Find Your Brave (Apryl Stott)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Find Your Brave: A Coco and Bear Story by Apryl Stott, a sweet tale of friendship and courage.

Pals Bear and Coco – who fans of Stott’s will remember from the author/illustrator’s previous title, Share Some Kindness, Bring Some Light – are a perfect match, even if they are opposites. Bear is big and Coco is little; Bear is shy and Coco is brave. Yet when the pair step up onstage for the final dress rehearsal of their talent show dance performance, Coco sees the small audience and freezes – it seems as though she’s lost her brave! Naturally, her best pal Bear offers to help her get it back, but where should they start? And will they find Coco’s brave in time for the talent show?

Warm and sweet. Stott has a talent for taking highly relatable childhood lessons and exploring them with simple yet resonant stories and charming, fairy-tale illustrations. Bear and Coco’s friendship sets a lovely stage for a classic lesson on being brave, with the resolution stressing that fear and courage often coexist, and one must choose to let their brave be bigger than their scared. The gentle story and artwork strike a perfectly comforting yet encouraging tone for the subject matter, which makes for a lovely read-aloud, It’s a great length for a storytime, and JJ and I absolutely enjoyed it. We definitely recommend this one for a cozy and confidence-boosting read, and 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.)

Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Jeff Östberg, an empowering collection of three brief picture books on facing one’s fears.

Told in short rhyming couplets and atmospheric full-bleed illustrations, readers follow three young protagonists as they are each faced with a common childhood fear: a thunderstorm, the first day of school, and a doctor’s appointment. Each child is shown working through their fear in a unique way, be it choosing to manage their fear in order to comfort a younger sibling, connecting with a new friend who shares their fear and braving it together, or even having a good freakout and cry before finding the strength to weather the scary situation. But the end, all three learn that their bravery doesn’t stem from fearlessness, but from finding courage in the face of their fears instead.

Fantastic. Clark’s simple, gentle poetry and Östberg’s rich and stunning artwork combine to create a sensitive and empowering volume for young readers. Critically, each story emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with feeling afraid, or even letting fear show; the third, centered around a child who fears receiving a shot at the doctor’s office (a common fear, especially with flu and COVID vaccine season upon us), even notes that his crying and panicking were not marks of failure, but of the fact that he was brave enough to try something so scary in the first place (after centering himself with calming thoughts on the advice of the nurse, he finds the needle wasn’t so scary after all). Östberg’s artwork, with its rich, warm color palette and dynamic use of light and shadow, create a impressive balance that validates the children’s fears while still offering a sense comfort; it’s striking, and fits the theme to perfection. Despite being three books in one, this is not a lengthy read, and can be covered entirely in a short storytime. Lastly, JJ loved it, in particular the gorgeous art and simple-to-read couplets. This is a truly great title for any library, and a wonderful read to encourage that fear is not failure, but an opportunity to be strong. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Kat And Juju (Kataneh Vahdani)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kat And Juju by Kataneh Vahdani, a sweet tale about how friendship can help us overcome our fears.

Kat likes to do things her own way: she colors inside the lines, whispers her secrets to trees, and quietly finds beauty in places that others seem to overlook. She’s happy with who she is, but she sometimes feels lonely, despite being too shy to be herself around the other kids. That’s why she’s looking forward to her birthday: this is the year that she gets her “very best friend”, an anthropomorphic animal companion. The other children have gotten theirs, and Kat is eager to meet her own. Yet when Juju, a giant, fluffy red bird arrives on her doorstep, Kat is unsure. Juju is different than her in so many ways: he’s outgoing, adventurous, and seemingly unafraid of anything. Kat wonders if Juju will grow tired of her… but an unexpected series of events may show her that she doesn’t have to stop being herself to find her inner courage.

Very cute. While the pacing of this gentle coming-of-age story can occasionally feel uneven, its message is pure: true friends will appreciate you for who you are, even if they themselves are different. There’s also a nice theme of personal growth: through caring for an injured baby bird together, Kat begins to try new and adventurous things at her own pace, with Juju’s support and encouragement. The wide-eyed characters are adorable, from Kat’s oversized hairbow “ears” to the unbelievably endearing design of Juju. The length was great, and JJ loved it. A few rough edges, but overall a warm tale of friendship and self-assurance, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rot: The Bravest In The World (Ben Clanton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rot: The Bravest In The World by Ben Clanton, a surprisingly sweet tale of courage.

Rot, like all “mutant potatoes”, loves mud. He loves to eat it, wear it, and especially squish around in it. Seeing a marvelously murky mud puddle, Rot excitedly approaches – until his brother Snot stops him with a spooky (and fabricated) tale of the fearsome Squirm, a creature that dwells within the puddle. The Squirm is vicious and sinister and, naturally, just lives for eating up unsuspecting mutant potatoes. Torn between his desire to enjoy the pristinely mucky puddle and his newfound fear of the Squirm, Rot tries his best to steel himself by imagining that he is a series of brave and noble heroes. Yet in the end, he will have to find the courage within himself to face his fears.

Delightful! A sequel to Rot’s previous adventure (Rot: The Cutest In The World, which we have not yet read), this offbeat offering and its decidedly unique protagonist come with a great deal of earnestness and heart. Rot eventually finds that the Squirm is a fabrication, yet the mud puddle does indeed contain a new friend to play with (and, hilariously, allows him to turn the tables on Snot in a prank that is harmless, and even well-received). His series of imaginary heroes are especially charming, while also providing young readers with a useful coping strategy for when they must deal with their own fears. The artwork is a perfect balance of being gross enough to amuse kiddos without being truly disgusting, and offers a number of fun visual gags and fantastic, dynamic typeset to give the text punch. The length was great, and JJ really enjoyed it. Overall, we enjoyed this one so much, and would recommend it to any reader; it’s great fun, and it may even help them find the hero within. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bo The Brave (Bethan Woollvin)


Hello, friends! Our book today is Bo The Brave by Bethan Woollvin, a lovely tale of a courageous young monster-hunter.

Young Bo lives in a castle, in a land of mountains and forests. Her older brothers, Ivar and Erik, are bold monster hunters, and Bo longs to be one too. Yet when she asks to accompany her brothers on their latest hunt, they laugh at and tease her. Determined, Bo decides to set off and catch a monster of her own – yet after a few chance encounters with friendly griffins, helpful krakens, and weepy dragons, Bo begins to question the monster-hunting lifestyle… and who the real monsters are.

Wonderful. Well-realized themes of tolerance, understanding, and compassion are explored in a story that stars a heroine for all little girls (and boys). Bo is indeed brave, but also clever, kind, inquisitive, and resolute. Upon realizing that the so-called “monsters” are only sweet beasts going about their lives, and that the true monsters are her baby dragon-kidnapping brothers, Bo fearlessly faces down her siblings and subdues the frightened, fiery tot. She then dedicates her time to learning about the beasts, rather than hunting them. It’s a wonderful message of judging by character rather than appearance, and thinking critically. The Scandinavian-style illustrations have a limited yet expressive palette, and feature some wonderfully designed characters, settings and creatures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved Bo and her monster friends. This is a wonderful story that explores what it truly means to be brave, and we enjoyed it immensely. Baby Bookworm approved!

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