All Welcome Here (James Preller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is All Welcome Here, written by James Preller and illustrated by Mary Grandpre, a poetic look at the varied experiences and emotions of the first day of school.

Told in a serious of titled haiku, readers are treated to nearly thirty miniature stories, featuring a diverse array of characters, settings, and situations that recall the first day at a new school. There are emotions, like trepidation, excitement, and shyness; new experiences, like meeting the principal and boarding the bus for the first time; and new places to explore, like the school library and playground. And at the end of the day, everyone heads home, knowing that they’ll return the next day for more learning, laughter, and adventures.

Interesting. Since the “first day of school” theme is a common one for picture books, it’s always nice to see a novel approach, and one of a collection of haiku poetry is certainly that. And on occasion, the form, combined with the colorful, energetic paintings of the artwork, results in a lovely effect, such as in “Growing Up”, where a child boarding a bus is compared to a bird leaving the nest, or “Library”, an ode to the heart of nearly every school building. However, many of the haiku fall flat or feel incomplete, the medium not quite suited to the feeling it’s meant to evoke. Certain poems, such as “Harold” and “Prank” even feel a little mean-spirited, which is perhaps not an unrealistic view of school life but hardly an encouraging one for young readers who may be nervous about their own first day. Otherwise, the length is fine, and broken up easily as the reader wishes, and JJ enjoyed some of the poems and artwork immensely. An uneven offering to a popular genre, but not without its charms; overall, Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints The Night Sky (Barb Rosenstock)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints The Night Sky, written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary GrandPré, a look at the life and mind that inspired a masterpiece.

Even as a baby, Vincent Van Gogh didn’t need to be asleep to dream. As a child, he would sneak out of the house at night and lie out under the stars, finding peace in the vast twinkling sky. But as Vincent grew, he struggled: with money, with his mental and physical health, with the frustrating, elusive ability to express himself. Vincent had one joy and solace, and that was painting the world around him, capturing the color and light and life of what he saw onto canvas. Life was often hard for Vincent, but his pain somehow inspired him to make beautiful, timeless works that have been treasured by so many since.

Honestly, I was nervous going into this. Van Gogh was such a complicated and tragic figure that I worried how a picture book may portray him. But this is a gorgeous, thoughtful, and contemplative story that both celebrates the art of Van Gogh while not shying away from the troubled soul that created it. Vincent’s many issues are kept vague enough so as not to fly over the heads of young readers, but the delicate art and tone of the text conveys them with appropriate gravity – it’s gentle and sad in a way that children will understand but not be overwhelmed by. The art, inspired by the color palettes and curling brushstrokes of Van Gogh’s art, sets perfect tone. The length is good, and JJ really enjoyed it. A pensive yet delicate story that shows how great beauty sometimes comes from great pain – yet the beauty can be what makes the pain bearable. Baby Bookworm approved.