A Stone For Sascha (Aaron Becker)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Stone For Sascha by Aaron Becker, a picture book that examines loss, time, permanence, and love.

The wordless story opens on a young girl collecting yellow flowers. She is bringing them back to her family, where they are holding a funeral for their recently deceased dog. She lays the flowers down over the large stone used to mark the grave and mourns. A short time later, the family leaves for a lakeside retreat. The girl is sad, watching other children play with their dogs, but at dusk she finds a small oval stone near the water. The art cuts to a large meteorite falling from space. It impacts, and the reader follows along as the stone takes an eons-long journey: first a sharp natural feature, then cut and carved into a rock circle centerpiece. With each new owner and destination, the rock finds new purpose: part of a great statue, a gifted sculpture, a stolen treasure. As history plays out around it, the rock remains, adapting to each new entity until at last, it finds itself at the shore of a lake, picked up by a little girl and brought to her home. She lays it on her dog’s grave in memory – a piece of time and the universe as the symbol of her love.

I mean. Wow. This felt like a book as much for adults as it was for children. The story is so moving and passionate without a single world, the concept is profound and humbling, and the art is incomparable. It’s remarkable in scope, moreso that it never feels like it reaches too far or goes too big – it encourages the reader to think about life and death and the passage of time as something that is enormous and vast and small and personal all at once. It’s breathtaking, awe-inspiring and yet comforting too. We loved it. Baby Bookworm approved.

Life (Cynthia Rylant & Brendan Wenzel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel, a vivid and stunning meditation on life and what makes it so magnificent.

Life begins small: a sprouting plant, a baby elephant. Everything begins as something smaller, and then? It grows. As days and nights pass, it becomes larger, and different, and more incredible than the day before. Life comes in many forms, from the smallest insect to the biggest whale. And if you ask each animal what they love about life, they will answer differently: a hawk loves the wind, a snake loves the grass, the ancient turtle loves the rain on its shell. But life is hard sometimes, and there can even be times when it’s hard to find the beauty in it. But we must push through, because the morning will bring something new, something unique, something incredible – because life is beautiful, and so are you.

Simply phenomenal. Rylant and Wenzel have crafted something absolutely astonishing in its simple grace and powerful message. At the start, the story is a look at the animal kingdom through a different angle, and the detailed and eye-catching mixed media art sweeps the reader on this journey in a striking style. Then halfway through, the tone shifts, becoming a story about overcoming hardships and finding hope in troubling times. It encourages the reader that the dark and scary times will end, and that life is worth seeing and loving and experiencing. It’s an unexpected and deeply moving sentiment, especially for anyone who is experiencing or has experienced grief or depression. And with suicides and self-harm among young children on the rise, it’s a message that all young readers should hear as much as possible. The length is great, JJ loved the animals, and just… wow. This is a must-read, and we strongly recommend it to anyone who needs a reminder to find hope in the storm. Baby Bookworm approved!

All Around Us (Xelena González)

Hello, friends! Our book today is All Around Us, written by Xelena González and illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia, a sweet tale of the nature of life and the bond between a little girl and her grandfather.

Circles are all around us, a man tells his granddaughter. They exist everywhere, even in places we may not see them. He points out a rainbow, and explains that the arch of the rainbow is just the part that we can see. But underneath the earth, where all things are born and go back to when they leave, the rainbow continues, forming a circle. Many things are circles – bicycle wheels, the sun, a clock – and there are many circles that we follow in our actions, such as planting the seeds of vegetables harvested from the ground. Indeed, one day we all will return to the earth, and the circle will begin again with new life. Circles are all around, says the grandfather. We simply need to know where to look.

What a lovely book. First and foremost, the art is stunning – vibrant painted and sketched circles set against realistic backgrounds make each page vibrate with energy, and elicit the theme of interconnectivity perfectly. The story is slow, but worth it; this is a quiet tale of a bond between granddaughter and grandfather, and a meditation on life and death, and both are handled with a soft touch. This might make it more of tale for slightly older bookworms, though I will say that the length was fine for JJ, and she absolutely loved the art. This one glows from within, not relying on flash but instead a warm, sunny feeling of peace. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Choose Your Days (Paula S. Wallace)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Choose Your Days by Paula S. Wallace, a poetic and slightly surreal look at the time we spend from our first day to our last, and what lies beyond it.

The day that Corky is born, Old Bear brings her gifts: all her days, two blank lists (“Dreams” and “Things To Do”), and her key. He leaves her with one gentle instruction: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” Corky does her best to fill each day with all the things she has to – and wants to – do, growing older and bigger, then older and smaller as she does. When she feels she is nearing the end of her days, she asks Old Bear for more, to accomplish all that she hasn’t yet had time for. He simply reminds her that every remaining day is her own, and only she can choose what to do with them.

This one is strange, make no mistake; but it is also strangely satisfying. Both the text and the illustrations are loose, abstract, and very open to interpretation, but in a story about the nature of life and death, that’s a choice and a style that feels right. That being said, it is cerebral enough that it may fly over the heads of some young readers at first. However, for the right bookworm, we can see this story being a source of wonder and/or comfort, especially to little ones who may be dealing with the issue of death for the first time. The length was fine and JJ seemed to enjoy the illustrations, so no complaints there. This is the type of story that might not be for everyone – but for the reader who feels a connection to it, it might be the exactly the thing they needed to read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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