In Every Life (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is In Every Life by Marla Frazee, a lovely meditation on the ups and downs of being alive, and the thread of love that connects us all through it.

In every birth, the blessing is in the wonder of that new life. In every smile, the blessing is in the light that the smile brings to those who experience it. With simple call-and-response text that finds grace in the building blocks of the human experience (such as hope, sadness, and love), the reader is shown that there are blessings to be found in every moment, good or bad, that is spent with the people who fill our lives with love.

Gorgeous. Though Frazee’s text is spare, each phrase is packed with universal relevance, especially when combined with her meticulously detailed and lifelike artwork. Each page of text is filled with 8 to 14 vignettes that illustrate the phrase that they accompany (“In every hope, blessed is the doing,” for instance, features characters of various ages potty training, watering a garden, preparing a turkey for the oven, playing the guitar, etc.), while the following two-page spread is a full-bleed, textless landscape that shows the scale of quiet moments in human life against a vast natural setting. The characters featured are incredibly diverse across a number of identities, including race, age, ability, gender, sexuality, family composition, body type/modification, and more. Combined, it is humbling, uplifting, and deeply resonant, giving a sense of human connection to both our loved ones and to strangers. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved it. This is a stunning work and a must-read, and we can’t recommend it enough. 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 Farmer and the Monkey (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Farmer and the Monkey by Marla Frazee, a quirky little tale of a very odd couple told entirely in pictures.

A farmer returns home from a picnic, not noticing that he is being followed by a monkey. The little simian, jauntily clad in collar and fez, trails the farmer all the way to his isolated house, surprising the man at the window before being welcomed inside. Upon entering, however, his wild ways cause a ruckus including damaging a beloved keepsake (one that fans of this title’s previous installment, The Farmer and the Clown, will recognize). Angrily, the farmer orders the monkey out, and the animal has nowhere to go when snow begins to fall. Will the farmer find a way to forgive his unexpected visitor?

Soft and sweet. While a few finer plot points may be unclear to those who missed the first installment of the series, this simple tale of a chance encounter and caring for those in need (even when they can be difficult houseguests) is just as warm and engaging as a stand-alone. Frazee does a wonderful job of conveying mood, emotion, and even conversation without a single written word; her softly textured pencil artwork features beautifully shaded environments and whimsically charming characters. Without text, the length is up to the reader, and JJ had a lovely time describing the illustrations and telling her interpretation of the story. This was a beautiful tale, and made us very interested to read to other two books in the trilogy. We definitely recommend checking out this one out, 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.)

Little Brown (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Brown by Marla Frazee, the tale of a very cranky dog.

Little Brown is very cranky. The other dogs don’t play with him – he’s not sure if he’s cranky because they don’t to play, or if they don’t want to play because he’s cranky. Instead, he watches the other dogs from a corner of their chain-link enclosure (a dog park? Doggie daycare? Animal shelter?) – the big dogs chase balls, the small dog run in circles, the old dogs nap, and the young ones play in the mud. Little Brown is sure he could do any of these things, but no one asks him to. That is, until a start ball rolls his way…

So, I was really thinking that this was going to be a story about making friends – the setup certainly seems to indicate so. But the plot took a rather unexpected twist: Little Brown steals the ball. Then he steals all the other toys, blankets, beds, and even a rock, piling them into a mountain and sitting atop the spoils, keeping the other dogs from using them. This leads to a stalemate, where the other dogs stare and wonder if they should play with Little Brown to get the toys back – or will that make them cranky too? – and Little Brown wonders if he should give the goods back or not to make the others like him. Then, abruptly, the dogs are called inside, nothing is resolved, and the story indicates that this will all happen again tomorrow? Um.. what? Was that a kids’ story? What’s the lesson? Where was the fun? I can usually understand if a picture book lacks one or the other, but both? The length was fine, and art is very cute, with adorably charismatic dogs of all shapes and sizes, but it certainly doesn’t save the confusing, unsatisfying, and somewhat pointless storyline. Even JJ seemed pretty puzzled. Quite weird, and not for us.

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