Is Was (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Is Was by Deborah Freedman, a gorgeous meditation on impermanence and the quiet, overwhelming beauty of nature.

The sky that was blue and the sky that now falls with rain are one and the same. Just as that rain created puddles for little animals to sip; just as the soft whispering song of the wind has now become the buzz of a bumblebee in flight. Just as, in the silence of nature, we can hear the earth’s heart beat, in time with a child swinging back and forth on their swing. Just as the day fades to night, skies become orange, then purple-pink, then the deepest blue and filled with stars – the same stars we all see and share.

Absolutely beautiful. Freedman has a wonderful talent for creating sweeping, compelling narratives that center around finding beauty in the world around us (her books This House, Once and Shy are still favorites of ours), and this peaceful, enchanting title is another wonderful example of it. Weaving together simple, rich artwork that practically bursts with sunshine, with sparse yet effective text (which itself combines soft prose and an utterly flawless use of onomatopoeia), the story explores the themes of nature’s quiet beauty, and how the cycles of nature are essential to that beauty, perfectly. On its own, this is a lovely subject for any little bookworm; and yet, with the author’s dedication (“for you/and everyone you’ve loved/who is/or was”) as context, it can also be a beautiful way to explore grief, loss, and renewal in our personal lives as well. The length is perfect for a storytime or bedtime book, and JJ and I both loved it. Stunning, timeless, and 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 Of Fish And Snail (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Story Of Fish And Snail by Deborah Freedman, a lovely tale about friendship and compromise between two unusual friends.

Fish and Snail live together in their book, and are the best of friends. Every day, Fish goes out to explore the other books, but Snail prefers to wait where it’s safe and quiet until Fish comes home with stories to share. One day, Fish comes to tell Snail that he’s found an amazing book with a vast blue ocean, and pirates! He implores Snail to come with him to see. But Snail doesn’t want to play pirates (they are scary), he wants to pretend to be something safe like kittens instead. Fish snaps at Snail in frustration, and the two get into an argument that ends with Fish storming off to another book. But now Snail misses his dear friend. What is a timid Snail to do?

This is such a wonderfully unique book! The concept of Fish and Snail being characters in a library book that can explore other books is so neat, at gives the story a magical subtext that ignites the imagination. But the core story, that sometimes even best friends will fight, is perfect too. The best part was that the resolution showed compromise between the friends: Snail gathers his courage to follow Fish into the other book because he wants to make his friend happy; and Fish, touched, decides that they can play “kitten-pirate” so Snail feels more comfortable. It’s a great lesson in being compassionate and considerate of one’s friends, and it’s executed beautifully. The art is sweet, soothing, and fits the fantastical elements of the story just right. The length is perfect for baby Bookworm, and JJ loved this one! Totally Baby Bookworm approved!

This House, Once (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, everyone! Today’s book is This House, Once by Deborah Freedman, a dreamy exploration of the pieces of a home, and where things come from.

This door was once an oak tree, tall and strong and stretching to the sky. The stones of the foundation were once deep underground, and the bricks were once wet clay. Each piece of a house comes from somewhere and something in nature, elements being shaped and molded to fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. Then, once a house is a house, the dreams of its inhabitants make it a home.

This was a very peaceful, meditative sort of story that encourages children to think about where things come from, and how the pieces of our lives fit together to form the whole. The text begins matter-of-fact, moving toward the existential then back again, accompanied by hazy, serene art that creates a very soothing atmosphere. The length is just fine, and JJ enjoyed it, especially the addition of the animals throughout that follow the origins of the home’s materials. This would be a great one for a calming bedtime read, or just to encourage mindfulness and imagination in children about their own home. Baby Bookworm approved!

Shy (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the lovely Shy by Deborah Freedman, a gorgeous fable about overcoming fears and shyness.

Shy is a very timid sort. He’s most comfortable hidden between the pages of a book (this one, to be precise). Still, he dreams of having the courage to explore “a land far away,” where so many of his books are set. One day, he sees a beautiful bird, one of his favorite reading subjects, a decides to do the unthinkable: he leaves home. What follows is a beautiful tale of what can happen when we step out of our comfort zones to create our own “Once upon a time…” 

We loved this book. The concept is unique and well-executed, the text is soothing yet inspiring, and the story’s message of courage and inner strength is wonderful. The art is also breathtaking: the colors of each page tell stories of their own, weaving together muted and understated with bright and vibrant depending on what the story calls for. This is an awesome book with a great length for baby bookworms, and JJ adored it, so definitely check this one out. Baby Bookworm approved.