Leaf (Sandra Dieckmann)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann, a clever yet poignant tale about fear of the unfamiliar.

The crows saw him first, drifting toward the shore one moonlit night on a raft of rapidly melting ice. He took shelter in the old empty cave that the other animals steered clear of, and the whispers started soon after. He looked so different from the other animals, and even from the lush and colorful land around them, this great white bear. And he acted so strangely, wandering the forest every day and collecting leaves. The other animals called him Leaf, not because of his odd habit, because they wanted him to LEAVE. Too loud, too different – the other animals were so sure he didn’t belong, and felt threatened by his presence. But as the crows argue for compassion, Leaf does something entirely unexpected that just may encourage the animals to consider changing their point of view.

Simply lovely. While the story seems rather straightforward, there’s a lot going on here – through Leaf’s plight and the reactions of his new neighbors, readers learn lessons in empathy, consideration, helping others, and – most notably – caution against fear of otherness (even the choice of the polar bear, a species rapidly losing its habitat, is not an accident). It encourages us not to judge someone simply because they look, sound, or act differently from us, especially as they may have very good reasons, and may even need our help but don’t know how to ask. The art is simply stunning, an intricate symphony of color around the stark white polar bear, both engaging young eyes and providing a visual example of how Leaf differs from the new world he finds himself in. The length is great, and JJ loved all the animals and vibrant colors. A sweet story with some wonderful lessons, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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!

Star Wars: BB-8 On The Run (Drew Daywalt)

Hello, friends! Our review today is Star Wars: BB-8 On The Run, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Matt Myers, an adorable adventure featuring the lovable little droid learning the importance of kindness.

Taking place during The Force Awakens, the story follows BB-8 as he flees across the desert planet of Jakku after his friend Poe is taken prisoner. BB-8 has an important mission to complete, and he needs to get back to the Resistance. How can one little droid accomplish this when he is alone and afraid? BB-8 remembers something that Poe told him: being kind to others will always been returned to you. And as BB-8 tries to catch a ship off-planet, he keeps finding creatures and droids in need. So he keeps stopping to help – often with mixed results – making it less and less likely that he can catch his ride. Will BB-8’s kindness truly come back to him? Can he fulfill his mission and make Poe proud?

This one was WONDERFUL, especially for little Star Wars fans. The story is surprisingly nuanced: BB-8 struggles repeatedly with doing the right thing for others vs. doing the right thing for himself, but always chooses to help those in need. Near the end of the story, this actually leaves him disadvantaged – he’s missed the ship home and has been captured by a scavenger – and he wonders why doing the right thing left him even worse off than he’d started. But he is, of course, rescued by Rey in the final pages, picking up the movie narrative again and showing that being kind truly did come back to him. It’s a subtle and honest lesson in why we must be kind even when it’s hard to be. The art is lovely, capturing the Star Wars world and creatures in pleasantly desert-hued paintings. The length was best for toddler and up bookworms, and JJ adored seeing her pal BB-8 on every page. A lovely fable that does the Star Wars universe proud, 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!