Help Mom Work From Home! (Diana Murray)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Help Mom Work From Home!, written by Diana Murray and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld, a humorous look at the delicate dance of working from home with kids.

These days, work and home can be the same place, and the irrepressible young narrator of our tale is keen to “help” Mom go about her busy day. While mom slogs through Zoom meetings, packing and shipping, writing emails, and taking calls, her kiddo is sure to provide hairstyling, delicious (Play-doh) snacks, office design, and organizational expertise. And when the day’s work is done, the family settles in for a relaxing and well-earned takeout meal. Working from home may not always go smoothly, but there’s never a dull moment with Mom’s very special helper around.

Sweet but disorganized. As a concept, a story about parents balancing at-home childcare with working a virtual job is one that appeals, as so many families have lived this experience over the last two years. And in a broad sense, the Murray’s story works well; it’s a lesson that while things may not always work out perfectly, but as long as everyone is together and happy at the end of the day, things will be okay. Unfortunately, it’s the tone of the humor, which sees mom becoming increasingly frazzled as her child disrupts her work and creates havoc in their home as they try to “help”, that misses the mark. The cheerful and guileless text over illustrations of the harried mother attempting to juggle her destructive yet well-meaning child may ring a little too accurate for adult readers to be truly humorous, while younger readers are likely to miss the joke entirely. Doerrfeld’s illustrations are charming, and do convey a great deal of affection between the characters, but they also – for better or worse – accurately display the sort of anxiety-inducing chaos that often comes with juggling multiple roles from home. It’s lot of elements that work well, but not necessarily well together. Otherwise, the length was fine for a quick storytime, and JJ enjoyed the artwork. A slightly erratic tale, but perhaps one that will give work-from-home parents a chuckle, and don’t we all need that? Overall, 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.)

The Rabbit Listened (Cori Doerrfeld)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld, a simple yet touching look at how we process grief – or can help others who are grieving – during difficult times.

Taylor has an idea. It’s big, it’s bold, it requires planning and hard work, but when it’s done? The most beautiful block tower imaginable… until a flock of birds swoops down and obliterates it. Taylor is heartbroken by the destruction, overcome with emotion. A chicken comes by, sympathizing with Taylor and suggesting they talk about it. But Taylor doesn’t want to talk yet, so the chicken leaves. On it goes, with a parade of animals offering their suggestions – raging like a bear, hiding like an ostrich, laughing like a hyena – but Taylor doesn’t want to do any of these things, so they all depart in turn. At last, a rabbit softly approaches, and just sits with Taylor, providing silent comfort and companionship. And when Taylor feels ready to talk, to rage, to laugh, to cry, and to start again, the rabbit does what any good friend would do: it listens.

Beautiful. Gentle art, a profound story, and immaculate attention to detail make this a standout. The message is phenomenal: it’s okay to process your grief or sadness in whatever way feels right to you, and that sometimes the best thing you can do as a friend is simply be there and listen. That Taylor is intentionally made gender-nonspecific in look, name, and pronouns, to allow a wide range of children to identify, is a wonderful touch. So too is the structure of the dialogue, which allows for different voices and moments of levity, making the lessons of the book entertaining to learn. The art is spare, classic, yet appropriately warm. The length is great and JJ loved it. This is a perfect addition to any bookshelf or classroom: a timeless lesson in empathy, and Baby Bookworm approved.

The True Adventures Of Esther The Wonder Pig (Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter & Caprice Crane)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The True Adventures Of Esther The Wonder Pig, written by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter and Caprice Crane, and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld, the delightful true story of the porcine social media star.

Esther was rescued by her two dads when she was just a baby, and from the moment she looked at them with THOSE eyes and THAT smile, they knew it was love. Esther’s dads brought her into their small home, already filled with two dogs and two cats but just big enough for the supposed miniature pig as well. But as Esther began to grow, and GROW, her daddies began to wonder if she was really a miniature pig at all! In the meantime, clever and affectionate Esther was spent her time learning, playing, and getting into mischief. Finally, when she reached over 600lbs(!), her dads decided to move the family to the country, where Esther’s family could help even more animals, and Esther would have plenty of room. And while she still got into mischief, her family was happy – because no matter the size or shape, all that you need to make a family is love.

So adorable. Esther is a well-known social media star, and her story translates well to picture book format, making for a fun real-life entry to the “unusual pet” genre. The typical story beats are here – silly, sometimes destructive antics, finding ways to deal with unusual problems, etc – made all the more enjoyable by knowing that the events really occurred. There’s also a nice nod to non-traditional families, wisely kept subtle (as the family in question is largely pets) but still present. Even the fact that Esther has two dads is treated with refreshing normalcy. The illustrations are fantastic, and readers of all ages will fall in love with the bright-eyed characters. The length was great, and JJ adored it, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!