Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Three Ways to be Brave: A Trio of Stories, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Jeff Östberg, an empowering collection of three brief picture books on facing one’s fears.

Told in short rhyming couplets and atmospheric full-bleed illustrations, readers follow three young protagonists as they are each faced with a common childhood fear: a thunderstorm, the first day of school, and a doctor’s appointment. Each child is shown working through their fear in a unique way, be it choosing to manage their fear in order to comfort a younger sibling, connecting with a new friend who shares their fear and braving it together, or even having a good freakout and cry before finding the strength to weather the scary situation. But the end, all three learn that their bravery doesn’t stem from fearlessness, but from finding courage in the face of their fears instead.

Fantastic. Clark’s simple, gentle poetry and Östberg’s rich and stunning artwork combine to create a sensitive and empowering volume for young readers. Critically, each story emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with feeling afraid, or even letting fear show; the third, centered around a child who fears receiving a shot at the doctor’s office (a common fear, especially with flu and COVID vaccine season upon us), even notes that his crying and panicking were not marks of failure, but of the fact that he was brave enough to try something so scary in the first place (after centering himself with calming thoughts on the advice of the nurse, he finds the needle wasn’t so scary after all). Östberg’s artwork, with its rich, warm color palette and dynamic use of light and shadow, create a impressive balance that validates the children’s fears while still offering a sense comfort; it’s striking, and fits the theme to perfection. Despite being three books in one, this is not a lengthy read, and can be covered entirely in a short storytime. Lastly, JJ loved it, in particular the gorgeous art and simple-to-read couplets. This is a truly great title for any library, and a wonderful read to encourage that fear is not failure, but an opportunity to be strong. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

You Be Daddy (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Be Daddy, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Steph Lew, a natural companion title to Clark’s previous book, You Be Mommy.

As with You Be Mommy, a tired parent – a father this time – jokingly mentions how exhausted he is, and makes a request of his youngest child: “Can you be Daddy?”. Gamely, his young song runs his father a bubble bath (with fun bath toys, of course), then builds a bedtime fort for two. As the two prepare for “Daddy’s” bedtime, Dad recounts the busy, taxing day he had: crazy traffic, cooking, cleaning up messes, paying bills, and making time for play. His youngest son is happy to make sure he is tucked in with a cuddly stuffie and a warm nightlight, taking care of dad just the way that dad takes care of him… until the little boy needs to put into his own bed, of course. Then Dad does what dads do, and finds the energy to make sure his kiddo is taken care of.

Very sweet. As with You Be Mommy, the concept of switching the parent-child roles during bedtime is done with humor and affection, creating a playful moments between a fictional father and child that readers can identify with. It also gives young readers a glimpse into all that parents do for their kids during the day, creating empathy for when their own parents might be a little worn out before bedtime. Lew’s illustrations are lovely, giving warmth and charm to the characters with details like the son’s clear love of dinosaurs, as well as visual representations of the family’s Chinese heritage within their home. There are also clues within the artwork that, unlike You Be Mommy, this is a two-parent household; this doesn’t detract from the quality of the story, but does feel like a missed opportunity to represent single fathers, who are a marginalized demographic in kidlit. Otherwise, the length is perfect for a bedtime book, and JJ loved the artwork and gentle story. This would make a great read for any father and child to share, 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.)

You Be Mommy (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Be Mommy, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Zoe Persico, a sweet tribute to everything moms do for their loved ones… and what makes it all worth it.

“Can you be mommy?” an exhausted mother jokingly asks her youngest child at bedtime. After all, Mommy has had a big day. She worked a full shift at her retail job, then came home to a messy house. She helped with homework, bathed the dog, drove the older siblings to their practices, did laundry, mended clothes, cooked; and so on and so on (context clues would indicate she is a single parent as well). Mommy is just feeling a little… pooped! Gamely, her little girl plays along, wiping Mommy’s nose, tucking her in under her favorite blanket, and giving goodnight kisses and cuddles. Yet when the little girl begins to drift off herself, Mommy smiles, and does what mommies always do – takes care of her baby.

Adorable. In subdued yet amusing rhyme, the story follows a harried – yet never quite flustered – mom through her busy day, bookended by the charming and relatable exchange with her youngest child. It’s a subtle balance of celebrating hard-working moms and reminding younger readers of not only everything moms do for their families, but also why they do these things; simply, because they care. The cartoonish illustration is lush and vibrant with color; the family’s home has a fantastic visual theme of growing green plants and cozy textures. One thing I loved especially was that the super-mom was depicted as a more average-sized, curvy woman; moms in picture books are not often shown as anything other than skinny and/or hourglass-shaped. In addition to being a woman of color, it’s a nice bit of representation for super-moms. The length was perfect, and JJ and I really enjoyed it. A warm and worthy celebration of often-unsung heroes, 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.)