The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup (Hunter Liguore)

Hello, friends! Surprise! Since we missed two of our reviews this week, we’ll be making them up with two bonus reviews this weekend! Today, we’re looking at The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup, written by Hunter Liguore and illustrated by Vikki Zhang, a fascinating exploration of interconnectivity and community.

When a young child asks her grandmother, Nanni, what she is stirring in her large soup pot, she is surprised by the answer: “Seeds”. Nanni explains that the vegetables in the soup grew from seeds, who were nurtured and tended to by farmers, whom she claims are also in the pot. In fact, it seems the pot is filled with all sorts of unexpected things: the sun and rain that helped the vegetables to grow, the honeybees that pollinated their flowers, the delivery drivers who brought the food to market, even the bus drivers and merchants that enabled Nanni to purchase them. And since the recipe was passed down from her own grandmother, she is sure to note that love is inside the soup as well. The child asks to learn the recipe one day, and her grandmother agrees, as long as they can remember everything in the pot. Yet the child already does: the whole world is in that homemade meal.

Lovely. While many elements of this story are fairly fanciful – from the otherworldly/anthropomorphic creatures who roam the village alongside Nanni and her grandchild to a somewhat idealized version of food production – its themes tie into real-life lessons that any reader can benefit from. Liguore weaves a loving conversation between grandparent and child while deftly encouraging readers to consider the work and lives tied to the food on their table, and the importance of our reliance on each other as a community, and the earth as a resource. It’s subtle, delicate, yet immensely effective, especially when paired with Zhang’s incredibly detailed illustrations that will knock out any fan of Chinese folk/anime artwork. The length is better for elementary readers; preschoolers and younger may not have the patience, but JJ loved the intricate illustrations and gentle story. This is a truly unique and lovely tale, and we definitely 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.)

The Story Blanket (Ferida Wolff & Harriet May Savitz)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Story Blanket, written by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, and illustrated by Elena Odriozola, a tale of generosity and community.

In a small village in the snow-covered mountains – the nation is not identified, but context clues suggest somewhere in Eastern Europe – there lives an old woman named Babba Zarrah. The local children love to gather at Babba Zarrah’s home to hear her stories, cuddling together on a cozy blanket affectionately called “the story blanket”. One day, Babba Zarrah notices that one child, Nikolai, has a hole in his shoe. She resolves to make him a new pair of warm socks, but laments that she has no wool yarn. She decides to take a bit of wool from the story blanket, and secretly leaves the new socks on Nikolai’s doorstep. She then notices that the hardworking postman could use a new scarf, and the grocer’s shawl is threadbare, among others. Suddenly, mysterious knitted gifts are appearing at people’s homes, and the village children have noticed the story blanket getting smaller and smaller. What happens next is a lovely lesson in kindness and how caring for others is just another way to care for ourselves.

Simple yet sweet. While this appears to be an original story, it has the comforting feel of a classic folktale and makes for a gentle and heartwarming reading experience. The illustrations also have a rustic folk-art look about them, using thin lines and colorful textures to create often-humorous visuals. The cast all present as white with exaggerated features; it was nice to see some larger body types represented, though it’s unclear how realistic these are meant to be. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed it overall. This one is humble in tone and execution, but no less edifying or enjoyable for 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.)

Between the Lines (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Between the Lines by Lindsay Ward, a story about the importance of community.

In a vibrant, diverse city neighborhood, the young boy who serves as narrator remembers when the colors were swept away from their street. They began fading slowly; then, after a violent storm one night, the neighborhood awoke the next morning to find that all the color had washed away entirely, and a great rift in the street had divided it right through the center. Time passes, and the colors never return. The boys dreams of them, but they begin to fade even from his memories and dreams. Finally, the boy decides something must be done – and if no one else will do it, he’ll just have to do it himself.

Slightly vague but still beautiful. The metaphors that the absent colors represent may be a little dense for younger readers; it took me some pondering to arrive at what I think the fading/reappearing colors and the rift were supposed to represent, and I’m still not 100% sure. However, the greater themes of togetherness and teamwork are more readily understood, and still create a stirring story about how initiative and working together can heal problems within communities. The artwork shines, using the literal lack of color to great effect; for instance, a spread where the boy dreams of color after he (and the reader) have been deprived of it for so long is a powerful jolt. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the intricate art and creative layouts, as well as the story’s message. This one is definitely worth the read; it may require a little consideration afterwards, but it’s a subject worth considering. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Mirabel’s Missing Valentines (Janet Lawler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mirabel’s Missing Valentines, written by Janet Lawler and illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller, a sweet Valentine story about courage and community.

Mirabel is a painfully shy young mouse, incredibly nervous at the thought of making and giving valentines to her classmates. Still, she makes each one carefully and lovingly, then packs them in her bag and anxiously awaits the next day. As she makes her way to school, she doesn’t notice that a small hole in her bag is allowing the valentines to drop out one by one! They are picked up by townspeople, giving each one who encounters the lovely cards a boost of happiness. Just before reaching school, Mirabel realizes what happens and cries out; the townspeople hear her, and return the cards to the rightful owner, thanking Mirabel for brightening their day. Buoyed by the praise and kindness, Mirabel finds the courage to enjoy her class’s Valentine’s Day party – and even receives a special surprise when she returns home.

Adorable and sweet. Mirabel’s shyness will undoubtedly be familiar to some bookworms, and the story offers the lovely message that even shy people can touch others through their talent – in Mirabel’s case, her beautiful handmade valentines. There’s also a stellar lesson in community: the accidental recipients of the valentines include a lonely elderly woman, a jogger having a rough day, a dad who is delighted to hear his baby speak in reaction to the card, etc. After the valentines have brought them together, they are shown to be interacting with each other, showing how a simple gesture of friendship can bring strangers together. The illustrations are absolutely adorable, the town and its citizens all a wealth of personality and charm. The length was great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Red Prince (Charlie Roscoe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Red Prince, written by Charlie Roscoe and illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole, a riveting story that looks at the power of community.

In the kingdom of Avala, there was a king, a queen, and their young son, the prince. All three were beloved by the people, many seeing the king and queen off when they embark on a voyage, leaving the prince in charge. But as a winter snow fell over the land, invaders came and took the royal city by night, capturing the prince and locking him in a dark tower far from home. He and his faithful dog manage a daring escape, but now he is lost in the snow, his red pajamas marking him as the target of a manhunt. He meets a girl who tells him he must travel to the city, but he is alone and afraid. She assures him that if he has faith in his people, they will come to his aid; and as she promised, he finds that they do. But as he nears the city, he fears that he will no longer be able to hide himself or his red pajamas – until he discovers what can happen when many people band together to do what is right.

Very exciting! This one reads like an adventure story, and JJ and I were both captivated to find out what happened next. The ultimate lessons are that of what happens when large groups of people come together to fight cruelty, tyranny, or injustice peacefully – and the climatic movement was both surprising and touching. The illustrations are fabulous, and evoke a cinematic sense of storytelling, using color, layout, and character to create tense and dynamic scenes. The length is fine, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. An exciting story combined with a good lesson in the power of the peaceful resistance, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!