Remarkables (Lisa Mantchev)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Remarkables, written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by David Litchfield, a magical tale of the families we make.

Going for a dive in the sea, a child happens upon a mermaid. The two become fast friends, sharing laughs and stories, and the mermaid shows the child the underwater kingdom that was once her home, now wrecked and abandoned. The child sees that the mermaid is alone, and invites her to come live with his immediate family, and their extended “family”: a traveling circus. The circus folk and mermaid are shy around each other at first, but quickly grow friendly, and then eventually as close as family. The mermaid makes her debut as an attraction at the circus, amazing crowds and finding joy in entertaining. But still, looking out from her tank, she misses the sea… and once more, sensing her sadness, her young friend and new family helps her to feeling complete.

Charming. To get it out of the way, this is certainly a glamorized version of circus life: the performers appear to have an egalitarian way of life, where the circus folk are treated with respect and reverence by each other and their audiences, and even the animals roam about freely and comfortably. It’s idealized, yet with purpose: the mermaid, left orphaned and alone by seeming tragedy, finds a place within the group of “others”, which include families of diverse skintones and physicalities, a tattooed couple, a pair of clowns, and even the sly inclusion of a mixed-race gay couple. It’s a deeply sweet metaphor for found family, even if a slightly unrealistic one (however, this is a story about a MERMAID, so some creative license seems fair). The rich, gorgeous illustrations and sparse text work together nicely to form an uplifting narrative, and the length is great for a quick read or even a longer perusal of the art. JJ really liked this, and so did I. A fantasy with a message of love, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

(Note: This review was featured on Twinkl in their article “Fantasy Books for Kids,” which can be read here.)

Strictly No Elephants (Lisa Mantchev)

Hello, everyone! Our book today is Strictly No Elephants, written by Lisa Mantchev and illustrated by Taeeun Yoo, a story about what it means to be a good friend.

A little boy is excited to attend a meeting of the local Pet Club with his very unique pet: a miniature elephant. He knows that his elephant is a somewhat unusual pet, but they are the best of friends, and they’re both excited to spend time with other pet lovers. But when they arrive, there’s a sign on the door: “Strictly No Elephants.” The boy and the elephant are hurt and angry, but they stick by each other, and find that other kids with unusual pets have been excluded, too. So they decide to form a new Pet Club all their own, one where everyone is allowed, because that’s what good friends do.

This was a positively adorable book. The illustrations are ridiculously cute; the miniature elephant in particular will melt any reader’s heart. Plus, the lesson is a simple and timeless one: it’s not about fitting in, it’s about being a good friend. The length is great, and JJ really enjoyed it, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!