Spellbound: An Enchanting New Arrival (Jess Townes)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Spellbound: An Enchanting New Arrival, written by Jess Townes and illustrated by Jennifer Harney, a twist on the classic new baby sibling tale.

Master magician Willow has a perfectly magical life – a loving mom and dad, a beautiful house in the woods, and a faithful pet bunny named Houdini. Willow’s own magic is undeniable: she holds her parents spellbound with her tricks, potions, and transformations. That is, until her baby brother Rowan is born. Suddenly, Willow finds that her spells and charms are being countered by Rowan’s mesmerizing, and perhaps even wizardly, powers. Willow will have to find a way to combat her baby brother’s sorcery, before she falls victim to it herself!

A fresh and magical twist on a classic narrative. Both Harney’s colorful, energetic artwork and Townes’s wink-and-nod text skillfully manage to create a metaphor for the charms of children as magic, while straddling whether Willow and Rowan’s magic is “real.” This metaphor and the ambiguity in the way it is presented makes for a great way to explore that tricky adjustment from only child to older sibling, and Willow is well-written as me sympathetic, even when she is in the wrong (such as when she naively tries to garner attention by taking Rowan’s binky). Add in a heartwarming ending and a great length for storytime, and this makes for a great read. We both really liked this one, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Vanishing Lake (Paddy Donnelly)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly, an enchanting fable that celebrates imagination, curiosity, and everyday magic.

Meara loves to visit her Granddad and his pet otter, Cara, at his home of the shores of beautiful lake called Loughareema. With cool water to swim in, scattered rocks to jump across, and small islands to explore, Loughareema is a pretty normal lake… most of the time. But sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all, the lake will just up and disappear! Very suddenly, all the water will be gone until it rains again. Meara’s granddad has plenty of ridiculous explanations for this mysterious phenomenon, but Meara knows that there must be an answer in science. She begins to study and gather evidence of where the vanishing lake might be disappearing to, but with no answers and no leads. At last, Granddad offers to show Meara the truth about their disappearing lake… and it’s an explanation that no one expects!

Wonderful! I absolutely love a good plot twist in a children’s book, and this is one of the coolest – and most moving – I’ve ever seen. Loughareema, based on the actual vanishing lake near the author’s childhood home in Northern Ireland, actually does have a fascinating scientific explanation for its periodic disappearances, and one that Donnelly wisely adds in a very informative author’s note. But for the purposes of the story, it’s the magic of the mystery that is more important than solving it, and Paddy nicely balances fact and fantasy to sell the message that both scientific curiosity and imagination have value, especially for children. This is supported beautifully by the lush and atmospheric illustrations that pulls readers into the world of Meara’s lake, creating both a natural and somewhat mystical environment. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed the surprise twist, and loved that Granddad’s otter shared a name with her mom (lol). Overall, this was a wonderful read with a lot of style and a sweet message, 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.)

I Love My Llamacorn (Danielle McLean)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love My Llamacorn, written by Danielle McLean and illustrated by Prisca Le Tandé, an adorable board book about a beloved magical friend.

What do you get when you cross a llama and a unicorn? Why, a llamacorn, of course! As the rainbow-horned and -tailed creature gallops across the colorful plains and dances on fluffy clouds, the narration proclaims their love and friendship for it, showing special appreciation for their kindness, gentleness, and encouraging nature.

Sugary sweet. There’s not a lot of substance to this board book beyond it’s joyful use of rainbow colors, enchantingly adorable characters, and cutout-heart and glitter elements. Yet as the reader admires Llamacorn’s knack for bringing joy to others and living happily and colorfully, this doesn’t seem to matter. Llamacorn is merry, spirited, and exuberant, and encourages the reader to believe in themselves, listen to their heart, and be proud of how special they are. It’s a bite-sized read full of unabashed cheer and positivity, and like llamacorn, is fine just as it is. The titular animal and its many furred, feathered, and even plant- and celestial-based friends are precious, and JJ loved this one. A sweet treat of a book, and we recommend it to any little reader in need of a happiness boost. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Magician’s Hat (Malcolm Mitchell)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Magician’s Hat, written by Malcolm Mitchell and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, a magical ode to the power of reading.

Family Fun Day has come to the library, and families of all shapes and sizes have gathered for the stories, activities, and of course, the books. For the first time, there’s also a magician, a tall and lanky man with a very mysterious hat. After performing a few mystifying tricks, the magician tells a story: when he himself was a young boy, he came to Family Fun Day at the library as well. It was there that he picked up his first book on magic, and learned that reading books has a magical power all its own. Then, he encourages his young audience to think about what they want to be when they grow up, then reach into his hat. Incredibly, the children who do so – even the skeptic – find just the right book to encourage their aspirations and help them envision their goals. The magician invites everyone to look for magic in books, because reading can help them make their dreams come true.

Very sweet. With an emphasis on the importance of reading as a self-driven hobby, the story focuses on how books can help us achieve dreams, both in the fantastical sense as well as the realistic. There’s not too much rising or falling action, but the message is strong enough that it holds its own without a more involved plot. Lee-Vriethoff’s illustrations are as charming as always, with spreads featuring the lanky-limbed magician and the children’s dreams and aspirations being gorgeous standouts. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it. A wonderful story about the power of reading, and we liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

The Little Unicorn (Sheri Fink)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little Unicorn, written by Sheri Fink and illustrated by Lynx Animation Studios, the latest in the author’s Whimsical World series.

The Little Unicorn lives in an enchanted forest, filled with rainbows, lollipop flowers, and magical fairies. The forest is tied to the magic of Unicorn’s inner sparkle, which she activates by thinking of the things she is grateful for. Unfortunately, Unicorn wanders too far into the surrounding forest one day, becoming lost and afraid. After finding her way through the danger, she attempts to activate her magic, only for it to fail. Upset and alone, Unicorn has trouble thinking of what she is grateful for, and her magic begins to fade, the colors of her home along with it. All seems lost… until a good friend encourages Unicorn to believe in herself, and find that true magic never really dies.

Lovely. The sugar-sweet tone of the illustrations belies a rather beautiful and even complex story. Young readers get a valuable lesson in coping by reaching out to supportive loved ones, remembering appreciate what they have, and knowing that the magic within us never dies, it only becomes obscured when we were sad or upset. Older readers will recognize as a subtle and powerful metaphor for dealing with depression or other mental health issues. It’s subject matter I was not expecting, but was pleased to find handled gently, encouragingly, and with heart. The illustrations are unfortunately a bit generic, lacking the depth and texture that could really do their story justice; not necessarily bad, but certainly underwhelming. However, the length is good and JJ enjoyed it. A wonderful reminder for readers of all ages to never lose their sparkle, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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