It’s Not the Three Little Pigs (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is It’s Not the Three Little Pigs, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, fourth in the author-illustrator pair’s series of whimsically fractured fairy tales.

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs: Alan, Alfred, and Alvin… and their sister, Allison. Wait, does that make FOUR little pigs? Allison, a natural storyteller and obvious expert on her three brothers, insists on tagging along to help to tell their story, much to the consternation of the narrator. In fact, all of the pig siblings don’t seem to want to stick to the well-known version of their tale, preferring to be themselves and do things their own way. But when the narrator is at their wit’s end, Allison offers some food for thought: perhaps collaboration and cooperation can produce great things, even if they don’t turn out exactly like you plan.

Delightful. Once again, Funk and Taylor mix some perfectly absurd humor – brother Alvin’s simple aspirations are especially chuckle-worthy – with fast-paced humor and a good lesson for young readers to give them a new way to experience beloved classic stories. Despite having seven different speakers, color-coded dialogue in varying fonts makes it very easy to follow to the rapid-fire conversations. Taylor’s illustrations are bright, colorful, cartoonish yet cinematic, and very engaging. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ thought this one was “very, very funny!” Overall, a wonderful twist on an old favorite, and well worth the read – 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.)

My Pet Feet (Josh Funk & Billy Yong)

Hello, friends! Our book today is My Pet Feet by Josh Funk and Billy Yong, a delightfully creative title that poses the question: what would happen if the letter R simply… disappeared?

Our unnamed child narrator wakes up one morning, ready to feed their pet, Doodles, when they’re greeted with a surprise: overnight, their pet ferret has become pet FEET! Upon further investigation, it seems that the letter R has disappeared completely from their town: their friend Lucas has become a fiend, local dogs are baking instead of barking, and when Doodles and the child try to take shelter from attacking cows, they can’t get in the town hall door because… well, you can guess. Exasperated with the situation, the child exclaims that she doesn’t want to have pet feet, inadvertently hurting Doodles’s feelings. The pet feet runs off, and the child gives chase; will they reconcile in time to solve the mystery of the missing R’s?

Creative and entertaining wordplay. Funk and Yong invite readers to consider the importance of each letter in the alphabet, while balancing humor and heart to tell a unique story with some wonderful twists and turns. Author Funk does a commendable job of building the premise while also refraining from the use of any words that use the letter R until the climax of the story, giving the story an amusing meta layer. Illustrator Yong populates the R-less world with some wonderful sight gags that prompt the audience to guess where the missing letter Rs might be (a personal favorite are the “ats”, @-shaped rodents with a taste for bagels). The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ absolutely loved the wordplay and silly premise. Overall, this is a great way to explore the importance of word construction and letters while also having a few laughs, and we absolutely 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.)

It’s Not Hansel and Gretel (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is It’s Not Hansel and Gretel, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Edwardian Taylor, a hilariously fractured twist on the original fairy tale.

As the narrator of Hansel and Gretel’s tale opens the scene, he is immediately distracted by the presence of Jack (of “and the Beanstalk”, and the protagonist of the book’s prequel). Shooing Jack back to his own story, the narrator begins the familiar tale: in a time of great famine, Hansel and Gretel’s parents plot to abandon them in the woods – except Gretel immediately interrupts to disagree with this notion, adamant that their parents would never do such a thing. This becomes the running theme, as the siblings push back against the increasingly frustrated narrator, refusing to follow the story laid out for them. Gretel is particularly fed up with the traditional gender roles, questioning why it can’t be “Gretel and Hansel”, and why her brother gets to eat treats in the candy cage while she has to do chores in the witch’s gingerbread house. Even when the narrator proves to be right – the siblings eventually concede that maybe the witch WASN’T just a nice old lady – their refusal to follow direction spurs the exasperated narrator to give up control of the story… and that’s when the real fun begins.

Delightfully goofy. The effect will work best on kids who are familiar with the original fairy tale, but this rollicking tale is chock full of so much snappy dialogue, colorful visuals, and wonderfully kid-friendly humor that it’s worth it to brush up on the Grimms’s version. The layout of the different texts for character speech, traditional narration, and the narrator’s outbursts is a nice touch – reading this one aloud is a challenge but an entertaining one (brush up on your character voices, this one is rife with opportunities). The cameos from other fairy tale notables are also a fun feature for eagle-eyed bookworms, the length is perfect, and JJ and I had a blast reading it. Perfect for lovers of silly humor, and emphatically 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.)

Lost In The Library: A Story Of Patience & Fortitude (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lost In The Library: A Story Of Patience & Fortitude, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis, a love letter to the New York Public Library through the eyes of two of its most endearing fixtures.

When Fortitude (one of the two iconic stone lions that greets visitors of the landmark library) notices that his partner Patience is missing, he sets off in search of the absent cat. Fortitude wanders through some of the library’s most notable features, such as Astor Hall and the Rose Reading Room, but cannot find his fellow lion anywhere. He worries about his companion, reflecting on their long history together and the wonderful stories that shy Patience tells him to pass the time. Fortitude asks some of the other pieces of art and sculpture if they have seen him, and is finally able to steer him the right way – the Children’s Center. There, Fortitude finds Patience surrounded by books, and realizes that Patience has been learning new stories to share with his brother. Returning to their plinths, Fortitude asks if, when no one’s around, they can again sneak in to read, together.

This is a very niche book, but a gorgeous and heartfelt one. Primarily, it’s about a single building, though a much beloved one. The story of friendship and love of reading is sweet, yet takes a backseat to the setting and characters, themselves part of the building. Even as a guide to the building itself, it has some limitation – as Funk notes in the afterward, the children’s department is set to be moved to another building in 2020. However, for the generations of children and adults (myself among them) who have visited this breathtaking place, the feeling the story evokes is pitch perfect. The magic of the NYPL Main Branch is undeniable, as are the authors and books slyly included in the narrative and art, and this story works best as a reflection of that: the magic, wonder, and imagination that great stories and great places can inspire. Warm, engaging illustrations breathe life into stone walls and statues, the length is fine, and JJ loved it. A sweet, personal ode to national treasure, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast: Mission Defrostable (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast: Mission Defrostable, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Brendan Kearney, the delightful third entry to the duo’s series.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are worried about their fridge kingdom: a devastating chill has descended and is threatening their subjects. As the two friends try to work out what to do, they are approached by the mysterious Agent Asparagus, who whisks them away to help solve the deathly freeze. But just as they start out on the trail, Agent Asparagus is vegetable-napped! The friends will have to use their wits, their courage, and their kindness to get to the bottom of this shivery mystery…

Wonderful. This is actually the First Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book we’ve read, but it was very easy to jump right into the story without any knowledge of the previous two installments (which we will definitely be picking up soon). The lighthearted and surprisingly touching spycraft storyline is simple enough for little ones to grasp, yet full of thrilling twists and turns that surprised even me, and the rhyming text has an easy yet energetic flow that makes it a joy to read aloud. The illustrations are DARLING – dynamic and exciting scenes, emotive and endearing characters, and some truly adorable details. And as a bonus, there wasn’t an over-abundance of food-related puns; I get that kids like them, but let’s face it, we’ve heard them all and they can get old. The length was great and JJ loved it – this one is a winner. Baby Bookworm approved!

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