Do Not Go In There! (Ariel Horn)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Do Not Go In There!, written by Ariel Horn and illustrated by Izzy Burton, a delightful fantasy about the power of possibility.

Morton and Bogart, two colorful, oddly-constructed creatures, are playing with blocks when they encounter a most curious thing: a red door. A red door with a SHINY gold doorknob. A very TEMPTING door, to the excitable and optimistic Morton. A very FOREBODING door, to the nervous and fretful Bogart. The two begin to concoct a number of theories as to what could be behind the door: “Fireworks and party balloons!” insists Morton. “Bunny-eating wolves!” cries Bogart. Yet, as the two craft ever-more preposterous theories, the question remains: to go, or not to go?

A blast! Written primarily in conversational text, delineated by two different typefaces for Morton and Bogart, this wildly entertaining tale also teaches a sweet lesson in overcoming uncertainty, and thrill of possibility. The escalating fantasizing by the two monsters is hilarious and charming, as well as a delight to read aloud, and little bookworms will identify with how overwhelming both excitement and dread can feel in the face of anticipation. The art is just as engaging, from the unique and adorable design of the central characters and of their imaginings full of candy castles, astronautical wolves, and much more. The length is perfect for a quick storytime, but it’s appeal is endlessly repeatable (JJ has requested many readings already) – always a treat when a book has such a universal message as well. Simply put, this one’s great. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

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

After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again (Dan Santat)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is After The Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat, an unexpectedly moving postscript to the famous nursery rhyme.

You’ve heard the story, now hear his side: Humpty Dumpty did indeed love sitting on top of the wall once. It gave him a lovely view of the city, and brought him closer to the birds, whom he loved to study and observe. But since the fall, well, he’s scared of heights. Even the top bunk of his bunkbed is too far for him, and he sleeps on the ground instead. He misses the birds and the things he once loved, but he just can’t shake his fear. Determined to go on with life, he finds other ways to feel close to the birds: he builds a model plane in the shape of one, and it’s as good as when he was up high… well, almost. But when his painstakingly crafted model gets stuck on top of the very wall he once fell from, what will he do? Can Humpty find the courage to make the climb once more?

I was not expecting this story to be as powerful as it was! Using the famous story of Humpty Dumpty, Santat explores a bold theme for a picture book, the aftermath of trauma. Humpty is scarred from his experience, physically and mentally, and it’s treated with surprisingly delicacy; the audience is made sympathetic to his phobia and how it prevents him from enjoying life as he once did. It makes the climactic climb to retrieve his model all the more dramatic, leading to an astonishingly stirring ending that is surprising, gratifying and inspirational. Santat’s signature seamless blend of reality and fantasy in his art leaps off the page as usual, the length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. This is an amazing book, and it will move you. Baby Bookworm approved!

Dad And The Dinosaur (Gennifer Choldenko)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Dad And The Dinosaur, written by Gennifer Choldenko and illustrated by Dan Santat, a poignant story about fear, courage, and the bond between fathers and sons.

Nicholas is afraid of some things: the dark, the bushes where the big bugs live, the world under the manhole covers, even the opposing soccer team’s big goalie. But Nicholas has a secret to overcoming his fears: his dinosaur. He keeps his dinosaur with him always, in his pockets or tucked in his sock, because the dinosaur is never scared of anything and helps make Nicholas feel brave. That is, until the day that Nick loses his dinosaur on the soccer field and must return home through the scary dark before he is able to find him. Nicholas is too embarrassed to reveal that his dinosaur was the one making him brave, but if he doesn’t tell someone, how will he ever get his dinosaur back? All seems lost… until Nicholas’s dad, Big Nick, is able to find a way to help his son.

This one was really beautiful. There are some wonderful lessons to take away: that it’s okay to feel afraid, and that opening up to your parents when you’re upset, even if you find your problem embarrassing, means that they can often help you and are more than happy to. I didn’t love that Nicholas felt that he couldn’t show weakness to his mother, but it did foster the trusting bond between him and his father, so it’s easy to overlook. Santat’s art is a perfect fit here, mixing the real world with the sublime seamlessly, using color and atmosphere to bring Nicholas’s imagination to life. The length is great, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. A touching story, especially for fathers to share with sons, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Elliot, Big Fun (Mike Curato)

Hello, friends! Our review today is Little Elliot, Big Fun by Mike Curato, the third book in the wonderful Little Elliot series. 

This time around, Elliot and his very best friend, Mouse, are on their way to the boardwalk for a fun-filled day at the carnival. Once they arrive, however, Little Elliot’s day begins to take a bad turn: many of the rides are too scary for him, a seagull eats his ice cream, and he gets so scared by a clown that he runs off in a panic. Mouse finds him hiding under the boardwalk, and persuades him to try one more ride before giving up. Is Little Elliot brave enough to trust his friend?

This is our third Little Elliot book, and each one has been more gorgeous and delightful than the last. Once again, Curato mixes adorably sweet little characters with some genuinely gorgeous art to create a story and a world that is both grand and sweeping yet sweet and intimate. The message of the story is great as well, encouraging readers not to give up if things aren’t going their way, and to be courageous enough to face their fears. Most importantly, it’s a story about friendship and family, and how even a bad day can still be special if you’re with the right person. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved it. A beautiful tale in both visuals and story, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Miss Hazeltine’s Home For Shy And Fearful Cats (Alicia Potter)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Miss Hazeltine’s Home For Shy And Fearful Cats, written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Birgitta Sif, a charmingly sweet story about finding courage to help a friend in need.

When Miss Hazeltine opens her Home For Shy And Fearful Cats, she’s not sure anyone will come… but they do, in droves. Owners bringing cats with one complaint or another (“won’t chase mice!”, “won’t purr!”, “useless!”) and timid strays all flock to her sanctuary, where Miss Hazeltine cares for the kitties and tries to give them confidence and teach them courage. Crumb is the most nervous little cat of all, hiding in dark spaces and never coming out, but still, Miss Hazeltine is kind and patient with him. But when Miss Hazeltine disappears one day while out to get milk, Crumb may find the courage inside him after all, especially if the lady he loves is in trouble.

This was a wonderfully sweet little tale with a lot of positives. It’s primarily a story about being brave when it’s most important, but there’s quite a few lessons here to be had: everyone has fears (including Miss Hazeltine), kindness is its own reward, and when the people you care about need help, it’s important to find the courage to do so, even take the lead if necessary. The illustrations are very cute, with lots of cuddly kitties and the endearingly exuberant Miss Hazeltine giving the story plenty of characters to root for. The length is fine, and JJ really enjoyed this one, especially the many cats that grace each page. All in all, a very cute story for the shy and/or fearful feline in all of us. Baby Bookworm approved!