Stella, Star Explorer (Kelly Leigh Miller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stella, Star Explorer by Kelly Leigh Miller, a trip through our solar system that combines practical knowledge and new perspectives (as well as a few laughs) along the way.

Stella LOVES space. She dreams of exploring the cosmos, the galaxies, and of any planet in the universe… except, that is, for dirty, boring old Earth. Deciding she needs a change, Stella and her dog don their spacesuits, say goodbye to Stella’s parents, and blast off on an interplanetary adventure. It doesn’t take long before she makes a new friend: a green, seven-limbed fellow explorer named Io and his purple snake/cat pet Mimas. The pair have gotten lost looking for a very special planet, but Io cannot remember its name! Determined to help, Stella takes him on a tour of the solar system to help narrow the search – but is surprised to find that his destination is a familiar one!

A wonderful mix of fact and fun. Stella’s tour of the solar system does a great job of incorporating true factoids about each of the planets while also providing simple comedy that engages young readers. Best of all, the ending of the story really brings home a nice lesson on appreciating the things we have – especially our own fascinating, unique, and special planet – with a continued thirst for exploration and knowledge. Miller’s cartoonish illustrations are wonderful, with colorful and detailed settings and characters both land-based and intergalactic. Diverse representation is nicely integrated – Stella is coded as East Asian, her caregivers present as a queer, mixed-race family, and other background characters reflect a small variety of skintones, body types, and hair textures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the adorable artwork and uplifting story. Overall, this one is a treat, and we really enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Only One (Deborah Hopkinson & Chuck Groenink)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Only One by Deborah Hopkinson and Chuck Groenink, a scientific adventure through the universe and our one-of-a-kind place in it.

The blue-beanied and yellow-rainslickered child narrator greets the reader with the enigmatic phrase, “One. Only one. The story starts with one.” Convincing their sibling to turn off the television and join them and their friends on a forrest expedition (with a surprise destination), the child explains the makeup of the universe, from the Big Bang to the galaxies, stars, and down to our own solar system. Regaling fascinated friends with information on Earth’s atmosphere, continents, environments, fauna, and flora, the group eventually make their way to a tree-planting event, so that they can take part in protecting the Earth – their own planet, and the only one we’ve got.

Wonderful! Hopkinson’s incredibly informative text and Groenink’s charming illustrations work in perfect concert to tell a story of big things, and the impacts small actions can have on them. Hopkinson skillfully takes rather large scientific concepts like astrophysics, ecology, and biodiversity and manages to give readers a crash course in how they relate to both a larger universe and to human beings as individuals, both educating the reader on the subjects themselves and tying them into global responsibility. Groenink’s artwork, which does the heavy lifting narrative-wise, flawlessly tells a sweet story of a single child convincing others to appreciate and engage with nature, subtly reminding us that “only one” person can make a big difference as well. The illustrations also feature a nice diversity of skintones, hair types, and ages, as well as religious representation through head coverings. The length is perfect for an elementary storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this one. A great way to explore an important message, and empower young conservationists. We loved it; Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Dear Little One (Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dear Little One by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon, a gorgeous ode to the beauty of the natural world.

Taking the form of a letter, the narration opens with the titular salutation, greeting both the reader and the unnamed child protagonist, who is poking a finger into a rippling body of water. The lyrical text follows as the child explores a series of natural environments with their canine companion, encouraging them to appreciate and marvel at the beauty of nature and the myriad life that fills it – animals, insects, plants, seas, mountains, and more. The author of the letter charges their “little one” to be a steward of the Earth, to preserve it, and to care for it as the Earth cares for them, before signing off – “Love, Mother Nature.”

Gorgeous. Those who are fans of Laden and Castrillon’s previous collaborations, If I Had A Little Dream and Yellow Kayak, will be delighted to find another beautifully written and breathtaking illustrated adventure in this title. The conservationist message isn’t necessarily subtle, but the text conveys it in an imploringly heartfelt tone that never feels preachy, but rather empowering and inspiring. The spellbinding, dreamlike illustrations are simply stunning, blending a palate of cool greens and purples with fiery oranges and reds that is all at once soothing and invigorating. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the intricate art and calming tone of the text. A beautiful way to encourage children to explore and revere the natural world, and we loved it. 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 Nature Girls (Aki)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Nature Girls by Aki, a delightful romp through some of nature’s biomes with an intrepid group of explorers.

The troop of sixteen inquisitive young minds from last year’s The Weather Girls is back, this time to explore the different biomes that can be found on our planet. From the dense and lush rainforest, to dry desert plains, to snowy tundras, the group travels across each biome by boat, plane, dogsled and even a friendly camel. And when they’ve visited them all, they’ll keep on exploring – the world is big, and there’s still plenty to see while sharing good times with friends.

Adorable! I hadn’t read the previous book in this series, but this made me want to pick it up right away; with sweet rhyming text and charming illustrations of a diverse group of young female friends showing curiosity, courage, and a sense of sisterhood, what’s not to love? The actual science of the biomes is not as in-depth as other books on the subject, as some are not even named in the text (though each gets a short paragraph of summary in the backmatter), and the spectrum of wildlife that lives in each is spotty biome-to-biome. However, as an introduction to Earth’s biomes, it gives a nice overview while encouraging the reader to go exploring themselves to learn more. The art is the best feature here, with lovely scenery and heartwarming scenes of the girls enjoying each other’s company, featuring adorable details in the lively (yet never too busy) group scenes. The length is perfect for any age, and JJ loved it. A joyful adventure for the little explorer in your life, 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.)

Touch The Earth (Julian Lennon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Touch The Earth, written by Julian Lennon with Bart Davis and illustrated by Smiljana Coh, a look at global issues relating to water.

See this white feather? It’s more than it appears. Give the book a shake and the feather transforms into the White Feather Flier, a sentient airplane who helps children care for the Earth. By tilting the book and pressing illustrated “buttons”, readers can pilot around the world and learn about water-related environmental and humanitarian concerns. Further interactions help provide water to drought- or contamination-stricken areas, clean polluted oceans, and more. After, it’s time to fly home; the reader has helped to touch the earth in so many ways.

Mixed feelings. The interactive elements were wonderful – JJ loved “flying” the plane and pressing “buttons”, and it made for a very engaging experience. The inspiration for the White Feather Flyer, explained by Lennon in the backmatter, is touching. Otherwise, the book is uneven. While the intention of encouraging children to take interest and action in improving their world is good, the book provides no concrete ways in which kids can do so. The buttons make for an engaging reading experience, but they send an odd message for a book about global activism – there is no “magic button” to provide clean water, food, or oceans. These things take money, work, and effort, and I would have liked to see readers encouraged to engage in practical ways like these as well. The illustrations were very cute, but there was an uncomfortable choice in making the “savior” children primarily white while all the people they are “helping” are people of color. There’s also a message that we should be irrigating natural deserts to grow food for the poor, seeming to forget that deserts are their own rather important ecosystems. The length was fine, and JJ liked the interactive elements, but otherwise a bit of a mess. Not for us.