I Don’t Care (Julie Fogliano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Don’t Care, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Molly Idle and Juana Martinez-Neal, a tale of friendship transcending differences.

At first, the two unnamed child characters are clear that they don’t much care what the other thinks of their appearance. They don’t care what the other thinks of their talents or families either. And they don’t care what the other looks like, or how they draw a cow, or how big or small their house is. As the pair visibly soften their stances and expressions to each other, the reader is clued in: they don’t care about these surface things, but instead care about how the other thinks, feels, and acts. They only care about their friendship, and how to be better friends to each other; about these things, they care a lot.

Sweet and heartfelt, if a little routine. Fogliano’s rhyming text is metered perfectly and reads like a dream, and the concept of having real-life besties Idle and Martinez-Neal combining their illustration styles is inspired. Yet looking at the extremely similar design of the protagonists – both have chin-length straight hair, the same pale skintone, round faces, button noses, and identical body shapes – one can’t help but see the missed opportunities to further explore the concept of a diverse and supportive friendship, as well as the concept of two separate art styles coming together. Overall, the collab between these three kidlit rockstars has a great message and is perfectly enjoyable, but it feels like it could have been more. Soft artwork and spare colors work well with the narrative tone, the length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I enjoyed it. Absolutely worth a look, 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.)

My Best Friend (Julie Fogliano & Jillian Tamaki)

Hello, friends! After a week of adjusting to our new homeschooling schedule, we’re back with a new review: My Best Friend by Julie Fogliano and Jillian Tamaki, a lovely ode to childhood friendship.

“I have a new friend,” begins a preschool girl with curly red hair, as she laughs on the tire swing with another little girl in glasses. Spare, childlike text recounts the day they spend together, descriptions of her friend, and reasons she knows they are best friends: “she LOVES strawberry ice cream/and i HATE strawberry ice cream/and we are still friends even then”. They are best friends; the little girl is sure, even though she’s never had a best friend before. They’ll meet again tomorrow to laugh and play some more – perhaps even learn each other’s names – because that’s what best friends do.

Charming. This sweet, slice-of-life tale captures the guileless innocence of early best friendships, which can be built in the span of a day on something as simple as a shared sense of play. The text, all in lowercase except for occasional emphasis, is playful, earnest, and soothing to read aloud. The girls’ adventures, ranging from sidewalk chalk drawings to hide-and-seek to a heartwarming scene of one comforting the other’s sadness over crushed flowers, are snapshots of young childhood that little readers will connect to and older readers will feel nostalgic for. The soft, scribbly art captures expression, imagination, and tone exquisitely. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. This is a great one, especially for little ones just learning to make friends; it shows how quickly friendships can form, and how wonderful they can be. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

A House That Once Was (Julie Fogliano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A House That Once Was, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Lane Smith, an interesting examination of what makes a house into a home.

Two children are exploring the woods one day when they come upon a derelict house. Its path is overgrown, its paint is cracked and fading, and its windows are broken, the last providing entry for the curious kids. Inside, they find evidence of a life once lived there: faded photos, dusty kitchen contents, even a still-made bed. They speculate as to who might have once inhabited the home: a lady who painted squirrels in the garden? A little boy who made model planes? A girl who loved to dance? And what became of these people? The children return home after their expedition, and reflect on the house that was once a home – for a house is only truly be a home because a person makes it so.

This is definitely an intriguing story, and it has it’s ups and downs for me. As a mom, I think I got hung up on the idea of two children exploring a crumbling house unsupervised, starting by climbing in through a shattered window that still had shards of glass; I realize that it’s a kid’s book, and begs a suspension of disbelief, but it still made me clench. Also, there was something faintly bothersome about the way the story left the speculative former family of the home, wandering the woods because they couldn’t find their keys. Again, it’s a figment of a fictional child’s imagination, but it felt a little unsatisfying. However, past those two trifles, there is a beautifully illustrated meditation on home, things, and how we leave traces of ourselves in both. The text flows like a gentle stream, and JJ seemed very soothed by it. It’s a good length, and overall a very pretty book, so we’re calling this one Baby Bookworm approved!

When’s My Birthday? (Julie Fogliano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When’s My Birthday?, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Christian Robinson, a fun and festive book about birthdays that asks the important questions.

When is my birthday? Where is my birthday? Is it in spring? In winter? I know there will be cake, and presents, and you can wear fancy clothes and costumes, and we’ll play games and have balloons. I’ll ask for a pony, or maybe a chicken, or maybe a bouncy ball. Oh! There will need to be candles on the cake! And chocolate! And how many days until my birthday, again?

This one was a lot of fun, and felt wonderfully fresh compared to other books about birthdays. Told in free verse, the text is simple, engaging, and fun to read, and celebrates all the best things about birthdays: food, fun, presents and friends. Robinson’s signature paper-and-paint art is as endlessly charming as always, the length is great, and JJ and I had a lot of fun with it. A delightfully contemporary book that can enjoyed year-round, but especially you-know-when. Baby Bookworm approved!

Old Dog Baby Baby (Julie Fogliano)

Hey there, everyone! Today, we read Old Dog Baby Baby, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Chris Raschka, an adorably fun book about the special bond between dogs and babies.

Told in a unique rhyme scheme, the story begins with Old Dog sleeping peacefully under his family’s kitchen table when the newest addition to the family, Baby, crawls in. Baby begins curiously examining the old pup, to which the good boy responds with patience and affectionate kisses. At last, the pair grow tired and fall asleep curled around each other on the kitchen floor, much to their family’s amusement.

This is such a lovely, simple book. The slice-of-life story doesn’t need to be grand or sweeping; it conveys a timeless sweetness that anyone who has watched a baby and good dog interact will find happily familiar. Colorful and charming drawings continue this tone, being homey and warm without overbearingly technical. The length is great, and it’s a lot of fun to read for any dog-loving family. We loved it! Baby Bookworm approved!