Ocean of Love (Janet Lawler)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ocean of Love, written by Janet Lawler and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, an undersea celebration of the love between mother and child.

Just as they do on land, the moms of the ocean are dedicated to sharing their love with their little ones. Whether it’s a minnow mom picking out just the right “school” for her young, or a mama dolphin playing all day with her pod, or a mother octopus untangling her wee one’s tentacles, there’s no shortage of ways moms can express their love. After all, while there are plenty of creatures in the deep blue sea, no one loves them more than their mamas.

Very cute, if slightly shallow. The classic theme of a mother’s love is a perennial favorite for picture book treatment, and this one does a serviceable job of exploring it with a collection of ocean-dwelling creatures. Most of these depictions are far from accurate visually or scientifically (clams and jellyfish have large and prominent eyes, sharks and hermit crabs care for their young, etc.), which may be confusing for young readers who are not familiar with the animals and/or do not understand the subtle parallels being drawn between the fictional creatures and human mothers. The book’s standout feature is the colorful digital illustrations, with characters designs so adorable that they manage to make even barnacles endearing; I particularly liked the inclusion of a multiracial mother and child pair used for the final spread. The length is fine for an elementary storytime, and JJ enjoyed the artwork a lot. Overall, this one is a little lacking, but still worth the read, especially as an ode to motherly devotion. Baby Bookworm approved.

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

Me & Mama (Cozbi A. Cabrera)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera, an absolutely gorgeous ode to the special moments between mother and daughter.

As a little girl descends the stairs, she is greeted warmly by her mother; they are the only two awake yet, and Papa and brother Luca are still asleep. The pair start the day by sipping on drinks (a fancy teacup for Mama, a sippy cup for the little girl). They brush their teeth together, shower and pick out clothes, eat warm oatmeal (with blueberries for Mama, bananas for the girl). They do their hair, don galoshes, and explore the rain-slicked world outside. When it’s bedtime, the girl is tucked in by Mama and relaxes into the cozy dark, thinking of all the little moments that made her simple day with Mama so special.

Absolutely lovely. This sweet slice-of-life tale is as beautiful visually as it is in prose, both taking the everyday moments between loved ones and exalting them with artistic flair. Cozbi’s text reads with the guileless voice of a child, and makes humble moments that most readers can connect to feel meditative and sublime. The acrylic artwork is equally stunning, capturing the atmosphere of a cloudy day or the details of oatmeal warming on a kitchen stove in a way that celebrates their perhaps-overlooked beauty. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I loved this one; while there are plenty of books that celebrate mother-daughter relationships, this one felt uniquely grounded in the reality of how those relationships look on an average day. An absolute beauty, and a must-read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

You Are Home (Mackenzie Porter)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Are Home, written by Mackenzie Porter and illustrated by Xin Li, a sweet board book that explores the special bond between mother and child.

A mother sits in a rocking chair, cuddling her new baby to her chest, keeping the infant safe and warm in her arms. This embrace is the baby’s first “home”, and as the child grows into a toddler, then a preschooler, than beyond, their “home” expands. First it’s a room as they learn to walk; then the outdoors as they explore the world beyond their house. Yet as the world grows larger and more filled with possibility, one constant remains: since a mother’s love follows their child wherever they go, they will always, in a way, be home.

Adorable. This sturdy board book title takes a timeless and universal theme of a mother’s unconditional love and crafts a sweet, simple narrative that young readers and their own mother figures can happily share. The meter of the rhyming text can take a little getting used to, but once you do, this is a great one to read aloud, especially for very small bookworms. Li’s colorful, affectionate illustrations fit the tone of the text perfectly, and each spread is filled with atmosphere and warmth. The length is great for a quick read, and JJ loved the easy-to-read text and engaging artwork. This one would make a lovely gift for new moms, and we really enjoyed 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.)

Why a Daughter Needs a Mom (Gregory E. Lang)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Why a Daughter Needs a Mom, written by Gregory E. Lang and illustrated by Sydney Hanson, an ode to the special relationship between mothers and daughters.

Adapted from Lang’s adult-oriented gift book of the same name, this version combines Hanson’s adorable animal illustrations with sugary-sweet rhyming text that explores all the things moms give their daughters. From a shoulder to cry on to a warm hug, a sense of humor to a sense of style, these word of encouragement and advice show that moms love nothing more than to help their daughters be the best and happiest versions on themselves.

Cute yet bland. Contrary to the title, the text is less examples of why a daughter needs a mom and more a list of life advice for young ones. Yet while the lessons themselves are well-written and occasionally quite touching, nothing other than pronoun choices make them specific to the relationship between mothers and daughters; indeed, values like perseverance, empathy, and patience should be taught by any-gender parents to any-gender children. For this reason, the book feels less like it’s aimed at young bookworms and more like it was written for moms (still, there’s also something slightly off about a book being narrated from the first-person perspective of a mother to her child being written by a man). Hanson’s heartwarming illustrations are the standout, and her adorable parent-child creatures were definitely the main draw for us. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ liked the art a lot. Overall, a little disappointing but not bad, and we can still call it Baby Bookworm approved.

You Be Mommy (Karla Clark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is You Be Mommy, written by Karla Clark and illustrated by Zoe Persico, a sweet tribute to everything moms do for their loved ones… and what makes it all worth it.

“Can you be mommy?” an exhausted mother jokingly asks her youngest child at bedtime. After all, Mommy has had a big day. She worked a full shift at her retail job, then came home to a messy house. She helped with homework, bathed the dog, drove the older siblings to their practices, did laundry, mended clothes, cooked; and so on and so on (context clues would indicate she is a single parent as well). Mommy is just feeling a little… pooped! Gamely, her little girl plays along, wiping Mommy’s nose, tucking her in under her favorite blanket, and giving goodnight kisses and cuddles. Yet when the little girl begins to drift off herself, Mommy smiles, and does what mommies always do – takes care of her baby.

Adorable. In subdued yet amusing rhyme, the story follows a harried – yet never quite flustered – mom through her busy day, bookended by the charming and relatable exchange with her youngest child. It’s a subtle balance of celebrating hard-working moms and reminding younger readers of not only everything moms do for their families, but also why they do these things; simply, because they care. The cartoonish illustration is lush and vibrant with color; the family’s home has a fantastic visual theme of growing green plants and cozy textures. One thing I loved especially was that the super-mom was depicted as a more average-sized, curvy woman; moms in picture books are not often shown as anything other than skinny and/or hourglass-shaped. In addition to being a woman of color, it’s a nice bit of representation for super-moms. The length was perfect, and JJ and I really enjoyed it. A warm and worthy celebration of often-unsung heroes, 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.)