Shelter (Céline Claire & Qin Leng)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Shelter by Céline Claire and Qin Leng, a lovely fable about kindness, generosity, and helping those in need.

A storm is coming, and all the animals of the forest are rushing to prepare. They fill their food stores, gather fuel for their fires, and secure themselves against the harsh weather, tucking into their homes just as the big storm hits. Outside, two young polar bear siblings approach, exposed to the elements. They knock on each door, asking for whatever food, shelter, or warmth can be spared, offering what little they have in return. Each family sends them away, protesting a shortage of resources (though they clearly have more than enough). The bears head toward an abandoned hill, hoping to make a hasty shelter, when Fox Cub calls out to them. He offers them a small lantern – not much, he apologizes, but it’s what he has. The polar bears thank him kindly, and after Fox Cub leaves, it begins to snow. The polar bears are heartened – this is something they know how to survive. Back at the Fox den, the heavy snowfall causes their roof to collapse. Turned out of their own home, they search for shelter, following a dim light to a pair of familiar faces who welcome them with open arms.

Simply beautiful. A moving story about why kindness and charity towards others makes entire communities stronger. This definitely reads as a metaphor for helping displaced refugees and/or the needy, and it’s an apt one, especially in the visual nods to the abundance of resources, and the fact that the bears appear to be relatively young orphans. It’s a tale about how our kindnesses, even small ones, are so often the thing that light our own way out of the dark. The art is gorgeous, with rich, detailed characters that bring real emotion and personality to each of the animals from head to toe. The length is great, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. A wonderful lesson for little ones, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing (Kay A. Haring)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, written by Kay A. Haring and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, a picture book biography of the beloved American artist.

When Keith was a little boy, his father taught him how to draw, and from that moment on, nothing could stop him from doing so. Through his adolescence, teens, and adulthood, he would draw in the margins of his schoolpapers, on blank walls, on subway station ad spaces, even bicycles and streetlamps. People would ask him why – why draw his unique outlined figures? Why give away his art and money to charities and the less fortunate? Why was he always, always, ALWAYS drawing? And Keith would smile and answer that “art is for everyone”,… then just keep drawing.

I want to love this one. It has so much going for it: there are wonderfully strong messages about creativity, passion, generosity, and accessibility to art. The energetic illustrations do a fabulous job of incorporating Haring real-life pieces as well as having an overall look that pays homage to his unique style. But there was just one thing I couldn’t get past, and it was the exclusion of Haring’s most important works, especially those that brought attention to gay rights and the devastating AIDS epidemic. Haring’s social-commentary pieces were some of his most passionate, and recognized a community that was being aggressively underserved. Especially considering that Haring himself died of AIDS complications at a tragically young age, this omission is surprising. The author, Haring’s sister, likely had good reasons – and the story is still strong without these details – but as a fan of Haring’s, I was disappointed to find this representation missing. Otherwise, it’s a good length and JJ loved the art, so it’s a tough call. Ultimately, we’re going to say this one is Baby Bookworm approved, but encourage your bookworms to find out more about Haring from other sources as well.

Oskar And The Eight Blessings (Richard Simon & Tanya Simon)

Hello, friends! In honor of the second night of Hanukkah, our book today is Oskar And The Eight Blessings, written by Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, and illustrated by Mark Siegel.

Oskar’s mother and father believe in blessings, and so does Oskar. But in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, Oskar finds himself a refugee, separated from his parents and sailing toward America, a city he’s never been to, and an aunt he’s never met. His father’s final words to him give him strength: “Oskar, even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” When Oskar arrives in New York, it is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, and Oskar must walk 100 blocks up Broadway to his aunt’s home. A very small boy in a city so big; it’s a daunting journey. But perhaps Oskar’s father was right – perhaps, if he looks for the blessings, he will find the kindness of good people all around.

Absolutely beautiful. These was not a page in this story that did not inspire hope, generosity, empathy, or good will. Oskar’s simple kindnesses, both given and received, are an inspiration to readers young and old to remember that even small gestures can lesson someone’s troubles immeasurably. With the historical context, it also serves as a poignant reminder that we should be a people and a land that welcomes and shelters those in need, especially children. The graphic-novel-inspired art is a perfect balance between the real and the fantastic, building a winter city of promise and hope. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved it. A magical story of the true spirit of the holiday season: that all people can be connected through the magic of blessings. Baby Bookworm approved!

Bear Says Thanks (Karma Wilson & Jane Chapman)

Hello, friends! We’re getting into the Thanksgiving spirit over here at The Baby Bookworm: today, we read Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman, a delightful and sweet tale from the pair’s beloved Bear series.

Bear wants to invite his friends over for a delicious feast to show them how much he appreciates them, but alas, his cupboard is completely bare! As he is bemoaning this, his friend Mouse shows up with a delicious pie to share, and Bear says “Thanks!” From there, more of Bear’s woodland pals show up, each bringing a delicious treat to share with the others. Bear thanks his guests kindly, but is overwhelmed – they have all been so generous to bring food, but he has nothing to offer the group in return. But Bear’s friends say no matter; Bear can provide them with stories and the pleasure of his company, which is all they require for their friendship feast.

We have yet to read a Bear book that we didn’t love, and this one was no exception. The familiar cadence of the rhyming text from previous installments is back, making it a bouncy and fun read-aloud. The story brings a few wonderful lessons about generosity, kindness, community, and the true meaning of friendship, leaving the reader with a warm heart by the final page. Chapman’s illustrations are as darling as ever, bringing personality and emotion to each character. The length is great, and JJ always adores Bear and his friends, as you can see! A fantastic read year-round, and especially during the season of togetherness, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Fox In The Forest (Stephanie Graegin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the very sweet Little Fox In The Forest by Stephanie Graegin, a touching tale of friendship and generosity.

This wordless picture book begins with a teacher telling a class of students, including the protagonist, that the next day will be show-and-tell; they should bring something precious and old. The little girl protagonist knows just what to bring: her beloved toy fox, which she has had since she was a baby as a constant companion. After class, she brings the little fox to the playground with her friends, but as she is enjoying the swings, a real-life fox snatches it from her backpack! The little girl and her best friend race after the fox, going on an adventure through the woods that parallels the adventure of the toy fox and its new owner. Will the little fox find its way back home – or will home become something new and unexpected?

I’ll be honest, JJ isn’t usually interested in wordless picture books, but we really enjoyed this one! The story is so charming and exciting, the characters are so expressive, and the illustrations so detailed and lively that it was easy to enjoy the story with our own narration. The ending was especially wonderful, with both the little girl and the real fox showing each other a touching generosity and kindness that stands as a great lesson for little ones. The length is as much as or little as you choose to make it, but it can be comfortably flipped through with a little reader, and JJ enjoyed this much more than other pictures-only books. This one will take a little more creativity than the average storybook, but the end result is well worth it. Baby Bookworm approved!