Jessie: Queen of the Road (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jessie: Queen of the Road by Lindsay Ward, a loving yet misguided tribute to female motorcyclists of the early 20th century.

Zipping through the busy streets of New York brings Jessie joy, but it’s tough being the only female motorcycle on the streets, especially when the boy motorcycles are bullies. So Jessie sets off on a cross-country trip, making headlines as she climbs mountains and travels the coastlines. She tries to volunteer to run messages in WWI, but is rejected for being a girl; instead, she becomes a stunt rider in carnivals and fairs. After recovering from a terrible accident, however, she finds that war is once again threatening – will she be allowed to serve this time?

Heartfelt but deeply misdirected. Inspired by an assortment of lady cyclists from the first half of the twentieth century in the US, Ward amalgamates their achievements into the sentient Jessie, who drives riderless. While this concept worked well in Ward’s previous title Rosie, which followed a anthropomorphized tractor through WWII, it simply does not in Jessie. While Rosie was clearly established a tool created and used by remarkable women laborers, the emphasis on Jessie as a completely autonomous creature visually and historically erases the accomplishments of the actual female motorcyclists, who operated machines like her to make the achievements that Jessie is being celebrated for. And while Ward briefly covers these women (including her mother) in an author’s note, it doesn’t stop the story from feeling divorced from the real-life human women who made history. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed Jessie’s determination and her inspiring motto, but I can’t help but be disappointed that this one took a wrong turn in concept. Worth a look, but I would instead recommend the powerful Rosie: Stronger Than Steel for a historical girl-power tale.

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

Pink is Not a Color (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Pink is Not a Color by Lindsay Ward, an identity-affirming follow-up to This Book is Gray.

Seeing her friends the Primary and Secondary colors setting up for a party, popular Pink offers to help. She’s excited to hear about the festivities for the upcoming “Rainbow Extravaganza,” and wonders why she’s never heard of it before. The answer is, as Orange notes, a bit awkward: Pink is technically not a color of the rainbow. This sends Pink for a loop; she’s never really thought about her place in the color spectrum before, and it’s confusing to realize that she is not a rainbow color. After learning a bit more about tints (her classification) and shades from Brown, she feels better, yet still confused. Does being a tint make her less important than the primary colors? At last, she runs into Gray – an achromatic color and subject of the previous book in the serious – and confesses to having a “midcolor crisis.” Will Pink ever find her place in the world of color?

A creative look at identity. Based on the very real debate as to pink’s classification as a color, which the author-illustrator gives a little background on in the author’s note, Ward manages to weave a fascinating and approachable consideration of what our identities mean to us, and how our self-concept can relate to and be informed by them. Like many who can have their self-image shaken when exploring their identities, Pink struggles with the idea that she may be a “less important” color, or even not a color at all. Remembering how much joy she brings to people helps her remember her worth, and it’s honestly very touching. I especially liked that Ward mixed in some less-expected uses for the color Pink for the character to feel proud of, like dinosaurs, soccer balls, and a microscope; while Pink uses she/her pronouns, it’s good to remember that the actual color has no gender. In addition, there’s a beginner lesson in here on color theory, and one that even many adult readers will find enlightening. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed it. A very cool and creative way to explore an important message, and we loved it. 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.)

Between the Lines (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Between the Lines by Lindsay Ward, a story about the importance of community.

In a vibrant, diverse city neighborhood, the young boy who serves as narrator remembers when the colors were swept away from their street. They began fading slowly; then, after a violent storm one night, the neighborhood awoke the next morning to find that all the color had washed away entirely, and a great rift in the street had divided it right through the center. Time passes, and the colors never return. The boys dreams of them, but they begin to fade even from his memories and dreams. Finally, the boy decides something must be done – and if no one else will do it, he’ll just have to do it himself.

