Sofia Valdez, Future Prez (Andrea Beaty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sofia Valdez, Future Prez, written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, the fourth inspiring character to emerge from the pair’s phenomenal Questioneers series.

Even when she was a baby, Sofia liked to get things done, especially when she was helping others. As she grew, she and her abuelo would head out every week to help the elderly people of their community; there was no public space for them to gather, so most spent their time home alone. As Abuelo was walking Sofi to class one morning, their dog spotted a squirrel and gave chase, leading Sofi and Abuelo to fall down a massive hill of garbage. Abuelo injures his leg and is unable to walk with Sofia, who is furious at the dangerous and disgusting trash pile. She decides to do something about it, and leads a charge, her bold ideas inspiring many of her neighbors to support her. However, once the time comes to make a plan and follow through, Sofia suddenly realizes: it’s all on her to make things happen. But how can one little girl do big things all on her own?

Fantastic. At this point, it’s hard to imagine Beaty and Roberts NOT creating a book that is touching, inspiring, beautiful, and as much fun to look at as it is to read. Not a tale of politics so much as one of government – and the grit and determination it often takes to break through bureaucracy – there is also the strong message that activism has no age limits. Yet with all these big themes, Beaty’s playful yet powerful writing style and Roberts’ quirky illustrations (FILLED with callbacks, cameos, and Easter eggs for eagle-eyed readers to find) keep things light. The length is perfect, and JJ and I loved it. A phenomenal tale of courage and compassion, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

The Littlest Dragon (Jessica Minyard)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Littlest Dragon by Jessica Minyard, a delightful indie tale of finding one’s courage.

In a distant sea, on the Island of Bones, there lives a tiny dragon named Bimnid. And on an island of great dragons, Bimnid can’t help but feel unimportant. He’s not the biggest, or the most beautiful, or the strongest. He doesn’t have the loudest roar, nor can he breathe plumes of smoke and flame. In fact, Bimnid doesn’t seem to be the “-est” anything… except the small-est. That is, until a ship full of fearsome dragon hunters is spotted on the horizon, and the dragons are thrown into a tizzy about what to do. Will Bimnid hide like the other dragons want to? Or will he find that he is the very best at something after all?

Very sweet. The structure of the story is fairly familiar: a previously unassuming character finds their courage in a moment of truth – Bimnid takes the initiative to march down to the dragon hunters and tell them off; they, not speaking dragon language and never having seen a dragon before, take in his comparatively towering size, growls, and hisses, and make a quick getaway. It’s a nice moment that proves one does not have to be the biggest, strongest, or loudest to be the bravest. The sentence structure in the text and the illustrations are slightly more uneven, though the incredibly creative character design of the different dragons is worthy of applause. The length is fine, and JJ liked this one a lot. A bit rough around the edges, but this dragon tale is definitely worth a look – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh (Supriya Kelkar)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, written by Supriya Kelkar and illustrated by Alea Marley, a lovely tale of courage and connection in the face of change.

Harpreet loves to wear his patkas (head coverings often worn by Sikh children) in every color of the rainbow. He even wears certain colors to express his feelings: he likes to wear yellow when he’s cheerful, pink when he’s celebrating, or red if he needs a little bit of extra courage. That is, until the day his parents give him some big news: his mother has gotten a new job across the country, and they will have to move to new town. Harpreet is devastated, and his choice in patkas reflects this; instead of bright, happy colors, he now sticks to blues and grays, and eventually white – for when he feels shy – every day at his new school. His parents attempt to cheer him up, but Harpreet feels alone and like an outsider amongst his class. But an unexpected find in a snowdrift may help him to make a new friend, and inspire him to change his colors.

Fantastic. This truly special book does a wondrous job of weaving together so many elements of story, emotion, and representation, and succeeds on all fronts. Sikhism is yet another fairly underrepresented faith in modern kidlit, which makes such a universal story a particularly special gift for children and families who practice the faith. Harpreet‘s tale truly is universal, one of the difficulties of change or feeling different, having and expressing a myriad of emotions, and finding ways to open up to new friendships and relationships. For those unfamiliar with Sikhism, there’s a great afterward that gives readers a brief introduction to the faith. The illustrations are colorful, charming, and have an excellent command of light and dark, resonating nicely with the tone of the story. This is a fabulous story for any little bookworm struggling with change, and for readers who yearn for representation, a gem of a book. The length was great, JJ loved it, 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.)

Pippa’s Night Parade (Lisa Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pippa’s Night Parade, written by Lisa Robinson and illustrated by Lucy’s Illustrations, a clever tale of courage and ingenuity.

Little Pippa has quite the big imagination, enough that it can sometimes be a problem. For instance, the sudden proclivity of her bedtime stories to come alive and terrify her in the night with their beasts, baddies, and brutes. During the day, Pippa uses her creativity to craft clever suits of armor with her fashion sense, but at night she is at the mercy of the villains, and no amount of trickery or even retreat seems to keep them at bay. Pippa decides to face them down once and for all, slipping invitations into each of her books for everyone to come out, and tirelessly planning her mode of attack. She manages to subdue some of the monsters, but not all, and scurries back to the drawing board to regroup. Seeing her protective fashions, she comes up with one last scheme – but is it just crazy enough to work?

A nightmarishly fun romp. Pippa’s last-ditch plan, which is hinted at in the title yet still an entertaining final twist, is a great example of a little one using both courage AND intelligence to solve a problem, with a dash of creativity added in as well. It’s especially nice to see in a young female protagonist, and sends the message that girls are both brave and smart enough to solve their own problems. I especially loved Pippa’s unique fashion sense and the outfits she puts together with it referred to as “armor”; rather than fashion being viewed as frivolous, it’s presented as a form of self-expression and a mark of confidence, and as an interest not mutually exclusive from reading, invention, and imagination. The artwork is fantastic, filled with hilarious details and beautifully-designed creatures, and creating truly creepy (then fun) environments. The length is great, and JJ enjoyed the playful text and artwork. A great story to lead us into spooky season, 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.)

I Will Be Fierce! (Bea Birdsong)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Will Be Fierce!, written by Bea Birdsong and illustrated by Nidhi Chanani, a wonderful girl-power mantra for young readers.

A girl begins her day by opening her eyes and making herself a promise: “I will be fierce.” She dons her suit of armor (a rainbow-striped sweater), packs her treasure chest (her backpack) and sets off on her epic quest of learning and adventure. Throughout the day, she’ll complete many a heroic task, like climbing the Mountain of Knowledge at the library and standing up for her beliefs by shunning a pack of bullying kids to befriend their target. Only then will she face her own greatest fear – public speaking – using the courage she’s built throughout the day. At last, she’ll return home to rest in the arms of her loved ones, so that she can wake up tomorrow to be fierce once more.

Fantastic. Listen, you know we love girl-power books, so this fierce entry into the genre was a treat. The use of an average day imagined as a mighty quest isn’t new, but I loved the way the knightly descriptions were juxtaposed with colorful and cheerful surroundings; it’s a clever and subtle way to show that being a tough and strong doesn’t mean being without joy or brightness. The protagonist is adorable, and her charming facial expressions draw the reader into rooting for her. The length was perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A great read for empowering little readers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!