When I’m Not Looking (Farren Phillips)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When I’m Not Looking by Farren Phillips, a ridiculous and hilarious interactive picture book that asks a question for the ages: what do our pets do when we’re not looking?

Young philosopher Legs has big questions – questions so big that even her Moms can’t answer them! But the one that truly troubles her? What does her pet duck do when she’s not looking? While the mild-mannered duck may seem like your average feather-brain, Legs cannot help but wonder if it’s all an act, and if her pet duck is in fact doing dastardly, dangerous, or disgusting things! Is she growing ten legs? Wearing Legs’s best pants? Gathering an army of ducks to take over the world? There are more outrageous things that even Legs cannot predict… and that’s where the reader comes in.

Innovative and delightful. While all of Legs’s hilarious hypotheses on her pet duck’s unobserved activities are wonderfully wacky, what makes this book unique are the interactive elements. While some traditional interactions are included – such as seek and finds throughout the quite cluttered house that Legs shares with her Moms – readers are also invited to draw, sketch, and invent their own crazy predictions of what the pet duck will do, including fill-in-the-blanks and prompts to provide drawings, fingerprints, coins, and a stamp. This allows each reader to truly make the story their own, while preserving their own silly ideas for future readings. It’s a clever concept that Phillips employs wonderfully though both art and text, and we were excited to imagine and create along with the story we were enjoying. But beware: potty humor again. Never my favorite, but comedic gold for the six-year-old. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really loved this one. So as much as potty humor will always make me cringe, I can’t deny that this one is incredible unique and a whole lot of fun. 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.)

Counting Elephants (Dawn Young)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Counting Elephants, written by Dawn Young and illustrated by Fermin Solis, a mixed-up tale of math and magic.

Two characters, the Counter and the Magician, welcome the reader to their story, but immediately disagree as to why they’re there. The Magician was under the impression that the story would be about magic (he’s dressed in his top hat and cape for the occasion), but the Counter insists that their purpose is to count the elephants surrounding them. She begins, but is immediately foiled by the Magician, who transforms one of the elephants into a frog! As the Counter attempts to begin the count again and again, the pesky prestidigitator changes another elephant or two into a jar of peanut butter, or jelly, or a puppy! How will the Counter ever get this ridiculous tale back on track?

Cute. This highly silly story will definitely amuse young readers; the comedy is lighthearted, unexpected, and appropriately madcap. Less functional is the script-format dialogue, which is often out of sync with the artwork around it. Speech bubbles or dialogue with two distinct visual formats for the characters would have been a lot more helpful in differentiation between the two. Also, those looking for an actual book about counting will be disappointed – the story features little to no actual lessons in numerals or values. The cartoonish artwork is fun, however, and captures the silliness with bold colors and expressive characters. The length is fine for any age, and JJ enjoyed the Magician’s antics. Imperfect, but delightful nonetheless! Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Friday Night Wrestlefest (J. F. Fox)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Friday Night Wrestlefest, written by J. F. Fox and illustrated by Micah Player, a hilarious account of one family’s unique weekly tradition.

Friday night, ladies and gents! School’s out, the pizza’s been eaten, and now it’s time for the main event: WRESTLEFEST – BATTLE TO THE BEDTIME! Tonight, It’s sibling duo the Tag Team Twins – Peanut Brother and Jellyfish – facing off against the Dangerous Daddoo! In their homemade wrestling regalia, the opponents enter a no-holds-barred throwdown, complete with moves like the “swirling shark-clone” and “codfish kisses”. And when special guests Big Bald Baby and Mama-Rama join in with some surprise moves, the match becomes a must-see event! Who will be victorious?

Charming and hilarious fun. It’s always awesome to see a such a unique concept for a picture book, especially when it’s so well-executed, and this light-hearted family tale is just that. The announcer-style text is filled with punny humor that hits the rare note of clever-not-cringey, and is an absolute blast to read and hear aloud; JJ was in stitches throughout, even having never watched a wrestling match in her life. The illustrations balance the epic fantasy and sweet reality of Wrestlefest wonderfully, and do a fantastic job of showing dynamic action that isn’t violent. The length is perfect for a quick and fun read, and we really loved this one. A hilarious bedtime treat, 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.)

Little Bear And His Chair (Claressa Swensen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Bear And His Chair, written by Claressa Swensen and illustrated by Alena Paklina, a sweet tale about the benefits of sharing.

Little Bear has a favorite chair, a special place where he likes to sit, relax, and feel calm. In fact, he loves his chair so much that he tells all his other animal friends to stay away, and even puts up signs – no one else is allowed to sit there! That is, until the day that Ryan the Lion, tired from walking, sits for just a few moments to rest his feet… in Bear’s chair! Little Bear yells at Ryan, and sends him off in tears. When the other animals hear about this, they decide not to spend time with Little Bear anymore; what kind of friend cares more about a chair? Feeling remorseful for yelling at his friend, and realizing how lonely being so selfish can be, Little Bear begins to wonder what’s more important: protecting his chair, or protecting his friendships.

Very sweet. This indie title thrives in its simplicity: a classic story of sharing and of being a good friend, some absolutely darling storybook illustrations with charmingly cute characters, and text that is perfect for beginner bookworms. There’s nothing here that really breaks the mold, but it doesn’t have to: the message is timeless, and the story will delight any young reader. There are a few narrative missteps, such as one case of an abrupt change in narrative perspective, and it would have been nice if Ryan and Little Bear’s relationship had been established before their falling out (it’s mentioned that they are best friends, but not until after their confrontation). But overall, this a cute story with a great length and pacing, and JJ liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Llama Destroys The World (Jonathan Stutzman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Llama Destroys The World, written by Jonathan Stutzman and illustrated by Heather Fox, a positively ridiculous tale of a llama, some cake, and the end of the world.

On Friday, Llama destroyed the world (it was an honest mistake). You see, on Monday, he came face to face with an enormous pile of cake – more cake than any llama should ever eat – and well, what’s a llama to do? He ate it all. Unfortunately, that was his first mistake… And with each progressive minor mistake, the end of the world grows nearer – all because of some dancing pants, a black hole, and one very silly llama.

Delightful! For those who enjoy their humor on the absurd side, this gleefully weird romp is all about the fun. There’s no lesson to be learned (unless you count “don’t eat too much cake or the sound made when you rip your pants will cause a rift in the universe resulting in a black hole that sucks everything to the other side”) – by the end, even Llama is back to his old ways (a pile of pie is just as tempting as the cake). Little readers will delight at Llama’s goofy face and minimal-yet-enthusiastic dialogue, as well as Fox’s adorable, cartoonish illustrations. JJ went wild for the daffy little llama, and I got to appreciate some solidly deadpan absurdist text, making this a blast to read together. The length was fine for any age and we just had a lot of fun with this one – Baby Bookworm approved!

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