Dear Little One (Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dear Little One by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon, a gorgeous ode to the beauty of the natural world.

Taking the form of a letter, the narration opens with the titular salutation, greeting both the reader and the unnamed child protagonist, who is poking a finger into a rippling body of water. The lyrical text follows as the child explores a series of natural environments with their canine companion, encouraging them to appreciate and marvel at the beauty of nature and the myriad life that fills it – animals, insects, plants, seas, mountains, and more. The author of the letter charges their “little one” to be a steward of the Earth, to preserve it, and to care for it as the Earth cares for them, before signing off – “Love, Mother Nature.”

Gorgeous. Those who are fans of Laden and Castrillon’s previous collaborations, If I Had A Little Dream and Yellow Kayak, will be delighted to find another beautifully written and breathtaking illustrated adventure in this title. The conservationist message isn’t necessarily subtle, but the text conveys it in an imploringly heartfelt tone that never feels preachy, but rather empowering and inspiring. The spellbinding, dreamlike illustrations are simply stunning, blending a palate of cool greens and purples with fiery oranges and reds that is all at once soothing and invigorating. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the intricate art and calming tone of the text. A beautiful way to encourage children to explore and revere the natural world, and we loved 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.)

Yellow Kayak (Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon, a lovely fable about having courage through the storm.

A child and a giraffe set out from their small island in a tiny wooden kayak, expecting a day of adventure. As they get further out to sea, however, the adventure soon becomes more than they had bargained for: the sky grows dark, the wind whips up, and the seas become rocky. Their paddle and the child’s hat are swept away, and when the wind dies down, they are left stranded in the open sea. Still, they have each other, and they share the comfort of their company and the wonder of the starry sky through the night. The next day, the helpers begin to arrive – sea creatures bring back the lost items and help to guide them home.

Hopeful and sweet. While the rhyming text is subtle and spare – using only a few words per page to convey plot and set mood – it combines beautifully with the rich, detailed illustrations to tell a compelling story about courage and perseverance. The whole story itself reads as an allegory for surviving disaster, either literal or metaphorical – when the storm becomes frightening, the seafarers stay calm and keep their heads; when they are feeling lost and unsure of what to do next, they take care of each other and find hope in simple blessings; and at last, they use a combination of the help offered to them and their own persistence to find their way. It’s a powerful metaphor told in a gentle, comforting style, and we loved it. The length is just fine, and JJ loved the beautiful art, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

If I Had A Little Dream (Nina Laden & Melissa Castrillon)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If I Had A Little Dream by Nina Laden and Melissa Castrillon, a gorgeous folk-art inspired book about the simple pleasures of life through a child’s eyes.

Written in sweet, flowing rhyme, a little girl waxes imaginative about the small wishes she could have in the world: a safe and sturdy home, a pond to dream by, a brother and sister to love, a loyal dog, etc. Each of these simple blessings bring her joy as she dreams of the everyday things she is thankful for. After all, a thing needn’t be showy or expensive or elaborate to elicit childlike wonder.

This was a precious little book, and we enjoyed it. The innocent, whimsical style of the text gives it a gentle rhythm and makes for a fun read. The folksy autumnal art is packed with details that are great to pick over, such as natural, overgrown forests filled with Seussian creatures that inhabit the little girl’s world with a wondrous energy. The length is just fine for little ones, and JJ enjoyed it very much! This is a great anytime read for remembering the little treasures of the world around us. Baby Bookworm approved!