Home is Where the Birds Sing (Cynthia Rylant)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Home is Where the Birds Sing, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Katie Harnett, a sweet meditation on home and family.

What does “home” mean? Well, “home is where you come in from the rain.” It’s a place for food and fun, of security and acceptance. It’s where you are treated with kindness and respect, and where the surroundings reflect yourself and the things you love. It’s where stories are told and made, and where you are always welcome. It is where you hear birdsong, not only with your ears, but with your heart.

Gentle, loving, and sweet. Rylant’s skill with prose is on display here, as she captures impactful moments big and small in short yet flowing and soothing lines of text that are a pleasure to read. It’s a rhythm that pairs well with Harnett’s warm, cozy paint-and-pencil illustrations, which similarly swirl the large and colorful with the small and meaningful to create scenes of love and family. In addition to a lovely visual theme of birds throughout, Harnett also offers a wonderfully diverse representation of families, from race to composition to ability to socioeconomic status. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the artwork and comforting themes of family and unconditional love. Overall, this one is an absolute treat, and well worth the read – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

All You Need (Howard Schwartz)

Hello, friends! Sorry we missed you the past few days – we had some family commitments that we couldn’t miss. To make it up to you, we have two special weekend reviews today and tomorrow! Our book today is All You Need, written by Howard Schwartz and illustrated by Jasu Hu, a beautiful ode to the simple necessities of life.

“All you need,” the spare verse begins, weaving a quiet contemplation of the things one needs for life. A planet, a warm sun, clouds to gather rains, trees to clean the air. Good food, fresh water, plenty of sleep. A land of welcome and people to watch over you. The freedom and ability to share your lovely thoughts and the beating heart to give you life. What a person truly needs is simple, really – life, love, health, and joy.

Beautiful. Schwartz and Hu do something rare here: telling two different stories through the text and art that weave together beautifully in theme and tone. Schwartz’s uncomplicated free verse poetry highlights the theme of simplicity, neatly choosing a list of needs that is both almost entirely accurate and evocative of emotion. The story Hu tells with the stunning watercolor artwork reflects the early life story of a young child in China, growing amongst beautiful scenery and loving family before striking out into adulthood, yet maintaining a connection to home. These elements all combine to tell a heartwarming story about life, connection, nature, culture, and love, and the result is breathtaking. The length is great for a storytime at any age, and JJ adored the dreamlike artwork and easy-to-read text. Overall, this one is an absolute work of art, 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.)

A Family Is… (Lisa Thiesing)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Family Is… by Lisa Thiesing, a sweet look at what makes a family.

There are lots of things that a family is for. For saying “good morning,” having breakfast, and getting dressed. For walking, for helping, and for being together. For parties, for games, for showing off and for cheering on. Most of all, families come in all shapes and sizes, and are best when they’re together.

Light but sweet. With ultra-simple text detailing the various purposes of family and populated by a cast of adorable animal characters, this one isn’t big on innovation but has a timeless message nonetheless. One very nice element is the diversity of the animal families; while some resemble traditional, nuclear families, most of the families are diverse in species, age, size, and gender, implying that families need not be biologically-related or “traditional” to be considered families. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ did enjoy the little critters in the gentle artwork. Overall, this one is not particularly groundbreaking, but it has a solid theme, a sweet subject, and some very cute art. 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.)

Let’s Do Everything and Nothing (Julia Kuo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Let’s Do Everything and Nothing by Julia Kuo, a gorgeous meditation on the simple pleasures of spending time together.

A mother and young daughter embark on a series of adventures together, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary. Whether climbing mountain peaks, swimming in the ocean’s depths, or simply enjoying a pot of tea at the table, the two are simply happy that their experiences are shared. Each one, big and small, allows for teamwork, conversation, and learning. After all, each moment, big or small, is made better by being together.

Lovely. This sweet and gentle celebration of one-on-one time between parent and child is both humble and profound, blurring the line between epic exploits and everyday moments to emphasize the real importance of either: whom one shares them with. The reader is never sure if the larger-than-life moments are meant to be imaginary or not, to great effect – their grandeur is symbolic of how the smaller moments between loved ones are of equal importance. Kuo’s illustrations and simple text carry this theme perfectly, using identical color palettes for each “big” and “small” moment, and exploring big concepts with an economy of words. There are also some great details authentic to the family’s East Asian heritage, such as shrimp chips on a table or a board book of the Chinese alphabet. The length is perfect for any storytime, and JJ loved this mother-daughter story. Overall, a masterpiece ode to parent and child, 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.)

The Katha Chest (Radhiah Chowdhury)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Katha Chest, written by Radhiah Chowdhury and illustrated by Lavanya Naidu, a powerful look at family, history and courage.

Exploring her Nanu’s home is always a treasure trove of wonders for Asiya, but no treasure is more exciting than the katha chest. Made from the fabric of saris that Asiya’s mother (Maa) and aunts (khalas) no longer wear, each katha quilt is soft with time and rich with history, especially with the precious – and sometimes painful – memories of the original wearer of the saris. Asiya likes it best when the whole family gathers, pulls out the kathas, and tells stories of Nanu, the grandmother who crafted each family katha with love and care.

Simply stunning. Chowdhury’s guileless, child-like prose weaves together with Naidu’s colorful, impactful art to create a story filled with tradition and love. Exploring six stories of Bengali-Bangladeshi women through Asiya’s mother, grandmother, and aunts, Naidu and Chowdhury touch on some serious subjects – war, protest, leaving home, grief, the loss of a child – in ways that are honest, sensitive, and appropriate for child audiences. Telling the five sisters’ stories through textless spreads of Bengali folk art is inspired, and all the more powerful for their silent yet emotional visuals. In a bold move, Bengali-language words are not italicized or translated, and offer only context clues as to their meanings. It’s a choice that may throw some readers off, but is easily understood by the end of the first readthrough. Length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really loved this one. An incredible story of family tradition and the strength of women, sisterhood, and culture. Absolutely gorgeous, and a must-read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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