Mae Among The Stars (Roda Ahmed)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mae Among The Stars, written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington, a story inspired by real-life astronaut Mae Jemison’s early years.

When her parents ask her what she wants to do when she grows up, Mae says something odd: “I want to see the Earth”. When they point out that Earth is all around her, Mae clarifies that she wants to see the Earth from space. Her parents stress that such a goal will require hard work and dedication, but if she dreams it and believes it, anything is possible. Mae begins to research astronautics on her own time, and even constructs an astronaut costume. But when she goes to school and shares her dream in class, her fellow students and even her teacher laugh at her, with the woman even suggesting she look into being a nurse instead – something more suited to “someone like” Mae. Devastated, Mae returns home and tells her mother about what happened, but her parents encourage her not to let others define her destiny. Reinvigorated, Mae promises to wave to her parents from space one day – a promise she keeps.

Fabulous! Mae’s early interest in space travel is winningly adapted into a storybook-style narrative, and it works so well here. It both simplifies Mae’s aspirations and struggles for the youngest readers while still allowing them to connect to and be inspired by Mae. The climactic scene at school is heartbreaking – while some children may not, adults will immediately understand that the others’ humiliation of Mae is entirely race- and gender-motivated, and a stark reminder of how hard women of color had to struggle to break barriers – and still do. It creates a subtle yet deeply inspiring lesson for children of color: don’t let the prejudices of others limit your dreams. The art is beautiful, using color and a running celestial theme that ties in with Mae and her passion for space. The length is good, and JJ and I both loved it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow (Michelle Cuevas)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow, written by Michelle Cuevas and illustrated by Sydney Smith, a fantastic fairy tale about having the courage to explore the world outside one’s comfort zone.

Smoot is a precocious little shadow with a curious nature and a yearning to be free. The boy he is attached to is nice enough, but lives a dull, colorless life – he never jumps or leaps or plays or even colors outside the lines. Wishing for a day when he could have a life of his own, Smoot is surprised to hear a POP! – and to find he is no longer attached to his boy! At last, Smoot can dance, sing, ride the carousel, jump rope, and go wherever his dreams take him. His carefree attitude inspires the other shadows around him, and suddenly they are making their own dreams a reality: a cricket’s and grasshopper’s shadows strike up a band, a frog’s shadow becomes a handsome prince, and a tiny rock makes himself into a towering castle. Knowing that the shadows’ freedoms could become problematic if unchecked, Smoot devises clever solutions to help them realize their dreams, then decides to return to his boy – only to find his old friend has been following him since he left, and has been inspired by his boldness to embrace the color in his life.

This was such a wonderful little fable! Smoot is a charmingly earnest protagonist, both a dreamer and a realist who knows the proper balance of both. He and the other shadows serve as a great metaphor for how we should let our dreams influence us: allowing them to drive us out of complacency, but not letting them get too carried away. The illustrations are magical, and create an imaginative world that feels both familiar and fanciful. The length is perfect, and JJ adored it. A lovely tale for dreamers of any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Dreaming Of You (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dreaming Of You, written by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater and illustrated by Aaron DeWitt, a charmingly sweet bedtime book filled with animal friends.

What do animals dream of when it’s time for bed? Well, all sort of things. Kittens dream of lapping fresh milk, turtles dream of sunning themselves on the rocks, fireflies dream of dancing in the cold moonlight. But perhaps you might be surprised to find that all these lovely animals enjoy nothing more than to dream of you. For instance, puppies dream of cuddling in a warm bed with you, and horses dream that you’ll whisper secrets into their soft ears. So as you drift off to sleep tonight, enjoy your lovely gentle dreams, and know that creatures great and small are dreaming of you, too.

Delightful yet wonderfully soothing. The poem that comprises the text flows gorgeously, with flawless rhythm and delicate, whimsical rhyme. The concept deftly treads a line between adorable and saccharine, keeping an earnest air of preciousness without veering into “cutesy”. The art is lovely, blending the look of oils, pastels and mixed-media into a style that looks classic but feels fresh. The length is perfect for a bedtime read, and JJ and I adored it. A wonderful selection for helping little animals lovers wind down, 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.)

Flight School (Lita Judge)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is the adorable Flight School by Lita Judge, a wonderful story about a plucky little penguin with a dream: to fly.

When Flight School begins its new semester, the teachers find themselves with a rather unorthodox student: a penguin! They gently inform the little chick that while they would love to teach him, penguins aren’t meant to fly. The little penguin is insistent, however, that he has the soul of an eagle, and that he can and will soar among the clouds. He works hard, studying along with his classmates, despite not being able to keep up with them physically. At last, all the Flight School students are cleared for flight… except for penguin. Dejected, he accepts his limitations and begins to leave – until Flamingo suddenly has an idea that might help the determined little penguin make his dreams a reality.

LOVED this one. It’s a touchingly sweet story about how physical attributes should never deter you from your dreams, and serves as a powerful metaphor for differently-abled people not letting their bodies determine their fate. It also encourages others not to dismiss a person’s dreams based on physicality: Penguin’s teachers are the ones who build him a set of wings from their own feathers, then help him to stay up in the air. It’s a lovely message that encourages us to believe in the dreams of others and help them where we can. The illustrations are absolutely darling, and the length is great. JJ and I both loved this story about a community coming together to make a dream come true, and it’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved.

Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey (Emily Winfield Martin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is a bedtime favorite in the Baby Bookworm household: Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey by Emily Winfield Martin, a thoroughly gorgeous fairytale of the magical creatures that lead children to dreamland.

When the lights go out and little ones snuggle into their beds, the magic of the dream animals begins. Each child has their own special creature just for them who comes and gives them a ride to wherever their dreams take them. Perhaps a fox to carry them to an elfin hollow, or a tiger to ferry them to a circus of wonders. Faithfully transporting their charges, there’s a special animal for each dreamer; what will yours be, and where will it take you when you dream?

I absolutely ADORE this book. It has everything you could want in a bedtime book: beautiful, soothing yet fantastical illustrations, wonderfully graceful rhyming text, and a concept that is absolutely perfect for sparking the imagination of little ones. The idea that children’s beloved plush animals become the creatures that bring them to their dreams is fresh and fascinating, and perfect for creative little minds. The art is just superb, and fans of Martin’s work will be blown away by the ethereal landscapes of children’s nighttime wonderings. The length is perfect, and JJ adores this one. A phenomenal modern bedtime classic, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!