Once Upon A Forest (Pam Fong)

Hello, friends! So sorry for the technical difficulties we’ve been having this week, but I think we’ve got them cleared up – on to our next review! Today we’re looking at Once Upon A Forest by Pam Fong, a lovely meditation on the love and care that goes into helping something grow.

As a little marmot tends her small garden one day, she spies a whisp of smoke. Following it, she sees that it is the result of a small fire in her forest, one that humans have just extinguished. The marmot gathers her supplies, including a few tiny sprouts, and heads off with her bird friend to scout the situation. Finding several burned-out trees, she mourns them briefly, then gets to work: clearing the burnt roots, tilling the soil, and planting new seedlings. She camps near them through wind, heat, and snow, protecting and nourishing them as they grow. When the seedlings have grown to young sturdy trees, the marmot heads home, her job done… until the next time she is needed.

Hopeful and heartwarming. A simple tale of the kindnesses we sow in dark times told entirely through pictures, this sweet title exemplifies delicate gentleness in both its visuals and narrative. Fong beautifully captures the spirit of growth and renewal after tragedy in the soft grayscale illustrations, using color only to draw attention to the plants and the things that give them life, sunlight and water. The fluffy marmot and her faithful bird companion are expressive and endearing, and the theme is a classic one with a timeless message. Without text, the length is what you make it, but JJ really enjoyed verbalizing the story as she watched it play out. Overall, this one is absolutely worth a look, and a touching reminder of why our small kindnesses matter in times of trouble – because they can grow into big things. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Story Blanket (Ferida Wolff & Harriet May Savitz)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Story Blanket, written by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, and illustrated by Elena Odriozola, a tale of generosity and community.

In a small village in the snow-covered mountains – the nation is not identified, but context clues suggest somewhere in Eastern Europe – there lives an old woman named Babba Zarrah. The local children love to gather at Babba Zarrah’s home to hear her stories, cuddling together on a cozy blanket affectionately called “the story blanket”. One day, Babba Zarrah notices that one child, Nikolai, has a hole in his shoe. She resolves to make him a new pair of warm socks, but laments that she has no wool yarn. She decides to take a bit of wool from the story blanket, and secretly leaves the new socks on Nikolai’s doorstep. She then notices that the hardworking postman could use a new scarf, and the grocer’s shawl is threadbare, among others. Suddenly, mysterious knitted gifts are appearing at people’s homes, and the village children have noticed the story blanket getting smaller and smaller. What happens next is a lovely lesson in kindness and how caring for others is just another way to care for ourselves.

Simple yet sweet. While this appears to be an original story, it has the comforting feel of a classic folktale and makes for a gentle and heartwarming reading experience. The illustrations also have a rustic folk-art look about them, using thin lines and colorful textures to create often-humorous visuals. The cast all present as white with exaggerated features; it was nice to see some larger body types represented, though it’s unclear how realistic these are meant to be. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed it overall. This one is humble in tone and execution, but no less edifying or enjoyable for 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.)

I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu (Refiloe Moahloli)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Am You: A Book About Ubuntu, written by Refiloe Moahloli and illustrated by Zinelda McDonald, a lovely picture book about compassion and unity.

There is an ancient philosophy in many African cultures called “Ubuntu” – the idea that someone is only a person in relation to others, that these human connections to others are what give us life and purpose. To show kindness to others is to show kindness to ourselves; to harm others is to hurt ourselves. Based on this philosophy, this lyrical picture book explores the idea of human connection, community, and empathy.

Stunning. Ubuntu itself is a rich concept, yet one that can be understood universally, especially through the eyes of young audiences, and this combination of text and artwork imparts its core lessons beautifully. Moahloli’s writing is simple and heartwarming to read aloud, and pairs exquisitely with McDonald’s vividly colorful illustrations, featuring a racially-, religiously-, socioeconomically-, and ability-diverse cast of child characters. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the even, comforting tone and easy-to-read text. This is a fantastic way to not only learn a little about a specific cultural tradition, but to also reinforce its universal themes, and we loved it. Overall, a must-read, and 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.)

The Farmer and the Monkey (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Farmer and the Monkey by Marla Frazee, a quirky little tale of a very odd couple told entirely in pictures.

A farmer returns home from a picnic, not noticing that he is being followed by a monkey. The little simian, jauntily clad in collar and fez, trails the farmer all the way to his isolated house, surprising the man at the window before being welcomed inside. Upon entering, however, his wild ways cause a ruckus including damaging a beloved keepsake (one that fans of this title’s previous installment, The Farmer and the Clown, will recognize). Angrily, the farmer orders the monkey out, and the animal has nowhere to go when snow begins to fall. Will the farmer find a way to forgive his unexpected visitor?

Soft and sweet. While a few finer plot points may be unclear to those who missed the first installment of the series, this simple tale of a chance encounter and caring for those in need (even when they can be difficult houseguests) is just as warm and engaging as a stand-alone. Frazee does a wonderful job of conveying mood, emotion, and even conversation without a single written word; her softly textured pencil artwork features beautifully shaded environments and whimsically charming characters. Without text, the length is up to the reader, and JJ had a lovely time describing the illustrations and telling her interpretation of the story. This was a beautiful tale, and made us very interested to read to other two books in the trilogy. We definitely recommend checking out this one out, 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.)

Amos McGee Misses the Bus (Philip C. Stead)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Amos McGee Misses the Bus, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead, a long-awaited sequel to the pair’s much-beloved A Sick Day for Amos McGee.

Elderly zookeeper Amos McGee is too excited to sleep – he has planned a lovely outing for his animal friends at the zoo, and his mind is filled with last-minute preparations. When morning comes, Amos is so tired that he nods off while waiting for his teapot to boil, and ends up missing his bus and losing his satchel and favorite hat. Getting to the zoo late, he apologizes to the animals for letting them down, and is so overwhelmed with exhaustion and disappointment that he falls asleep amid his duties. Seeing that their beloved caretaker needs some caretaking of his own, his faithful zoo pals are happy to step in.

A heartwarming and wholesome tale. The themes of mutual care are similar to A Sick Day, with a slight tweak. Amos’s guilt over disappointing the animals is palpable, yet the animals are more concerned that Amos clearly needs rest after his hard work and sleepless night. It’s a subtle message that we are worthy of love and care even when we make mistakes, and it’s incredibly touching. The soft, delicate illustrations are impossibly charming, and give a gentleness to even massive creatures like the elephant and rhino; a subplot revolving around tortoise is hilariously slow-paced and features a delightful payoff. The length is perfect for an elementary storytime, and JJ adored it. This is a worthy sequel to its classic predecessor, and a beautifully sweet story in its own right – 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.)