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.)

Me & Mama (Cozbi A. Cabrera)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera, an absolutely gorgeous ode to the special moments between mother and daughter.

As a little girl descends the stairs, she is greeted warmly by her mother; they are the only two awake yet, and Papa and brother Luca are still asleep. The pair start the day by sipping on drinks (a fancy teacup for Mama, a sippy cup for the little girl). They brush their teeth together, shower and pick out clothes, eat warm oatmeal (with blueberries for Mama, bananas for the girl). They do their hair, don galoshes, and explore the rain-slicked world outside. When it’s bedtime, the girl is tucked in by Mama and relaxes into the cozy dark, thinking of all the little moments that made her simple day with Mama so special.

Absolutely lovely. This sweet slice-of-life tale is as beautiful visually as it is in prose, both taking the everyday moments between loved ones and exalting them with artistic flair. Cozbi’s text reads with the guileless voice of a child, and makes humble moments that most readers can connect to feel meditative and sublime. The acrylic artwork is equally stunning, capturing the atmosphere of a cloudy day or the details of oatmeal warming on a kitchen stove in a way that celebrates their perhaps-overlooked beauty. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I loved this one; while there are plenty of books that celebrate mother-daughter relationships, this one felt uniquely grounded in the reality of how those relationships look on an average day. An absolute beauty, 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.)

My Heart Grows (Jeffrey Burton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Heart Grows, written by Jeffrey Burton and illustrated by Joanne Liu, a sweet board book about the bond between caregivers and their little ones.

First, a heart beats for one; but when that one heart welcomes a child into their life, it beats for two and just keeps growing. It grows as the child does – as they learn, as they laugh, as they cry, as they figure out how to be brave. With every adventure, every setback, and every life lesson, a heart grows and grows, and so do the other hearts that love it.

Heartwarming. A gentle look at the bond between a parent/caregiver and the child who makes their heart grow. Simple, earnest rhyming text is fairly easy to read aloud (though there were a few meter inconsistencies that tripped me up) and warmly tender in its tone. Brightly colored child-like illustrations are delightful and surprisingly atmospheric. One small disappointment was that while the parent/caregiver-child pairs depicted do feature some racial diversity, there is only one non-traditional caregiver (a grandparent) and no sign of blended families, which feels like a missed opportunity. However, everything else about the book is a delight, especially the clever use of the heart cutouts to fit the theme of a growing heart. The length was great for a quick and easy read, and JJ enjoyed it. 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.)

Robin Robin (Dan Ojari & Mikey Please)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Robin Robin, written by Dan Ojari and Mikey Please, and illustrated by Briony May Smith, an adorable picture book retelling of the new holiday Netflix special of the same name.

When little Robin’s egg is found by a family of mice, they decide to raise the little bird as a part of their family. Robin loves her parents and siblings, and tries everything she can to be an excellent mouse, especially when the family ventures into the “Who-man” house to stealthily search for crumbs. Unfortunately, Robin isn’t particularly skilled at being stealthy, and the family nearly gets caught by a ferocious cat. Feeling out-of-sorts about the incident, Robin tries once more to be a sneaky as a mouse, a choice that will lead her on an adventure of discovery – about “Chrim-Cross” stars, about a clever collector magpie friend, and most importantly, about herself.

A lovely tale of blended family and self-identity. Robin eventually learns how to embrace her strengths as a bird to help her magpie pal and her beloved mouse family achieve their dreams; it’s a satisfying and affirming outcome, and a lovely message for readers who may themselves feel out of place or stuck between two worlds. The text features some fun repetitive lines that make the story entertaining to read aloud, and the rich artwork has a nice blended of traditional and modern storybook aesthetics. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ really liked this one – so much so that she wanted to watch the special afterward. Overall, a sweet holiday treat that is light on the Christmas but heavy on themes of familial love and self-acceptance, and we loved. Baby Bookworm approved!

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