Vampenguin (Lucy Ruth Cummins)

Hello, friends! Our spooky season book today is Vampenguin by Lucy Ruth Cummins, a wild tale of a hilarious zoo switcheroo.

The Dracula family – Mom, Dad, Junior and the baby – are all excited for their Saturday trip to the zoo! Once inside, they head straight to their usual first stop – the penguin house. While marveling at all the different species, baby Dracula and a young penguin notice a striking similarity in their looks, and unbeknownst to the rest of the vampire family, decide to switch places. The Draculas go about their day at the zoo, visiting the different animals (many of whom notice the switch, even as the penguin shushes them), while baby vampire enjoys his day as a penguin: eating fish, making penguin friends, and terrorizing naughty children who knock on the glass. At the end of the day, the two switch back, the Draculas none the wiser – until they check their souvenir photo!

A riotous romp. Cummins expertly pairs dry, ironic text with delightful visuals to create a story that is full of laughs from beginning to end. The switch that drives the humor is never acknowledged in the text, making it something for readers to spot and follow along in the illustrations on their own; JJ had an absolute blast pointing out all the shenanigans that the penguin and baby vampire were getting into without the narrator “noticing”. Jokes within the text have multigenerational appeal; parents will appreciate a spread where text describes “seeing” several animals while the illustrations reveal only tails poking out from obstructions. The length was fine for an elementary storytime, and that’s about the age that children will understand the humor as well. JJ and I both loved it, and it made for a perfectly spooky-themed (but not scary) read. This one is a winner, and 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.)

This Is NOT A Valentine (Carter Higgins)

Hello friends and Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ve got a special book for today to mark the occasion: This Is NOT A Valentine, written by Carter Higgins and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins.

After his friend gives him a valentine, the hero of our story wants to show his gratitude with a gift of his own. He doesn’t have any valentines of his own though – nothing with pretty curling text or bright pink hearts or sugary treats or sparkling jewels or (ew) cooties. He does have some of his own precious treasures to share though, like his lucky hopscotch rock, his favorite superhero cape, his second-favorite secret hiding spot, or half of his PB&J (the jelly half, because he knows it’s her favorite). These things may not be valentines, but his friend thinks they’re perfect, because they all show how much he cares.

I’ll be honest, I was worried going into this. I’m typically uncomfortable with anything that depicts romance between children, and for a moment I thought that was what I was going to find here. However, this turned out to be a lovely, earnest lesson in how to express love – and in the case of the child characters, of the friendship variety. Instead of the typical boy-meets-girl tale the cover might imply, the reader is treated to a lesson in what makes a good gift for someone you care about; it need not be conventional or traditional or even fancy, and should instead be tailored to the person receiving it. Each of the boy’s gifts are earnest in their intent, and reflect his friend’s personality and interests. The illustrations are charming, with a scribbly quality that matches the childlike narrative. The length is fine, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. A lovely tale of friendship and generosity, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

A Hungry Lion, Or A Dwindling Assortment Of Animals (Lucy Ruth Cummins)

Hello, everybody! Our book today is A Hungry Lion, Or A Dwindling Assortment Of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins, a very funny fourth-wall breaking book about a sneaky lion and his animal, um, “friends.” 

There once was a hungry lion and a large assortment of other animals. But page by page, the other animals seem to keep… disappearing… And the lion seems to be getting hungrier and hungrier. Excuse me, Mr. Lion, but do you happen to know where all those other animals went? And what happens when the animals all run out?

This was a fantastic book to read aloud: it’s got a very tongue-in-cheek narrative that gets the audience in on the joke early, and had a final twist ending that I definitely didn’t see coming! The scribbly illustrations are colorful and cute, and add to the book’s sense of absurd fun. It’s a perfect length for baby bookworms, and JJ had a blast reading it, particularly because she could work on her animal identification and noises while we enjoyed the comedy. This one was made to read aloud, and it was a ton of fun for both of us. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!