I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know (Leslie Odom, Jr. & Nicolette Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know, written by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Nicolette Robinson and illustrated by Joy Hwang Ruiz, a heartfelt ode to the bond between caregivers and their children.

On the day that a parent or caregiver meets their child, they give them their heart, and as the child grows – and perhaps the family does, too – that connection never wavers or lessons, never breaks, and never ceases. On through good times and bad, through big moments and little ones, as that child grows and learns and becomes a grown-up themselves, the love of their caregivers is a constant that can be relied upon, even if it can never truly be described.

Lovely. Odom, Jr. and Robinson’s rhyming text is simple and lyrical, aside from occasionally clunky meter, and filled with universal sentiments that the adult caregivers will connect with and kids will understand. Yet as fine as the text is, Hwang Ruiz’s illustrations positively shine from every page, filled as they are with genuine warmth and tenderness as they depict a fantastically wide scope of family life. Inclusive illustrations not only show a wide range of skintones, body types, adaptive apparatus, family compositions, religious apparel, body modifications, hair textures, and LGBTQ+ representation, but also include elements rarely acknowledged in picture books such as body positivity and breastfeeding. It’s the kind of thoughtful and authentic diversity that is wonderful to see in children’s literature, especially as the genre faces attacks on diverse and accurate cultural representation. Further, the length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A warm hug of a book for caregivers and their kids to cozy up with, 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.)

Saturday (Oge Mora)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Saturday by Oge Mora, a heartwarming story of mother and daughter.

Saturdays are Ava’s favorite day; her mother works every other day of the week, so Saturdays are just for the two of them. They even have their weekly ritual all planned out: first, go to the library for storytime; then relax at the beauty shop as they get their hair done; then off to the park for a picnic. And today’s Saturday is even more special, because they’re capping it off with a special, one-night-only puppet show across town. However, when they get to the library, the find that storytime has been cancelled… and that’s only the beginning of their bad luck. Disappointment after disappointment mounts, culminating in a heartbreaking realization that they’ve left their puppet show tickets at home! This proves to be Ava’s mother’s breaking point, and she apologizes to her daughter for a day wasted. But little Ava knows the truth, and is there to remind her mother: a day is never wasted when it’s spent with the one you love.

Absolutely wonderful. Mora has a real talent for telling simple, uplifting stories that are grounded in reality. Watching Ava and her mom suffer their series of letdowns is painful, and the mother’s eventual feelings of guilt for “ruining” the day hit so close to home as a parent, especially because EVERY mother I know has had that kind of day at some point. And it’s Ava’s gentle, kind reassurance that both warms the heart and teaches several important lessons to young readers: sometimes things can’t go our way, sometimes parents even (gasp!) mess up, but it’s how we handle these bumps – and who we handle them with – that makes us who were are. It’s quietly powerful, deeply touching, and wonderfully inspiring. The mixed-media paper collage art is rich and beautiful, filling Ava’s city with life and color, and managing to imbue deep emotion and personality in spare figures. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. Absolutely Baby Bookworm approved!

I Love You Just The Way You Are (Rosie Greening)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love You Just The Way You Are, written by Rosie Greening and illustrated by James Dillon, a heartwarming look at a parent’s love for their little one.

Using a menagerie of parent-and-child animal duos, the rhyming text draws parallels between the misbehaviors and peculiarities of the young animals and human kids, and explains that no matter what, their parents love them anyway. So while an elephant calf may stomp and trumpet and make lots of noise, or a puppy be messy during mealtimes and play, or a sleepy sloth may be grumpy at wakeup time, in the end, their mommy or daddy doesn’t mind – they love them just the way the are.

Adorable! With large, colorful full-page illustrations, young readers are sure to delight over the cuddly animals and their even cuddlier young. The character design is tailor-made for young bookworms, and little ones will have fun identifying the familiar animals. The rhymes are simple, flow well, and are sweet without being saccharine, making them a joy to read aloud. And of course, the message is timeless and touching. It’s a fine, short length for any age, and JJ and I both liked this one a lot. A great staple for any little one’s bookshelf, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

If Animals Said I Love You (Ann Whitford Paul)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If Animals Said I Love You, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by David Walker, a sweet board book that imagines the various ways animals express their love.

The third book in their If Animals series, the author-illustrator duo introduces us to a collection of animal families and friends who each have unique ways of showing their love. For instance, the lion cubs love to wrestle with their cousins, the alligator likes to splash his brother with his tail, and a gorilla mommy and her baby – the sole repeating pair of creatures, who provide a framework for the book – pound their chest, give sweet smooches, and snuggle in for bed at the end of the day.

Simple and sweet. The playful rhymes and soft-focus, cuddly animal characters make this a wonderful book to share with even the tiniest of bookworms, as does the brief yet satisfying length. Most of the animals are native to the African continent, with the whale and the alligator being the only exceptions, and are a nice mix of familiar critters, like cheetahs and boas, and more adventurous ones such as secretary birds and impalas. The family relationships mentioned are diverse (cousins, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc.), or wisely left undefined. JJ liked this one, and so did I – it’s a great story to share with a reader who is just starting out. 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 Wonderful Things (Richard N. Andrew)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Wonderful Things, written by Richard N. Andrew and illustrated by Mona Spencer, a simple fable about appreciating the important things in life.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a castle. Her father, the King, tells her that she can have anything she wants, so she asks for pretty dresses, fancy necklaces, and other lovely things. As she plays with all her treasures, an evil witch spies her from a tower, and is envious of her riches. So the witch casts a spell to steal everything that the little girl possesses. The girl is sad, and her father expresses regret that he cannot undo the spell. Still, the little girl smiles and assures him: the truly wonderful things in life are their family and the love they share.

A bit short, but still sweet. Frankly, this indie title lacks a great deal of polish – the story is pretty formulaic and a bit too abrupt to make a lasting impact, and the overly-simplistic, flat graphics are nothing to write home about. Still, the story is a classic one that, even without much flair, has a lesson that is always worth reiterating. The all-black cast gives a nice touch of diversity, and the length is short enough for a quick read. Certainly worth a look, and Baby Bookworm approved.

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