Mary Had a Little Plan (Tammi Sauer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mary Had a Little Plan, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, a lovely tale of determination and community.

Fashionable Mary, first introduced in the title Mary Had a Little Glam, is passing by a vacant lot with her parent one day when she is struck with inspiration. She knows that giving the trashed and overgrown lot a makeover will be a major undertaking, however, so she sets about making a plan to succeed. She reaches out to community businesses to donate materials and works her fingers to the bone, but she is left exhausted with plenty more to do! Should she give up? Or can more help be found in the hands of neighbors and friends who may be eager to join her cause?

Energetic and energizing! Brantley-Newton’s cheerful illustrations combine with Sauer’s impeccable rhyme scheme (seriously, she manages to flawlessly incorporate a five-syllable word in one line) to create a tale of a community project, teamwork, and perseverance. So many things are done right here, like “glam” Mary not shying away from the physical work needed to make her goal a reality, the diverse and inclusive cast, the fun nods to familiar nursery rhymes, and the perfect balance of a story that does not require readers to have read the previous book, but adds in fun details for fans who are returning for the sequel. It’s the perfect length for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. Overall, this is a light but extremely well-constructed title that is absolutely worth the read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Mouse Calls (Anne Marie Pace)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mouse Calls, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Erin Kraan, a lovely mashup of wordplay and community support.

After a spotting a mighty storm over the sea with her spyglass, Mouse rushes off to inform the animal citizens of her coastal community. Mouse calls Moose, who calls Goose, who calls Dog and Hog and Hare. This haphazard game of telephone continues as the message of the storm spreads through the grapevine, and the artwork periodically checks in on the creatures as they gather in a cave for shelter. At last, when every last animal has found their way to safety, the friends band together to thank Mouse for her courage and consideration.

Heartwarming fun. The bouncy, rhythmic text is based entirely on fun wordplay surrounding the names of animal species, pairing unexpected characters like Loon and Raccoon, or Kangaroo and Caribou, and it’s a delight to read aloud. It pairs well with Kraan’s charmingly quirky illustrations, which fill each character with personality by way of their wardrobe or hobbies. The repeating visual of the cave filling up with the neighbor animals is wonderful, and it’s fun to pick out all the animals the reader has met so far and see how they are interacting. Furthermore, the ending ties together on a nice message of community banding together in times of trouble and taking care of one another. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this one. A delightful must-read that bookworms of any age can enjoy, abd 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.)

Goldy (Kate Ellie Fitzgerald)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Goldy, written by Kate Ellie Fitzgerald and illustrated by Melissa Filepe, a look at community coming together to help one of their own.

On his daily bike commute from school, Jack Gum notices that his favorite tree – a giant deciduous named for her lovely yellow-green leaves – has been chipped down, leaving only a stump behind. Jack wonders how to help Goldy, and gathers a crew of woodland friends to help him. The group collect tokens of their own bonds with Goldy, then perform a dance to celebrate the great tree, leaving their gifts near her roots. And while it may take time, their act of kindness and community should bring their old friend back to glory.

Warm and earnest, if slightly uneven. Fitzgerald’s story is a fairly classic one – child and animal friends band together to help another. In this theme, the story is effective, especially in noting that recovery for trees, just as it does for people, takes time. Where the book suffers are some artistic decisions made by freshman author Fitzgerald, be it the repetitive nature of friend-gathering sequence or the under-explained mythology of the pagan-like “token celebration.” Filepe’s illustrations have a distinct style, but the somewhat flat aspect that plague many indie books. In addition, many spreads are oddly condensed or low-resolution. The length is fine for a storytime, but the uneven pacing makes for an odd read; JJ’s attention wavered pretty early on. Still, there’s a lot of heart in this one, it just stumbles during the execution, and is worth a read. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author 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.)

Perfectly Pegasus (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima, a wonderfully heartwarming follow-up to the much-beloved Not Quite Narwhal.

Nimbus, born high in the sky amongst fluffy clouds and colorful rainbows, is undeniably one-of-a-kind. Being so singular means that she has the entire sky to herself, and can use her powerful wings to soar and play. However, it can also get pretty lonely, and Nimbus often finds herself tracing the stars and dreaming of having other pegasi to keep her company. One night, spying the perfect wishing star falling to the land, Nimbus decides to venture out of her solitary sky and search for the celestial object, hoping to make her wish for companionship. Along the way, she’ll meet some new friends – and one familiar face – that will show her that her wish may have already come true…

Marvelous. While the brilliant Not Quite Narwhal dealt with the concept of feeling pulled between two communities based on one’s identities, Perfectly Pegasus deftly explores another aspect of “found families”: being in a place where one’s identity is entirely unique, and finding connection in communities that are unrelated to that identity. At the end of the day, Nimbus is truly unique (no other pegasi make an appearance), yet she finds acceptance and companionship within the narwhal-and-unicorn community that sprang up around adopted unicorn protagonist Kelp from the previous book. It’s a lovely lesson in finding family in those who love and support you, even if they are not EXACTLY like you, and it’s expressed perfectly in Sima’s entertaining, heartfelt text and delightfully sweet artwork. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this – I can honestly say that I was filled with glee when Kelp and his blended family made their return halfway through the book. Overall, a lovely story about identity and community, 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.)