Slightly vague but still beautiful. The metaphors that the absent colors represent may be a little dense for younger readers; it took me some pondering to arrive at what I think the fading/reappearing colors and the rift were supposed to represent, and I’m still not 100% sure. However, the greater themes of togetherness and teamwork are more readily understood, and still create a stirring story about how initiative and working together can heal problems within communities. The artwork shines, using the literal lack of color to great effect; for instance, a spread where the boy dreams of color after he (and the reader) have been deprived of it for so long is a powerful jolt. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ loved the intricate art and creative layouts, as well as the story’s message. This one is definitely worth the read; it may require a little consideration afterwards, but it’s a subject worth considering. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rosie: Stronger Than Steel (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rosie: Stronger Than Steel by Lindsay Ward, a fantastic tale of one eager little tractor and the women and men she helped when they needed it most.

There’s a war going on, and people have donated their scrap metal to build machines to help the effort. Some of those scraps are melted down and used to build Rosie, a bright green tractor built under FDR’s Lend-Lease Act. The all-female riveters, welders, and machinists who built Rosie inspire her to a sense of purpose, and she emerges the factory with a rose painted on her hood and an oath to work as hard as she can. Shipped to England to assist the Women’s Land Army: a collective of women who left their homes to, like the factory workers, take up the necessary work left behind by the men. Rosie helps them plow, haul, harvest, anything she can do. Together, she and her new friends keep the farms running, not only until the war is over but long beyond.

Phenomenal. This historical, girl-power tractor story is filled with a stunning sense of history, community, and humanity. From the jump, Rosie introduces the reader to the incredibly strong women of WWII, and all the ways they helped the war effort when they could not fight. Rosie’s story of steadfast loyalty and tenacity also showcases human women building, fixing, digging, felling trees, and more. And the ending, in which Rosie’s decades of tireless service are rewarded and recognized, brought a tear to the eye. Ward’s illustrations are friendly yet dynamic, and give Rosie herself an impossible amount of charm. Backmatter provides context for Rosie’s world and more in-depth information on women’s war efforts. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both fell in love with strong, faithful Rosie by the end. A lovely tale to end Women’s History Month, and a reminder to us all that in tough times, our willingness to help others is our greatest strength. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

This Book Is Gray (Lindsay Ward)

Hello, friends! We’re back! The Baby Bookworm has moved houses, and we’re all set up in our new reading corner (though Mr. Dinosaur is still in a box somewhere, so he is still on hiatus). Our book today is This Book Is Gray by Lindsay Ward, a tale of individuality.

As the primary and secondary colors work together to build a colorful rainbow, Gray watches with envy. There’s no gray in the rainbow, after all, and he’s feeling left out. So Gray decides to make his own book, one with nothing but gray: a gray house on a foggy, overcast beach, and starring a cast of a wolf, a kitten, and a hippo. But just as he’s getting started, the primary colors burst in, followed closely by the secondaries, and begin picking apart Gray’s work. They declare the illustrations dismal, dark, and gloomy, and question whether the story will be a dark or sad one because of its look. Gray defends his work, but the others just keep talking over him. At last, his patience is lost; he yells at his friends, expressing his frustration and feelings of exclusion. The other colors, even fellow achromatics White and Black, are stunned, and decide to make Gray see that he is valued just as he is.

I liked the premise of this book a lot; any book that explores the values of different talents or aptitudes sends an important message to little readers. However, this left me with mixed feelings about the ending. Eventually, all the colors chip in on Gray’s book, “enhancing” his “GRAYtest book ever” with their own hues. But wait… wasn’t the point that Gray wanted a book that showcased gray all on its own? Without needing bright colors to have a happy or positive story? By adding the other colors to the mix, the lesson gets muddled; while the message about teamwork is admirable, it doesn’t mesh well with the earlier themes of individuality, and I was disappointed that Gray wasn’t allowed to be celebrated on his own merits. Still, JJ enjoyed the illustrations and the conversational text, especially each color’s distinct voice, and the length was fine. Rough around the edges, yet visually fun and worth a read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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