Into the Sand Castle: A Lift-the-Flap Book (Cindy Jin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Into the Sand Castle: A Lift-the-Flap Book, written by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Allison Black, an interactive board book that explores an undersea palace and its surprising inhabitants.

In a sea floor sand castle, complete with towering turrets and plenty of doors to explore, there lives a number of oceanic residents. From a friendly shark to grumpy king crab to an artistic octopus, little bookworms can have fun meeting some entertaining critters… and maybe even a magical surprise guest!

Underwater fun. Utilizing a creative cutout design and some absolutely adorable illustrations by Black, this board book takes a pretty basic premise and adds some colorful and engaging flair. The rhyming text is pretty simple to read, and even if the meter is a little inconsistent, the guessing game of who hides behind the lift-a-flap doors – and which door they’re hiding behind, as each spread features 2-3 flaps – is genuinely fun. Plus, I loved that the shark was characterized as “friendly” – anyone who knows about sharks know that they are usually painted as villains, which is pretty unfair for such an at-risk family of species. The length is perfect for the youngest of bookworms, and JJ really enjoyed the bright, colorful artwork and the multitude of interactive elements. Overall, this could be a fun one to kick off the summer, and we liked 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’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.)

You Complete Me: A Sliding Pull-Tab Book (Cindy Jin)

Hello, friends! Our book today was You Complete Me: A Sliding Pull-Tab Book, written by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Yuzhen Cai, a short and sweet love letter to the one who makes you whole.

Addressing the reader in first person, the text expresses that the speaker and reader make a perfect pair, and just like other perfect pairs, they work best when together. Like ice cream and a waffle cone, like a kite and string, like a ball and glove, one without the other is simply not complete.

Cute if occasionally awkward. Jin’s rhymes are sugar-sweet, chipper, and fun to read aloud, especially to a little one, and Cai’s kawaii-inspired artwork is absolutely darling. Some of the pairs don’t make as much sense as others – does a tire swing really need wind, or vice versa? – but for a very casual read-through these aren’t too noticeable. My main issue was the functionality of the “pull-tabs,” which did not have tabs at all. The reader has to physically push the moving element to make it go, and while this design is clever in some places, such as one page’s interactive element setting up the next’s, it was often difficult to get the element to move without something to grip, especially for small hands. Otherwise, length was fine for the very smallest bookworms, and JJ enjoyed the colorful illustrations. Overall, a middling yet enjoyable title, and Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Tummy Time! (Mama Makes Books)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tummy Time! by Mama Makes Books, an interactive board book for the very youngest of bookworms!

For the first six months of baby’s life, their eyesight is still developing the ability to see the world the way adults do. During this time, babies are drawn to high-contrast black-and-white images, human faces, and eventually bright colors. This clever little title takes advantage of those helpful developmental qualities and creates a fold-out book that babies can enjoy with a caregiver, or especially during tummy time!

An awesome idea! As anyone who’s been through the early infancy stage of parenting knows, babies are absolutely drawn to faces and high-contrast images, which in turn leads to healthy eye development. With a series of simple images – high-contrast illustrations, pictures of babies, and even a mirror page so babies can view themselves while developing visual acuity, as well as head, neck, and other muscles during tummy time. There is minimal text, making this less of a story and more of an activity, but the layout, concertina binding, and perfect weight of the board (not too light as to be flimsy, and not too heavy as to pose a rise to infants) make it an ideal tummy time or early-reading experience. One note: this one is definitely not waterproof, and will likely not stand up long to little chewers and chompers. But as a fun, safe, easily-portable, electronic-free activity for infants, this is a brilliant idea with fantastic execution. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Mermaid Dance (Matthew Van Fleet)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mermaid Dance, written by Matthew Van Fleet and illustrated by Mara Van Fleet, an absolutely delightful interactive board book that will get little merfolk tails a-flappin’.

The merkids have all gotten an invitation to a big dance party, but there’s just one problem: none of them know how to dance! One mermaid mentions this to her little fishy pal, who has the answer. He introduces her and the other merkids to his own sea-dwelling pals, each with their own unique dance move – the seahorse swish, the narwhal nod, the polar bear twist, and so on. In no time at all, the merkids are ready to dance the night away with all their underwater pals.

An entertaining, interactive delight. This hefty little volume is full of fantastic design, engaging text and illustrations, and wonderful interactive elements. Each “dance” is exhibited through sturdy pull tabs that activate movement behind plastic-covered cutouts, protecting each moving element from rough treatment by young readers (the exception being the final page, which is a traditional glued-in pop-up spread). All of the dances are also easily-imitated, and with the bouncy text to provide rhythm, allows for little bookworms to move and shimmy along with the characters. The diversity of the “merkids” – who present with different genders, pronouns, skintones, and hair types – promotes inclusion, making this a perfect title for educators to share with groups and classes. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ had an absolute blast making the characters move and trying the dances out herself. Simply put, this one is tons of fun, and we highly 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.)