This Book is My Best Friend (Robin Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is This Book is My Best Friend by Robin Robinson, a moving tale of friendship and the power of books and reading.

Two children – unnamed in the story but identified as Sunny and Aarush on the front flap – meet unexpectedly as they reach for the same picture book in the library. Each gently explains to the other that they NEED the sole copy of the book, Factory Friends, because the book is their best friend. Sunny loves it because it stars a robot and it helps make the long hours at hospital for Mom’s health problems less scary. Aarush loves it because it stars a mouse and brings moments of peace and quiet to an otherwise hectic home life. Both kids do their best to help the other find a suitable replacement, but there is just nothing to compare to the friendship that their chosen book provides. After all, it’s so hard to make friends, and when you find one that really gets you and your feelings, you want to hold on tight. But maybe books are like people, and they can have more than one best friend?

Wonderful. Robinson’s quietly amusing, touching, and insightful tale brings together all the best things about books and friendship: what each give to us, how they can enrich our lives, how they can help us cope with tough times, and how they can bring people together. The dialogical text speaks as guilelessly as two children would, and reads easily with different typefaces between the characters. The artwork is warm and sweet, and I loved the diversity between Sunny and Aarush, especially in their body types; while many picture books are paying more attention to inclusive representation in their character models, body type still sees limited diversity, especially in child characters. Otherwise, the length is great, JJ loved this one, and we absolutely recommend it to every book lover. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I Don’t Care (Julie Fogliano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Don’t Care, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal, a tale of friendship transcending differences.

At first, the two unnamed child characters are clear that they don’t much care what the other thinks of their appearance. They don’t care what the other thinks of their talents or families either. And they don’t care what the other looks like, or how they draw a cow, or how big or small their house is. As the pair visibly soften their stances and expressions to each other, the reader is clued in: they don’t care about these surface things, but instead care about how the other thinks, feels, and acts. They only care about their friendship, and how to be better friends to each other; about these things, they care a lot.

Sweet and heartfelt, if a little routine. Fogliano’s rhyming text is metered perfectly and reads like a dream, and the concept of having real-life besties Idle and Martinez-Neal combining their illustration styles is inspired. Yet looking at the extremely similar design of the protagonists – both have chin-length straight hair, the same pale skintone, round faces, button noses, and identical body shapes – one can’t help but see the missed opportunities to further explore the concept of a diverse and supportive friendship, as well as the concept of two separate art styles coming together. Overall, the collab between these three kidlit rockstars has a great message and is perfectly enjoyable, but it feels like it could have been more. Soft artwork and spare colors work well with the narrative tone, the length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I enjoyed it. Absolutely worth a look, and Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Big Bear and Little Fish (Sandra Nickel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Big Bear and Little Fish, written by Sandra Nickel and illustrated by Il Sung Na, a story about finding companionship in unexpected places.

Bear is hoping to win the biggest stuffed bear at the carnival, so she can’t help but be a little disappointed when she ends up with Fish instead. Bear doesn’t necessarily have anything against Fish, but they are just so different. Bear is big and Fish is small; Bear is gold and eats golden things, Fish is orange (and, therefore, probably eats orange things, Bear assumes). Bear likes long rambles through the countryside, and Fish… well, Fish lives in a bowl. So while Fish attempts conversation, Bear doesn’t know how to answer… she just doesn’t think they could ever have anything in common. After an extra-long ramble and a good, long think, Bear finally decides to tell Fish that it would be best if she did not stay… but after finally sparking up a conversation with her new companion, Bear will be surprised to find that they have a lot more in common than previously thought.

A very sweet lesson on making assumptions based on appearances. With peaceful yet pragmatic text, Nickel weaves a wonderful tale of pre-judging others in a way that allows children to immediately understand the flaws in Bear’s thinking (while still making her a sympathetic character), yet also introduces a lesson on perspective that proves thought-provoking for all ages. Along with Na’s charming illustrations, it makes for a compelling narrative with extremely applicable life lessons. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ truly enjoyed Bear and Fish’s interactions, especially the idea that friends don’t always have to be exactly like us to find common ground. A peaceful and encouraging little contemplation, and we absolutely recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Friends (Daniela Sosa)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Friends by Daniela Sosa, a surprisingly candid look at the world of friendship for young readers.

What is a friend? It could be someone you’ve known since birth, or someone you’ve only just met. Someone who was your friend for just a short while, or someone whose friendship will follow you for decades. Friends can be imaginary, or live far away, or perhaps be someone you haven’t met yet. Friendships can teach us, test us, hurt us, and heal us. We can make friendships and lose them, or sometimes we simply grow out of them. But one thing is for sure: even if you feel like you’ll never find a friend, be patient and look closer – a friend may be nearer than you realize.

Boldly realistic yet uplifting. Even for children, friendships can be complicated and mutable things, and Sosa takes a unique approach to the concept with a book that explores both the highs and lows of interpersonal relationships. Adult readers will recognize the sometimes bittersweet aspects of friendship that Sosa describes, yet she manages to do so in a way that never loses sense the excitement, support, or joy that comes from friendships (even temporary ones). It’s a far more complex and honest look at friendships, and one that leaves younger bookworms with realistic understandings and expectations than simply being “best friends forever.” A diverse cast and soft, homey, emotive illustrations nicely match the subject matter. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one, especially the sincere yet hopeful tone. Overall, this is a unique title for children who may have questions about friendship and want frank answers, and we recommend 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.)

Rosa’s Song (Helena Ku Rhee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rosa’s Song, written by Helena Ku Rhee and illustrated by Pascal Campion, a touchingly bittersweet story of friendship, community, and the immigrant experience.

New to “the country, the city, the building,” young Jae is struggling to adjust to his new surroundings and new language. His mother suggests introducing himself to some of the other kids in the building, and behind the first door he tries is Rosa and her pet parrot, Pollito. Rosa is a warm and welcoming bundle of energy, who instinctively sees Jae’s homesickness for his native country and invents games of imagination to help him adjust. She also teaches him to sing her special song with Pollito: “When I fly away, my heart stays here.” All summer, the friends play, pretend, and learn from each other… until the day that Jae wakes up, and Rosa has suddenly left. Heartbroken, Jae is left only with Pollito, a parting gift from his friend when her family had to leave “in a hurry” against their will. Once again, Jae struggles with sadness and loss, but now for a person instead of a place. Yet with the help of Pollito’s song and some new faces, Jae may learn how to carry on the spirit of Rosa’s friendship.

A complicated theme executed with tenderness and hope. Rhee’s wistful tale follows a familiar format at the start, but takes a surprisingly bold turn with Rosa’s departure, both hinting at the immigration status of Rosa’s family and facing the sometimes transitory nature of friendships based on proximity (as a former military family, we FELT that). This development is handled impeccably though, with honesty and heart, and may help little ones who experience similar closure-less separations from loved ones. Campion’s illustrations are warm, soft, and comforting – even in moments of sadness – and help ease the reader through the sadness of the plot. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ liked the rich artwork, especially of adorable and expressive Pollito. Overall, this is a poignant tale that encourages us to reach out and form connections – even if they may not last. It’s moving, and we loved it; Baby Bookworm approved!

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