We All Celebrate! (Chitra Soundar & Jenny Bloomfield)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We All Celebrate! by Chitra Soundar and Jenny Bloomfield, a fantastically fascinating round-the-world exploration of festivals, holidays, and celebrations.

Every culture in the world has something in common: we all celebrate! For instance, there are many different ways that people celebrate the new year – and even different times of the year when they do it! Through vibrant art and brief, informative paragraphs, readers will learn how spring is celebrated in Samoa and Sweden, how the harvest is celebrated in Zambia and New Zealand, and the winter holidays are celebrated in Peru, Colombia, and the Philippines, as well as many, many more.

Enlightening and fun. Skipping lightly through a myriad of national, cultural, and religious festivals worldwide, readers can get a grasp of both the differences and similarities in celebrations near and far to them. It’s not a comprehensive guide, but it’s not meant to be; stunningly colorful and expressive artwork weaves together multiple celebrations around a central theme across each full 2-page spread (for instance, comparing fasting as a religious rite in Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity). And in highlighting both diversity and similarities in the ways we celebrate as humans, it works very well. The length is best for older elementary aged or middle grade readers, as it is too comprehensive to be read in a single storytime, but JJ enjoyed exploring the different festivals and holidays. Overall, a very cool little title that brings the world a little closer, and we 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.)

The Best Gift for Bear (Jennifer A. Bell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Best Gift for Bear by Jennifer A. Bell, a charming, holiday-themed tale about the true meaning of friendship.

Hedgehog has spent a long winter’s morning baking and decorating sweet treats for all her friends – snowflakes for the mice, tree for the squirrels, and a whole batch of gingerbread rabbits for her bunny pals. She has one gift left to make, and it has to be special and grand, just like it’s recipient: her best friend Bear. Seeing the snow on her roof, she is struck with inspiration, and creates a massive cookie concoction that is sure to blow Bear away. Yet on the long and snowy journey to Bear’s house, the weather is kicking up some blustery chills, and Hedgehog isn’t sure she and her gift are going to make it intact! Will Hedgehog be able to present Bear with a gift worthy of her wonderful friend?

Deliciously sweet. Bell does a fabulous job of creating a story that centers around classic themes of friendship and giving without feeling stale or trite. Hedgehog and Bear’s story is gentle yet engaging, perfectly-paced, and beautifully drawn. While some of the visual elements are Christmas-coded, the actual holiday isn’t specifically mentioned, giving a more inclusive “season of giving” framework to the plot. And the resolution is particularly sweet, and a great lesson on the importance of caring relationships over material things. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved it. Overall, a great way to reinforce the true spirit of the holidays while warming the heart, and we highly 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.)

A Christmas Too Big (Colleen Madden)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Christmas Too Big by Colleen Madden, a heartwarming look at what makes the holidays special.

The day after Thanksgiving, Kerry’s family goes into mega-Christmas-mode. Dad is obsessed with lights, Mom turns into a Christmas-song-jukebox, grandma becomes a cookie-baking tornado, and her little brother hides elves in every corner of the house. The whole neighborhood seems to be overtaken by this oversized, flashing, jingling, headache-inducing version of Christmas… except Mrs. Flores. After assisting her elder neighbor, Kerry is invited in for cocoa and learns about some of Mrs. Flores’s holiday traditions from Mexico The two make crafts, sing songs, and talk of faraway family. As a thank you, Kerry helps Mrs. Flores set up a tablet to video chat with her son’s family in Mexico. While walking home, Kerry decides that it’s fun to explore different kinds of Christmas, and brings home her lessons from Mrs. Flores to share with her own familia.

Wonderful. This sweet holiday story starts with humor and ends with heart, all the while incorporating lovely lessons in kindness, friendship, and cultural appreciation. The story is sure to note that, while Kerry’s family can be overwhelming, there’s nothing wrong with their enthusiasm for Christmas; it only suggests that there are lots of ways to celebrate, and all of them can be special. The Spanish/Spanglish dialogue is another treat, especially for bilingual readers; context clues keep monolingual English speakers from getting lost, and some moments – such as when Mrs. Flores and her son weep tears of joy upon seeing each other over video chat – are universal enough to not need translation. The artwork is perfect, visually reflecting the chaos of the initial scenes, the calm and exuberance of Mrs. Flores’s house, and the festive balance of the two in the final act; details are numerous and often hilarious. Backmatter includes instructions on making the flores de Navidad featured in the story and a very cool visual Spanish vocabulary page. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I loved it. This is a great read to start off the holiday season, and it’s 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.)

Our Favorite Day of the Year (A. E. Ali)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Our Favorite Day of the Year, written by A. E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, a lovely tale of friendship and diversity.

On the first day of kindergarten, Ms. Gupta tells the class that by the end of the year, they will become close friends with their classmates – but Musa isn’t so sure. As a way to learn about their classmates, Ms. Gupta encourages them each to share their favorite day of the year. Discussing his own favorite, Eid, with his tablemates, Musa is surprised to find that they don’t celebrate Eid as well. As the year passes, each student shares their favorite day and how it is celebrated: Musa shares the many foods he eats during Eid from the members of his multicultural mosque; Mo shares the sweet treats of Rosh Hashanah; Moisés wishes “Feliz Navidad!” as he explains Las Posadas; Kevin recounts what his family learned on the science-centric Pi Day. By the end of the year, the class has learned about lots of different favorite days – and about their new best friends.

Wonderful. This rich look at cultural, religious, and racial diversity does a splendid job of introducing, through four highlighted holidays, the beauty and fun of immersing oneself in other cultures, as well as the friendships and respect for others it can build. In addition to the four holidays highlighted, many more are depicted in the warm and lovely artwork, as are other forms of diversity (Mo’s family is blended and LGBTQ+, Kevin’s ponytail and pink scrunchie suggest he is gender-nonconforming). So while the story on its own is a brief yet enriching read, these details encourage repeat readings and further research (the backmatter only features descriptions of the four holidays covered in the story). A fantastic tale of friendship, 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.)

Halloween Boy And The Christmas Kid (Daniel Jude Miller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Halloween Boy And The Christmas Kid by Daniel Jude Miller, a delightfully unique tale of friendship.

Two baby boys are born on the same day in November and from that moment on, they share a special bond. Coming together six years later in kindergarten, they become fast friends, despite not technically having anything in common other than their day of birth. One boy loves EVERYTHING Halloween: the spooky, the creepy, the strange and scary. The other is crazy for Christmas: tinsel, evergreen, presents and Santa. Whatever season or time of year, each boy’s chosen holiday is practically all they can think about! But somehow, this suits their friendship fine – they even once tried to be like the other, but it wasn’t for them. That is, until the day find themselves in a debate over the superior holiday. Can this friendship stand the test of competing holiday cheer?

If there’s one word for this book, it is definitely “unique”! Based on a true story (a photo of two similarly holiday-decked-out boys is shown on the last page with no other explanation), Miller provides a personal twist on a timeless lesson of friendship. The boys ultimately find that despite having almost nothing in common, they can still enjoy each other’s company and encourage the other’s interests, and that’s really all friendship requires. The text is really well-constructed, using clever alliterations and paired rhyming words that make it a delight to read aloud. The illustrations are wonderfully detailed and full of silly antics and hilarious Easter eggs. The final conflict resolves a bit abruptly with too little explanation, but other than that, this was great fun. The length was fine, JJ had fun with it, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

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