The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh (Supriya Kelkar)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, written by Supriya Kelkar and illustrated by Alea Marley, a lovely tale of courage and connection in the face of change.

Harpreet loves to wear his patkas (head coverings often worn by Sikh children) in every color of the rainbow. He even wears certain colors to express his feelings: he likes to wear yellow when he’s cheerful, pink when he’s celebrating, or red if he needs a little bit of extra courage. That is, until the day his parents give him some big news: his mother has gotten a new job across the country, and they will have to move to new town. Harpreet is devastated, and his choice in patkas reflects this; instead of bright, happy colors, he now sticks to blues and grays, and eventually white – for when he feels shy – every day at his new school. His parents attempt to cheer him up, but Harpreet feels alone and like an outsider amongst his class. But an unexpected find in a snowdrift may help him to make a new friend, and inspire him to change his colors.

Fantastic. This truly special book does a wondrous job of weaving together so many elements of story, emotion, and representation, and succeeds on all fronts. Sikhism is yet another fairly underrepresented faith in modern kidlit, which makes such a universal story a particularly special gift for children and families who practice the faith. Harpreet‘s tale truly is universal, one of the difficulties of change or feeling different, having and expressing a myriad of emotions, and finding ways to open up to new friendships and relationships. For those unfamiliar with Sikhism, there’s a great afterward that gives readers a brief introduction to the faith. The illustrations are colorful, charming, and have an excellent command of light and dark, resonating nicely with the tone of the story. This is a fabulous story for any little bookworm struggling with change, and for readers who yearn for representation, a gem of a book. The length was great, JJ loved it, 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.)

Albie Newton (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Albie Newton, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Ester Garay, the story of a boy genius and his classmates learning how to be friends.

Albie isn’t quite like other kids. When he learned his numbers, he cried because he couldn’t count to infinity. He likes to learn a new language every week: English, Spanish, Hindi – even Klingon! Still, Albie is a friendly and happy young man, and excited to start his first day at a new school. When he hears his new classmates sing their morning song about friendship, Albie decides that he will invent a special gift to ingratiate himself to the others. Unfortunately, while Albie is obviously quite brilliant, he lacks social skills, and his habit of taking things without asking and overshadowing others with his work begins to upset the other children. But classmate Shirley convinces other kids to be patient with Albie – he means well, he just thinks differently. And sure enough, by day’s end, Albie has built them a gift that is astoundingly one-of-a-kind.

I liked this a lot. Albie does indeed do things that are generally perceived as rude. But the thing is, as smart as Albie is, he doesn’t understand that what he’s doing is unacceptable – he’s just trying to make a nice gift for his new friends. To me, this reads as an allegory for children with ASD or social/developmental disorders, and an effective one at that. It’s a good way of encouraging children with these disorders to consider how others may perceive their actions, and encourages children without them to be patient with their friends who may think or act differently from them. The illustrations are adorable and charming, and filled with clever details. The length was great, JJ enjoyed it, and we’re definitely calling this one 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 New Arrival (Vanya Nastanlieva)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva, an adorable woodland tale of making new friends.

Sam the hedgehog has set off on his own to find a new home in a new part of the forest. He manages to snag a cozy little hollow tree, but there’s one problem: try as he might, he can’t seem to spot any other animals. Sam feels lonely, and would love to make a new friend, but his exhaustive search of the area is fruitless. Finally, he comes upon an idea, scrawling signs advertising his need for a friend and posting them on trees with his quills. That night, however, a terrible rainstorm rips all the signs off and blows them away. Crushed, Sam returns home or his hollow tree, where a surprise awaits him…

Absolutely darling. Sam is an enormously endearing protagonist that kids can easily connect to, and the story is gentle enough for even the littlest readers. The illustrations are adorable, and include the cute gimmick of hiding the animals in plain-ish sight, adding a seek-and-find element that JJ loved. The ending is heartwarming, the length is great, and this one simply put a smile on our faces. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, And Mike (Cynthia Rylant)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, And Mike, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Mike Austin, a story about how the quietest among us can often be the most brave and helpful.

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike are all old friends from the pet store, and as close as friends can be. So naturally, they are delighted when a little girl buys all five of them and takes them home to a shiny new fish tank! The tank has everything: orange gravel, a cool rock, a neat diver, bubbles, and well, a slimey snail, but no one pays him any mind. Soon a hilarious clownfish and a striking angelfish join their clique, and the girl even adds a beautiful fairy castle for them to swim through. But – OH NO – Lenny gets stuck and no one can figure out how to free him! What will the friends do?!

This was a great little tale of inclusion, and we liked it a lot. It’s an interesting twist on the “popular kids” story because it shows things from the opposite point of view than is typical. The fish aren’t mean or nasty to the snail (who eventually saves the day to great acclaim), they just sort of breeze past him because they focused on each other. It shows young readers that the popular ones aren’t always bullies and unpopular kids aren’t always loners – everyone involved might just need to find the right way to connect. The art is cute, colorful, and very expressive, and I loved the integrated comic-book style text. The length was good, and JJ liked it a lot. A great story with a strong message: sometimes, the person on the other side of the fish tank is just a friend you haven’t made yet. Baby Bookworm approved!

Say Hello To Zorro! (Carter Goodrich)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Say Hello To Zorro! by Carter Goodrich, a delightful and sweet story of two dogs learning how to become friends.

Mister Bud is a very happy dog. He has his own house, his own toys, his own bed, and most importantly, his schedule. EVERYONE has to stick to the schedule: wake up time, go for a walk time, nap time, greet and make a fuss time – everything must go in it’s proper order. One day, however, a stranger comes home with Mister Bud’s human: a bossy little pug named Zorro. Mister Bud and Zorro are immediately at odds; Zorro sleeps on Mister Bud’s bed with his own toys, and Mister Bud doesn’t like how Zorro crowds him. They simply can’t seem to find common ground… that is, until they suddenly realize that they keep the same schedule! Soon, they are finding lots of things in common, like their love of chasing cats and greeting their human at the door. And while they still sometimes disagree, Mister Bud and Zorro find that having a best friend to share their day with is worth it.

This one was so adorable. Anyone who has introduced a new dog to a home that already had one will recognize the distinctly familiar dance of two dogs working out a shared space together. And as the plot summary suggests, it also makes a wonderful metaphor for friendship: it’s often about making compromises, finding common interests, and working out how to fit into each other’s lives. The illustrations are too cute, giving tons of personality to the pudgy Mister Bud, as well as Zorro, the most hilariously severe-looking pug I’ve ever seen. The length is perfect for little ones, and JJ and I both enjoyed it very much. A precious and fun tale of two furry friends, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!