What Is A Refugee? (Elise Gravel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What Is A Refugee? by Elise Gravel, a look at what it means to be a displaced person for young readers.

Little ones may hear adults throw around the word “refugee” a lot – but what is a refugee? In simple yet powerful images and text, this nonfiction title explains that refugees are people of all ages, races, faiths, and abilities who have been displaced from their homes. Sometimes war has destroyed their homes and made their lives unsafe; sometimes they were standing up for their beliefs and people wanted to hurt them because of it. Oftentimes, they don’t want to leave their homes: they may have to leave family members and loved ones behind, and make dangerous journeys to safer countries. And frequently, the countries they flee to are unwelcoming or unsafe in other ways. But in the end, what a refugee really is… is a person. Someone who wants to work, learn, and live in safety and peace, just like everybody else.

Wonderful. Complex issues like the refugee crisis can often be difficult to explain to children (and even to adults), and Gravel does a wonderful job of taking a complicated issue and making it accessible for little readers. The illustrations are strikingly unambiguous – families are shown fleeing explosions, a cityscape is under fire from rockets, a family tearfully parts ways – yet the cartoonish style keeps the images from being too intense, striking a delicate balance of being deeply affecting without being age-inappropriate. Natural disasters, environmental factors, and gang violence are left off the list of causes for refugees to be displaced, but otherwise this book hits the mark very well, and can help answer difficult question that perceptive youngsters can have both honestly and with empathy. Backmatter features notable refugees through history and, brilliantly, short interviews with refugee children that show how much they share in common with young readers. The length is fine for any age, and JJ was very engaged with the art and text. A straightforward, necessary, and heartfelt guide, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

You Can Be (Elise Gravel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Can Be by Elise Gravel, a board book of feelings that encourages little ones to always be themselves.

There are lots of ways to be a kid: you could be happy, or thoughtful, or quiet. Boys can be artsy or sensitive or caring and so can girls; girls can be strong or stinky or leaders, and so can boys. The most important things are to never be mean or rude, and to ALWAYS be yourself – it’s the very best way to be.

Lovely. On the surface, this short board book is a visual look at different emotions or personality attributes, illustrating each in Gravel’s boldly-lined and energetic cartoon style. But the subtler (and much appreciated) message for baby bookworms is that it is okay to feel emotions, have interests, and express aspects of your personality, no matter one’s gender, skin color, or even just what others say. The art cleverly shows girls and boys as examples of aspects that they may not be readily associated with (such as a “sensitive” boy crying over a good book, or girl getting “dirty”, playing with trucks in the soil), and undercutting stereotypes such as “girls can’t be funny” or “boys can’t be caretakers”. And more broadly, it sends the message that it’s okay to feel things, even grumpy or angry or shy – your feelings are a part of you, and never wrong. It’s a great way of combining education with encouragement for the youngest reader, and we loved it. The length is great, and JJ and I had a ball with the adorable art – definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

The Cranky Ballerina (Elise Gravel)


Hello, everyone! After the disappointment of yesterday’s book, we were hoping for something fun today! And thankfully, we got it with today’s read, The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel, a fun and silly story with a classic message about finding your path.

Ada hates Saturdays. Every Saturday, she has to get up early, put on her tight leotard and her itchy tutu, and go to her ballet class (which she hates most of all)! The teacher is nice, but no matter how hard Ada tries, she just can’t get the hang of it, and she doesn’t really want to. But when her disastrous attempt at a pirouette spins and kicks her right out into the hall, she runs into another teacher who just might have the perfect solution to her problem!

What a fun read this was! First, who doesn’t love a story about finding the hobbies and skills that make you feel happy and special? It’s always a great message for kids, that being bad at one thing just means that you might be great at something else. In addition, the simple, sassy illustrations are lots of fun and full of character, and the text has got humor and charm, making it a fun one to read aloud. The length is perfect for baby bookworms of all ages, and JJ really enjoyed it! We liked this one a lot! Baby Bookworm approved!