Perfectly Pegasus (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Perfectly Pegasus by Jessie Sima, a wonderfully heartwarming follow-up to the much-beloved Not Quite Narwhal.

Nimbus, born high in the sky amongst fluffy clouds and colorful rainbows, is undeniably one-of-a-kind. Being so singular means that she has the entire sky to herself, and can use her powerful wings to soar and play. However, it can also get pretty lonely, and Nimbus often finds herself tracing the stars and dreaming of having other pegasi to keep her company. One night, spying the perfect wishing star falling to the land, Nimbus decides to venture out of her solitary sky and search for the celestial object, hoping to make her wish for companionship. Along the way, she’ll meet some new friends – and one familiar face – that will show her that her wish may have already come true…

Marvelous. While the brilliant Not Quite Narwhal dealt with the concept of feeling pulled between two communities based on one’s identities, Perfectly Pegasus deftly explores another aspect of “found families”: being in a place where one’s identity is entirely unique, and finding connection in communities that are unrelated to that identity. At the end of the day, Nimbus is truly unique (no other pegasi make an appearance), yet she finds acceptance and companionship within the narwhal-and-unicorn community that sprang up around adopted unicorn protagonist Kelp from the previous book. It’s a lovely lesson in finding family in those who love and support you, even if they are not EXACTLY like you, and it’s expressed perfectly in Sima’s entertaining, heartfelt text and delightfully sweet artwork. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this – I can honestly say that I was filled with glee when Kelp and his blended family made their return halfway through the book. Overall, a lovely story about identity and community, 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.)

Hardly Haunted (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is part of our Spooky Season series – an extra spooky book every Friday in October! Today’s title: Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima, a unique tale about being and loving yourself just as you are.

High on a hill sat a spooky old house – and that house was feeling worried. No one wants to live in her, and she finds herself lonely because of it; in fact, she thinks she might be haunted. She does everything she can to suppress her spooky qualities – her creaks and squeaks and rattles – even holding her breath to keep the creepy sounds at bay. Yet when a rushing wind causes her to scratch and howl and groan, the house realizes something: being haunted is kind of awesome. She decides to be herself, but she’s still lonely… that is, until a very special family comes to stay.

Delightful. This rather original take on the classic “be yourself” theme is a great mixture of humor, heart, and spookiness. Sima’s illustrations and story give off a sense of creepy-cute that never veers into scary; in fact, there’s a distinct Miyazaki-ish vibe to the anthropomorphic house and it’s surroundings, especially in details like the gothic style of the house, the windswept hill, and an expressive black cat that leads the reader through the house’s interior. The frequent use of onomatopoeia makes it a joy to read aloud, and the overall message is lovely. The length is perfect storytime at any age, and JJ loved the artwork, sound effects, and especially the little cat. A fantastically fun Halloween read with a great lesson, and we loved 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.)

Jules Vs. The Ocean (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jules Vs. The Ocean by Jessie Sima, a sweet and funny story of a summer’s day.

When Jules hits the beach, she has a clear mission: she wants to build the biggest, most awesome sand castle ever to impress her big sister. She sets to work right away, but as soon as she’s making progress – SPLASH! A wave rolls in to wash her castle away. Her sister promises that this happens to everyone, and encourages her to keep trying. Jules begins again, and again, yet each time the ocean sends a massive wave targeting her efforts. On her third try, it even snatches away her bucket, and she cries out in frustration. Her sister arrives once more to console her, and together they begin work on a masterpiece: the biggest, most fancy, most wonderful castle ever created! And no sooner are they done then – CRASH – the sea destroys their work once more. Yet this time the girls laugh and find joy in the shared experience, running off to tell their mother of their epic battle against the ocean waves.

Delightful. This adorable day-in-the-life tale uses a simple story with a distinctively childlike voice to explore a classic rite of passage and a loving relationship between sisters. The gentle humor – including a hilariously offbeat ending – gives the narrative a light and sunny feeling, perfect for a summer storytime. Sima’s art is colorful, fun, even edging on epic at times, enchanting to the “girl vs. nature” theme. The length is great, and JJ loved it. This is a fun read with a little humor, a little adventure, and a good deal of heart. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Spencer’s New Pet (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! We’re back from our vacation with a new review: Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima, a deliciously odd and unexpected tale.

Borrowing elements of a silent movie (such as title cards to indicate the story’s three “parts”, film grain over select spreads, and even a leader countdown), this textless story introduces us to a boy, Spencer, and his new pet… a balloon animal. Besotted with the balloon beastie, Spencer takes him home from the carnival and dutifully cares for him, getting pet supplies, going for walks, playing, attending parties, and sharing plenty of (gentle) hugs. It’s at a visit to the veterinarian that a complication of having a balloon animal for a pet presents itself: when the pet drifts a bit to close to a prickly hedgehog, Spencer clutches his pet to his chest and backs away in fear. And it’s in Part II of the story (“The Park”) that this foreshadowing is expanded upon; breaking loose from Spencer’s grip, the balloon begins to careen toward a gauntlet of sharp, pointy, or hot things that threaten its well-being. Spencer tears after his friend, desperate to save it from a grisly fate – can he protect his pal in time?

Delightfully strange. Sima has a talent for telling unusual yet heartwarming stories, and this may be her most original yet. To discuss the last third of the book any further would do any prospective reader a disservice; the ending was so unexpected (yet so BRILLIANTLY foreshadowed) that I laughed out loud once I realized what was going on. And while the more subtle winks may fly over the heads of younger readers, it’s an ending that’s both silly and sweet enough to charm any age. The wonderful “silent movie” patische introduces elements of a genre that few other pictures books (if any) do, and gives a book a wonderful and unique visual style. Sima’s illustrations are charming as always, and fans of her previous works will enjoy the Easter eggs hidden in backgrounds and crowd scenes. The length is fine, and JJ and I loved it. A thoroughly entertaining 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.)

Love, Z (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love, Z by Jessie Sima!

Little robot Z is out exploring when he finds a bottle with a note inside. Most of the writing is illegible, but he can read the signature: “Love, Beatrice”. When his fellow robots tuck him in for the night, he asks what the meaning of the word “love” is, but the robots simply reply “DOES NOT COMPUTE”. Being the curious robot he is, Z sets off on a quest to find his answer, traveling on a boat with a stalwart captain (who is also a cat). Z meets new friends as he travels – a crow, a baker, some schoolchildren – who all attempt to explain love to him in their own ways, but Z doesn’t understand. At last, Z and the captain happen upon an island, a little house… and Beatrice herself inside. Z asks the woman who inspired his quest, and after some thought, she replies that love is warm, and cozy, and safe, but that one doesn’t really know it until they feel it. Z thinks about this, wondering if he’ll ever truly understand. But when some surprise visitors burst in, Z will find that he may know more about love than he ever realized.

Fantastic. This is a sweet fable with some memorable details, a great message, and an adorable main character. Showing that love comes in many forms and touches us in many ways, the art then takes time to illustrate this in beautiful, subtle ways: a father teaching his daughter to bake, two young women falling in love, all the little things (like puppies and garden gnomes) that bring us joy, and so on. It’s an exploration of what we love and how we love that has a tone of childlike innocence, and a perfect payoff (a clever visual Easter Egg, teased early on and paid off in the story’s climax, warmed my heart). Sims has a knack for touching and relatable tales, and this one was a joy. The length was great, JJ loved it, 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.)