Lula And The Sea Monster (Alex Latimer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lula And The Sea Monster by Alex Latimer, a nature-loving tale of friendship and courage.

Lula has lived all her life in her cozy home on the beach with her parents, but that’s all about to change. A big highway is being built, and despite protests, Lula and her family must leave. In her final days beachside, Lula wanders the shoreline and tidepools, soaking up her memories and love of her home. It’s during one of these walks that she finds a tiny creature, the tiniest she’s ever seen, attempting to escape a hungry seagull. After chasing off the seagull, moving her new little friend to a safer spot, and sharing a few snacks from her packed lunch, Lula names the tiny, pink squid-like fellow Bean, and promises to return to check on him tomorrow. And sure enough, Bean is there waiting for her the next day – but twice the size he was the day before! With each passing day (and each friendly meal Lula shares with her friend), Bean grows larger and larger, soon towering over the little girl, until the day he seems to simply disappear. That afternoon, as Lula’s parents are packing up their home and the bulldozers are bearing down on them, the young girl is suddenly fed up with this intrusion, and faces down the machines on behalf of the creatures of the shoreline… along with a rather LARGE surprise visitor who comes to support her protest.

Very cute. The story is a nice lesson in the importance of every tiny creature, and the equal importance of our kindness to them. It’s a message that can be taken both literally and figuratively, and results in a happy ending for all involved by the end (except, perhaps, the frightened bulldozer operators). The resolution is a little telegraphed, but counters this with a touch of wry humor and a great deal of heart; the bond between the adorable-at-any-size Bean and Lula is undeniably charming. The artwork is sweet, yet captures the tone of the oceanside setting and even the high stakes for Lula’s family very well through choices in color and shadow. The length is perfect, and JJ really enjoyed this one. A heartwarming environmentalist tale with a twist, 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.)

Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired The Environmental Movement (Stephanie Roth Sisson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired The Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson, a look at the revolutionary scientist and author.

Every morning, Rachel awoke to a symphony of song. Birds, chipmunks, insects, and all manner of furry, finned, or winged creatures filled her world with calls, chirps, and caterwauls. Rachel loved to learn about them, reading books and exploring the environments near her home, making notes and observations on everything she saw. Heading off to school, she was sure she would be a writer… until she glimpsed the microscopic world hiding in a drop of water, and became fascinated with biology. After a career of success as a researcher and author, Rachel turned her attention to something big: the steady silencing of the naturesong she had cherished as a child. Uncovering one of the major contributors of this ecological shift, toxic pesticides, she published the book Silent Spring, a groundbreaking and controversial work that changed the minds of the country, and would go on to create an entirely new movement of environmentalism.

There are very few works like Carson’s Silent Spring, which led to a major sea change in public opinion on environmental conservation and protection; for instance it – along with Carson’s testimony before Congress – led directly to the formation of the EPA. And Sisson’s work here does a wonderful job of showing both the early influences on Carson’s love of nature, her research, and the impact of her masterwork, as well as why the environmentalism movement was such a necessity in its time. There are a few areas that feel skimmed over (Carson’s struggles with being a woman in mid-century STEM, the lack of public interest in conservation before her book, etc.), but there are also wonderfully rich details, such as the onomatopoeic birdsong and the bold flowchart that describes how chemicals can devastate an ecosystem (note: this does depict some deceased animals). Sisson’s illustrations convey the tone perfectly, and the length is good for even smaller bookworms. A lovely introduction to an often-overlooked figure, 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.)

Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters (Marikka Tamura)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Penguins Don’t Wear Sweaters, written by Marikka Tamura and illustrated by Daniel Rieley, a lovely story that combines adorable penguins with a message of environmentalism.

The reader is introduced to a colony of playful penguins, living their best penguin lives. They swim and hunt for fish in the cool water, they let their fluffy feathers dry as they bask in the warm sun, they cuddle, waddle, play, and are happy. But one day, a tanker ship floats by and leaks icky black stuff into the water, which makes it no good for swimming and coats the penguins’ fluffy feathers in muck. Big Boots (humans) come to help, but the penguins are cold and scared. So the Big Boots put out a call to other Big Boots: knit sweaters for penguins!

Adorable. First, the text is delightful to read aloud; the choice for the narrative to be in penguin “voice” – using short, simple sentences to emulate the penguins’ point of view – creates a joyful and innocent tone. There is a little confusion where the message is concerned, as the story is based on a real-life incident in which knitters were asked for sweaters after an oil spill in Australia, but the sweaters were ultimately found to not be beneficial to the recovering birds. The author makes note of this in her afterward, but the wording in story is vague enough that this point may not make it across to younger readers. However, its ultimately a story of how, regardless of carelessness or good intentions, penguins are at their happiest when humans don’t interfere at all, and they are left to just be penguins. That’s a solid message. Otherwise, the colorful and darling illustrations are perfect for the style, the length was good, and JJ loved it. A clever and cute cautionary tale against human interference, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)

Banned Books Week Day 5: Hello, everyone! We continue Banned Books Week with today’s pick, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, a classic story about the importance of conservation.

In a dark, industrial wasteland, a small boy finds the Once-ler, an old hermit who tells him the story of when the landscape was filled with clear skies, lively animals and, most wonderful of all, the Truffula trees. The Once-ler came to this place and began chopping down the trees to make “thneeds,” an all-purpose garment, despite the pleas of The Lorax, a creature who speaks for the trees. The Once-ler’s greed and short-sightedness blind him until all the animals must leave, the sky is choked with smog, and lastly, the very last Truffula tree is chopped down. Regretful of his actions, the Once-ler gives the boy he tells his story to a gift, the last Truffula seed, and implores him to care for it and learn from the Once-ler’s mistakes.

The Lorax was banned in 1989 in a California school district because parents felt that it was “unfairly biased against the logging industry.” In fact, a hardwood flooring company authored a rebuttal, The Truax, that was logging-friendly – and universally panned by critics.

The Lorax is a classic tale that is just as poignant today as when it was written. It’s a great cautionary tale with a sad yet hopeful ending that sticks with you, and a must-read for all children. That being said, I would wait until they’re a bit older than JJ: the book is way too long for a baby bookworm, and while she loved the brightly-colored illustrations when the forest was healthy, the dark and dismal drawings of the Once-ler’s aftermath did not interest her (funny thing, that). Overall, however, Baby Bookworm approved!