How Are You? (Édouard Manceau)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How Are You? by Édouard Manceau, a short and simple story about expressing emotions.

We are often asked the question. “How are you?”, and we all know that the answer usually depends on the day. Maybe we’re happy, or maybe we’re very happy! Or maybe we’re sad, or so sad that we cry, or even feeling empty. Sometimes we are full of anger and frustration! The truth is, our emotions can change day to day, or even over the course of a day. Yet no matter what, it’s okay to let those feelings out.

Minimalist yet affirming. Manceau’s board book is about as bare bones as a title can get, both in narrative and art. Set against a background of black, readers follow the narrator through a series of the emotions that they could conceivably be feeling, accompanied by a illustration that uses simplified facial expressions and changes in color to express them. Yet for a pre-reader book, these elements are ideal: the recognizable face shapes, the minimalistic color palette, and the easy-to-read text all provide a basic lesson in a few big and small emotions, most notably that even when they can be overwhelming, sometimes a cry and a nap can help a little one feel back on track. It’s a healthy message for the earliest of bookworms, wrapped in a cute and accessible package. The length is best for pre- and early readers, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. Overall, a great way to learn about some early emotions, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rainbow of Emotions, Big Emotions, & Facing Fears (Elena Ulyeva)

Hello, friends! Our books today are Rainbow of Emotions, Big Emotions, and Facing Fears, written by Elena Ulyeva and illustrated by Olga Agafonova (Olka Illustration), the first three books in the Clever Emotions board book series.

Cam the chameleon, like everyone, feels lots of different emotions, yet Cam is unique in that he literally wears his feelings on his face; his scales change to a specific color depending on the emotion he is currently feeling (yellow for happy, purple for embarrassed, white for scared, etc). In each book, Cam is faced with a different dilemma – looking for a playmate, finding his mom, and being confronted with xenophobia – and navigates through his full range of emotions before reaching a conclusion. After the plot is wrapped up, the final page encourages readers to think about how they deal with their own emotions.

Repetitive and uninspired. While the general concept of color-coding emotions is always helpful for very young readers, it’s a pretty common trope that has been done elsewhere (and honestly, better). These books suffer most in their lackluster stories, which are carbon copies of each other, and are filled with wildly shifting tones and unresolved conflicts. They also only offer lessons in emotional regulation on the last page of two books (though these tips are truly beneficial, especially the emphasis on sharing problems with trusted adults). On the bright side, the artwork is consistently charming, though not terrifically memorable. JJ was a little disappointed with these, especially as she had been excited by the concept; she tired of Cam’s exploits halfway through Facing Fears (which, incidentally, is the title that offers no lessons in emotional regulation). All in all, there are just too many fantastic pictures books about emotional intelligence that it’s hard to strongly recommend these. Worth a glance, but unlikely to grab the reader.

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Happy Unicorn & Sad Unicorn (Clever Publishing & Samara Hardy)

Hello, friends! Our books today are Happy Unicorn and Sad Unicorn by Clever Publishing and Samara Hardy, the first two titles in the First Feelings series of board books for toddlers.

What can make you happy? What can make you sad? And what can make you feel better? These are the three basic concepts explored through the adventures of Unicorn and her band of animal buddies. Happy Unicorn has a fairly straightforward plot, simply listing things that typically make one happy, such as playing with friends or eating yummy foods. Sad Unicorn expands on this by not only presenting situations that can make us sad – such as disappointing weather or getting a boo-boo – but also ways in which we can help ourselves or others feel better when they’re down.

Fantastic. When it comes to emotional development board boards geared at toddlers, simplicity and entertainment are key, and this series has both. Unicorn and their pals are adorably illustrated with bright colors and expressive design by Hardy, and the scenes and interactive elements are well-utilized to engage the youngest of bookworms. The messages about emotions are similarly noncomplex, yet also encourage healthy emotional management, such as encouraging readers to talk about their negative feelings and consider the emotions of others when interacting with them (for instance, several times, when JJ saw Unicorn supporting a sad friend, she remarked how kind Unicorn was being). The length of each book is perfect for a quick read, and we liked these immensely. Overall, a great way to explore emotions for little ones, and we highly recommend them – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

This Will Pass (J. Donnini)

Hello, friends! Our book today is This Will Pass, written by J. Donnini and illustrated by Luke Scriven, a beautiful meditation on navigating life’s storms.

Crue is all abuzz, waiting for his favorite great-uncle Ollie to arrive for a visit. Ollie is a high-seas adventurer, and once arriving, announces that he is taking Crue on his first voyage to the distant destination of Mashore. While Crue is excited, he’s also worried: the sea is a dangerous and unpredictable place, with storms and accidents and massive monsters. Great-uncle and nephew set off, and it’s smooth sailing for a time, until a storm sends the boat tossing and turning. Crue is terrified, but Ollie teaches him how to calm himself and weather the waves and wind. The two make it out, and continue their travels. Yet once they reach Mashore, Ollie has one more surprise in store for Crue: he must captain his own way back home.

Lovely. Donnini crafts a beautiful allegory for facing a larger and unknown world – first at the side of a trusted mentor, then on one’s own. Yet instead of treating fear or worry as emotions to be ignored, readers are given tools like mantras and breathing exercises to help manage emotions and work through them. It’s an approach to anxiety that is both affirming and constructive, and becomes a wonderful strategy for kids’ emotional toolkits. Scriven’s gorgeous illustrations compliment this perfectly, never reaching truly terrifying territory yet still expressing honest emotions that young readers can recognize and identify with. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed this one, immediately retaining the “Be calm, it will pass” mantra introduced in the story. Overall, this is a fantastic way to explore anxious emotions with children, and we highly recommend 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.)

Sometimes I’m a Baby Bear, Sometimes I’m a Snail: Ways to Say How We Feel (Moira Butterfield)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Sometimes I’m a Baby Bear, Sometimes I’m a Snail: Ways to Say How We Feel, written by Moira Butterfield and illustrated by Gwen Millward, a fantastic look at emotional autonomy and expression.

The truth is, there’s nothing wrong with feeling different day to day. Sometimes, you might feel playful and social like a puppy, while other times, you may feel quiet and happy to be alone, like a snail. Both are okay! Just like it’s okay to feel cuddly and kissy one day, like a baby bear, but would rather not be touched the next day, like a no-hug bird. It can sometimes be difficult to express these emotions, and sometimes we can feel trapped in an emotion we don’t like feeling. For both, it can help to talk about how you feel with a trusted friend or loved one, and find the animal inside that might help you feel better. The most important thing to remember is that there are many ways to feel, and that all of them are healthy, normal, and deserving of respect.

Marvelous. With friendly and encouraging (if slightly uneven) text, Butterfield explores a number of themes that are critical for young readers developing emotional and physical awareness, such as autonomy, consent, identification, and communication. Combined with Millward’s colorful and charming artwork, which features a healthy diversity of skintones, hairtypes, abilities, and religious expression in addition to emotions, kids are given a fantastic guide to understanding their feelings, not just by category, but by how they process and share these emotions as well. The consistent theme of bodily autonomy is particularly welcome, and the backmatter features a great note on how to discuss this and other important aspects of emotional development with young children. The length is great, and JJ and both loved it; she understood the concept right away and immediately began utilizing it to express her own feelings. Overall, this one was a real treat, and has the potential to be a helpful tool for educators, caregivers, and kiddos. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

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