Oddbird (Derek Desierto)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Oddbird by Derek Desierto, a story of acceptance and fitting in.

It was a hot, steamy day in the jungle, and while all the colorful birds had gathered at the pool, none of them had decided to take the plunge. Instead, they are most concerned with showing off their brilliant colors, until one very… ODD bird appears. Oddbird’s feathers are dull gray, and while he looks forward to cooling off in the refreshing pool, he is chased off by a hostile reception from the colorful birds. Upset with being excluded for the color of the feathers he’s always had, Oddbird concocts a plan to get to the pool without hassle – and that will perhaps prove to the other birds that the feathers don’t make the bird.

Unfortunately, this one was a bit of a muddle. While stories about diversity and acceptance are always important, the metaphors of Oddbird’s dilemma and solution can have an unfortunate interpretation. Oddbird decides to camouflage himself in brightly colored “feathers” made of jungle foliage; this allows him to fit in long enough to make his way to the pool and convince the other birds that enjoying a cooling swim is more fun than showing off their plumage. Tidy enough, but then what is the message? Hide who you are long enough so that others may accept you, then maybe you can change their minds? Perhaps not the best lesson, especially for little readers who may feel insecure about their own “different” appearances. The resolution itself also feels like it’s missing something; while the other birds eventually accept Oddbird as he is, there is no apology or resolution for their aggressive exclusion of him earlier in the story (including comments that literally drive Oddbird to tears). And while the charming and, yes, beautifully colorful photo-cutout art is a treat, it doesn’t quite make up for the confusing theme. Otherwise, the length is fine, and JJ did enjoy the little bird. So while there are several other books about social acceptance I would recommend over this one, it does have a few genuinely redeeming qualities; a little uneven, perhaps a little odd, but still Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure (Eva Chen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Juno Valentine and the Fantastic Fashion Adventure, written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto, second in the pair’s series of girl-power fashion fantasies.

Picking up where Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes left off, we meet precocious fashionista Juno. In school, she learns that the next day will be picture day, and her teacher advises the class to wear something that makes them feel magical. But while her classmates all have special outfits in mind, Juno isn’t sure. Her friends and family have ideas, but none of them feel right. But when little brother Finn takes off into her closet – and disappears down the magical portal hidden there from the last book – Juno will have to race off to retrieve him. Along the way, she’ll meet fabulous feminist icons like Maya Lin and Josephine Baker, and listen to their advice for both catching Finn and solving her fashion conundrum. But can Juno make it back in time for picture day… and what will she wear?!

Delightful. While the premise is a little far out – and a little more exposition may have been helpful for readers who haven’t read the first book in the series – the tone and message of the book are both wonderful: fashion should make you feel your best, no matter what it looks like. Juno ends up with a mismatched outfit of Grace O’Malley’s pirate hat (“It’ll give you gumption!”), Grace Jones’ shoulder pads (“They’ll make you feel fierce!”), Michelle Obama’s ICONIC Balenciaga glitter boots (“I’m extra confident in them”), and more. Her parents momentarily balk, but Juno is celebrated for her unique style at school, and for the confidence it gives her. The illustrations, a cartoonish style with mixed-media elements deftly woven in, are charming, and feature real-life heroines of diverse races (though some different body types would also have been nice to see). The length was perfect, and JJ and I enjoyed the adventure. A fun tale for blossoming feminist fashionistas that shows it’s the person wearing the clothes that make an outfit fabulous. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A is For Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed The World (Eva Chen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A is For Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed The World, written by Eva Chen and illustrated by Derek Desierto, a delightful alphabet book that introduces young readers to notable “sheroes”.

After a hearty welcome by Juno (protagonist of Chen’s previous book Juno Valentine And The Magical Shoes), the reader is given one-sentence introductions to (and occasionally quotations of) female role models of note, organized alphabetically by the letter of their first name – A is for Amelia Earhart, B is for Beyoncé, C is for Coco Chanel, and so on. The women range from scientists, entertainers, suffragists, athletes, artists, lawmakers, and even a bonafide goddess. X, Y and Z represent eXtraordinary You (accompanied by a full-page mirror), and the Zillions of adventures you’ll go on – just as awesome as all the ladies that came before.

What else can I say? AWESOME! Meant as a primer for the littlest bookworms, this colorful and exuberant look at some deserving female trailblazers is a wonderful way to introduce the power of women to younger and pre-readers. The selection of featured figures is well-balanced, representing a varied range of skintones, religions and backgrounds, though most of the ladies are American. Desierto’s art is simple and friendly, using elements of mixed media cutouts for hair, clothes, and surroundings to frame the warm, open faces of the subjects. It makes each woman feel like a new friend, and works perfectly. JJ adored this one, especially the mirror on the final page, and it was a fairly quick read as well. A must for any young feminist’s bookshelf, and emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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