Sparkle Boy (Lesléa Newman)

Hello, friends! Our review today is Sparkle Boy, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola, the story of a little girl learning to accept her brother for who he is.

The day Jessie puts on her shimmery skirt, her little brother Casey asks for one too. Their mother sees no harm, and lets Casey have one of Jessie’s old skirts. Later, Casey also wants to emulate his big sister’s glittery nail polish, which his father gladly applies. Their abuelita loans Jessie one of her sparkly bracelets – and one to Casey too! Jessie is upset, insisting that these things aren’t for boys, and is outraged when her mom allows Casey to wear his outfit to the library. But when Jessie sees older children bullying Casey, she begins to understand how hurtful her attitude has been, and decides to take a stand.

As a metaphor for how friends and family, even well-meaning, often ask their LGBTQ+ loved ones to dim their shine for the sake of appearances, it’s spot on; especially when Jessie asks if they can just paint Casey’s toes and hide them under socks (Casey exclaims “no!”, wanting nails just like his sister’s). Jessie seeing the negative attitudes of strangers – and their effect on Casey – show her that she is no different than the bullies shaming him for expressing himself. However, from a child’s point of view, this metaphor may be a little vague. It might have helped if Jessie’s initial anger had been explained better (such as the common big-sibling irritation of younger siblings “copying” them), but her displeasure seems to stem from prejudice, which makes her sudden change of heart harder to understand for little readers. Still, there is a happy ending here, and it can help show children why these sorts of views are hurtful. Otherwise, the art is darling and detailed, the length is fine and JJ enjoyed it. This one might warrant a post-story discussion, but overall it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Donovan’s Big Day (Lesléa Newman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Donovan’s Big Day, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Mike Dutton, a sweet story of a little boy and his very important day.

Donovan’s day is starting, and because it is a very special day, he has a million things to remember and do. When Grandpa comes to wake him, he must remember not to nestle under the covers and fall back asleep. When breakfast is served, he must try to eat quickly but be tidy, and when he cleans up after he must remember to wash his face and brush his teeth and comb his hair neatly. He must put on this brand new suit and take very special care of the little white satin box his aunt gave him, and then he must wait quietly with all four of his grandparents and his cousin for the music to start. Then he must walk down the aisle, and when the officiant says so, hand the box with his Mommy and Mama’s rings to them and listen to their vows. But at the end of this very big day, he was one more thing to do: give his moms a great big hug and kiss to celebrate their day.

Just wonderful. While Donovan and his moms are indeed a queer family, this is not the focus of the story; instead, this is simply a family story about a little boy’s important job as ring bearer for his parents who happen to be a gay couple. It’s a choice that normalizes queer families and weddings, and shows that they have all the love, support, and joy of any family. It also makes the book a useful tool for any family preparing a little one to be a ring bearer by giving a taste of what may be expected of them on their own big day. The art is warm and sweet, capturing the sense of the bustle, pomp, and tenderness of a wedding day well. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. A lovely story for any family planning a trip down the aisle, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Heather Has Two Mommies (Lesléa Newman)

Hello friends, and a happy start to Pride Month! To celebrate, our book today is the classic Heather Has Two Mommies, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Laura Cornell in the new edition (Diana Souza illustrated the original).

Heather’s very favorite number is two. Why? Well, there are two of all her very favorite things – she has two arms and two legs, two eyes and two ears, two pets (a dog and cat), and best of all, her two mommies. She has her Mama Jane and her Mama Kate, and she loves both of them the most, more than anyone else. On Heather’s very first day of school, it comes up in conversation that she doesn’t have a daddy, and for the first time, she feels insecure – is she the only one in class with no daddy? But when the teacher suggests that the children all draw their families, Heather and the reader quickly see that each family is made up differently, with blended families, single-parent families, other LGBTQ families and more. Her teacher reminds the children that what makes a family isn’t a set of rules about who is in it; what makes a family is simply the love they share.

This groundbreaking work, cited as the first lesbian-themed picture ever widely published, has been around since 1989, and there’s a reason the story has such staying power. The themes are simple and easy to grasp for young readers, but encourage the universal truth that families of every shape and size are made family by love – no other prerequisites required. The text is cheerful and positive, and Cornell’s colorful, lively illustrations capture the frenetic energy of childhood. The length is fine for bookworms of any age, and JJ loved the art, especially the detailed environments. A classic must-read, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed (Lesléa Newman)

Hello friends! Today, we read Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed, written by Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Amy June Bates. This is a charming tale, based on a true story, of a very special cat.

Moshe is a composer, and spends every day listening outside of himself, and inside of himself, to the sounds that inspire his work. One day, he is listening to the sounds of the city when he hears a small sound: a kitten, or “ketzel” in Yiddish. He brings Ketzel home and teaches him about music and composing, and so begins a surprising adventure of inspiration and creation for the two friends.

This book was so adorable and fun. The story of the composer and his cat is heartwarming, funny, and has a wonderful message about the nature and power of music and creativity. The illustrations are very sweet, and will make you want to reach through the page to cuddle the adorable kitten Ketzel. The story was really interesting, too! I had never heard of Ketzel, and it was cool to read about her in the non-fiction section at the end of the book. The only thing was that this book was a little long for a one-year-old, and JJ started getting pretty antsy towards the end. Still, older children would love this one, and so it’s Baby Bookworm approved!