Grace and Box (Kim Howard)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Grace and Box, written by Kim Howard and illustrated by Megan Lötter, a sweet story of an unusual friendship.

“The day the new refrigerator came, Grace got Box.” Grace’s new pal is a master of imagination and disguise – one day, he’s a rocketship; another day, he’s a tent. Roman ruins, a submarine, even the entire city of Hong Kong, Box can be it all. But after a week of play, Grace notices that Box is starting to show some wear and tear. So what does a friend do when their best bud is feeling a little worn out? Take care of them, of course! Nursing Box back to health as best she can, Grace loses none of her affection for her playmate; he may look a little different now, but he’s still her friend Box, and they have a whole universe of imagination to explore.

Utterly charming. This timeless tale about the astounding imagination and creativity of kiddos and their ability to form bonds with beloved playthings is as fun a read for young bookworms as it is for their adults. Adorable Grace, with her purple dress, polka-dot socks, dark skin, and curly Afro, is a wonderfully engaging and expressing character, and the perfect foil to the oddly endearing Box and his static Sharpie smile; Grace’s unnamed dog is an entertaining silent third in their adventures. The illustrations and text work together perfectly to create a story that is light yet tender and heartfelt, and the reader feels drawn into each of Grace and Box’s fully-realized escapades. The length is perfect for a quick storytime, and JJ enjoyed it immensely. A delightful little tale, and we definitely 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.)

When I Draw A Panda (Amy June Bates)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When I Draw A Panda by Amy June Bates, a delightful tale of imagination, creativity, and expression.

A girl in white overalls and messy bun introduces herself to the reader as simply as possible: “I love to draw,” she states, gazing at a blank chalkboard wall with excitement. However, she points out that she is often encouraged to draw things “perfectly” or “the right way”. This does not appeal to the young artist, who prefers to create in her own way, such as swirling her chalk in circles until her own unique panda appears. She and the panda both enjoy drawing their own way, by giving their instruments free reign and allowing their imagination to fill in the blanks. So while their style may be a little “too crazy” for some, they don’t mind – not when their art makes them happy.

Adorable. This sweet tale reminds kids (and adults) that when it comes to art, there is no “right way” or “wrong way” to do things. This is both a nice encouragement for blossoming artists to let their creativity rule their efforts, as well as a good reminder to adults that children should be allowed to create in whatever way suits them personally. Bates’s charming illustrations and cheerfully irreverent text are a great match; the girl and her panda are both immediately lovable, and their imaginative illustrations are very entertaining; our favorite page gives a quick and fun tip for drawing dragons that we couldn’t wait to try out. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ loved it. A lovely ode to imagination, 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.)

Lali’s Feather (Farhana Zia)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lali’s Feather, written by Farhana Zia and illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, a delightful story of ingenuity and friendship.

Lali is playing in the field one day when she finds a feather. Wishing to return it to its owner, she asks Rooster, Crow, and Peacock if they are missing it. They all say no, pointing out the feather’s plainness (as opposed to Peacock’s fancy feathers) and pokeyness (as opposed to Crow’s perky feathers), and so on. So Lali decides to keep her feather to play with. Her friends Hen, Duck, Jay laugh at the little feather, but as Lali finds more and more ways to creatively play with the feather, all six of the birds become more excited and invested. Then, when a gust of wind blows the feather out of Lali’s grasp, she is left broken-hearted. Fortunately, her feathered friends are there, and eager to bring her feather back.

Wonderfully unique. Various themes are explored in this one (different species of birds, imaginative play, not judging by appearances, etc.), all weaving together to create a story that is rich with substance yet light and fun to read. Particularly enjoyable is Lali’s creative mind, which can find a hundred uses for a plain, small, pokey feather, such as tickling, sweeping, writing, and more. It shows little readers that any ordinary object can be a toy, and the very best games are often the ones we create ourselves. The illustrations are gorgeous, creating a lush country home setting and memorable characters. Lali’s Indian culture is flawlessly woven throughout, from her bindi and clothing to the Indian slang used in the dialogue (translations are not provided, yet easy to guess from context). The length is perfect, and JJ adored the colors and characters. A marvelously enjoyable tale, 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.)

I Can Be Whatever I Want (Siana Lucero & Deborah Lucero)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Can Be Whatever I Want, written by Siana & Deborah Lucero and illustrated by Siana Lucero, an indie ode to the power of imagination.

When Siana (a self-insert by the young author-illustrator) is asked by her nana what she wants to be when she grows up, Siana replies easily: “A unicorn.” When nana points out that Siana is a person – and therefore unlikely to achieve her unicorn dreams – Siana challenges this and changes her grandmother’s mind. Feeling confident that she can truly become whatever she wants to be, Siana lets her imagination run wild, pretending to be a giraffe, a lioness, a butterfly, and more. In each fantasy, she focuses on her feelings and invents a world to inhabit. Concluding that anyone else can be what they want as well, Siana leaves the reader with her advice: believe, imagine, and feel, and you too can achieve your dreams.

Charming. While this self-published indie title has many of the earmarks of such (including slightly clunky text and illustrations), these are more readily excused by the author-illustrator being seven or eight. And in fact, beyond the title’s rough edges is a surprisingly sweet and earnest tale with a strong core message: our imaginations, and potential, are limitless. Siana’s sincere encouragement to her young peers is especially heartwarming, and the adorable details – straight from the mind of a child – of her fantasies make it an entertaining read. And while indie titles can tend to be long-winded, this one keeps things brisk and light, making it a fun and easy story to read aloud. JJ enjoyed this one, and other little bookworms will too; it’s a wonderful way to show that young people can do anything (even write and illustrate their own picture book), if they believe in themselves. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Just Because (Mac Barnett)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Just Because, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, a sweet tale of imagination.

As a little girl cuddles into bed for the night, she has a question for her father: “Why is the ocean blue?” Rather than replying with the titular phrase, dad instead answers with a more creative explanation: the fish like to take out their guitars and sing sad songs, which makes them cry blue tears. The little girl counters: why is the sky blue? Well, those are the tears of flying fish, naturally. With each question, her father spins a new imagining of the explanation, from why the leaves change color to what happened to all the dinosaurs. At last, the little girl wonders why she must go to sleep, and her father answers simply: “there are some things we can only see with our eyes closed.”

A sweet ode to creative storytelling, and especially to childhood curiosity and wonder. Each fantasy that the father constructs for his little one is illustrated in lovely detail on a two-page spread, bringing the dream to life in a phenomenal traditional art style, featuring largely grayscale features with explosive pops of color. The explanations themselves are wonderfully creative – especially the dinosaurs, which had JJ and I both giggling – and the ultimate lesson on the importance of dreams, and of fostering them in young and curious minds, is just perfect. The length is fine for a bedtime read, yet the art invites closer examination anytime. JJ enjoyed this one a lot, and so did I – Baby Bookworm approved!