can Poppy and Clementine repair their relationship, or is this the end of the best, best friends?

Heartwarming. Little bookworms’ friendships can often be plagued by jealousy, especially when a new figure upsets the status quo of an established friendship. In addition to exploring the idea that friendship is not a finite resource, and that best friends can come in threes just as well as twos, Stott also nicely works in a lesson on communicating feelings and the use of “I” statements (“I feel… when… because… What I need is…”). An extremely effective approach to conflict resolution, Stott introduces it in simple terms and shows how helpful it can be when trying to work out disagreements. Beyond that, the lovely watercolor and digital art is bursting with life and character (and flowers!), the length is great for an elementary storytime, and JJ enjoyed it. This is a gentle yet functional look at friendship dynamics for little ones, and we liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

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