Let’s Do Everything and Nothing (Julia Kuo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Let’s Do Everything and Nothing by Julia Kuo, a gorgeous meditation on the simple pleasures of spending time together.

A mother and young daughter embark on a series of adventures together, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary. Whether climbing mountain peaks, swimming in the ocean’s depths, or simply enjoying a pot of tea at the table, the two are simply happy that their experiences are shared. Each one, big and small, allows for teamwork, conversation, and learning. After all, each moment, big or small, is made better by being together.

Lovely. This sweet and gentle celebration of one-on-one time between parent and child is both humble and profound, blurring the line between epic exploits and everyday moments to emphasize the real importance of either: whom one shares them with. The reader is never sure if the larger-than-life moments are meant to be imaginary or not, to great effect – their grandeur is symbolic of how the smaller moments between loved ones are of equal importance. Kuo’s illustrations and simple text carry this theme perfectly, using identical color palettes for each “big” and “small” moment, and exploring big concepts with an economy of words. There are also some great details authentic to the family’s East Asian heritage, such as shrimp chips on a table or a board book of the Chinese alphabet. The length is perfect for any storytime, and JJ loved this mother-daughter story. Overall, a masterpiece ode to parent and child, 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.)

Saturday (Oge Mora)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Saturday by Oge Mora, a heartwarming story of mother and daughter.

Saturdays are Ava’s favorite day; her mother works every other day of the week, so Saturdays are just for the two of them. They even have their weekly ritual all planned out: first, go to the library for storytime; then relax at the beauty shop as they get their hair done; then off to the park for a picnic. And today’s Saturday is even more special, because they’re capping it off with a special, one-night-only puppet show across town. However, when they get to the library, the find that storytime has been cancelled… and that’s only the beginning of their bad luck. Disappointment after disappointment mounts, culminating in a heartbreaking realization that they’ve left their puppet show tickets at home! This proves to be Ava’s mother’s breaking point, and she apologizes to her daughter for a day wasted. But little Ava knows the truth, and is there to remind her mother: a day is never wasted when it’s spent with the one you love.

Absolutely wonderful. Mora has a real talent for telling simple, uplifting stories that are grounded in reality. Watching Ava and her mom suffer their series of letdowns is painful, and the mother’s eventual feelings of guilt for “ruining” the day hit so close to home as a parent, especially because EVERY mother I know has had that kind of day at some point. And it’s Ava’s gentle, kind reassurance that both warms the heart and teaches several important lessons to young readers: sometimes things can’t go our way, sometimes parents even (gasp!) mess up, but it’s how we handle these bumps – and who we handle them with – that makes us who were are. It’s quietly powerful, deeply touching, and wonderfully inspiring. The mixed-media paper collage art is rich and beautiful, filling Ava’s city with life and color, and managing to imbue deep emotion and personality in spare figures. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. Absolutely Baby Bookworm approved!

Mommy’s Khimar (Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mommy’s Khimar, written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn, a lovely story of family and love.

A little girl watches her mother closely as the woman affixes her khimar – a flowing scarf that covers her head and hair – with fascination. Her mommy has a whole closet of khimars in seemingly every color and pattern in the rainbow – including the girl’s favorite color, yellow. The girl tries on the too-large scarf and revels in the way it makes her feel: like a queen, a shining star, a nurturing mama bird, and a mighty superhero. Her mother helps her put it on properly, and the girl is comforted by the familiar scent of her mother’s beauty products on the garment. At mosque, her Arabic teacher calls it a “hijab”, and many of the other ladies, also in khimars, compliment her look. When her Christian grandmother stops by to visit after Sunday service, she sweeps the girl up in a bright hug and proclaims “Sweet Jesus!”. At the end of the day, her mother helps her remove the headpiece, and the girl lays down to bed, dreaming of a cozy nest of yellow, and her mother’s warm embrace.

Lovely. As much a celebration of hijabi pride, this tender story is about the connection between a mother and daughter that is relatable across cultures; what little girl didn’t try on her mommy’s coat or shoes or necklaces and feel a just a bit closer to her? But it is a celebration of the khimar as well, and dispels the myth that these headscarfs are symbols of oppression rather than culture or faith; wearing the khimar helps the girl feel empowered, beautiful, and free, rather than the opposite. With the addition of the beautiful, colorful illustrations, these elements fold together beautifully to tell a story that is a gift of representation for Muslim families and a touching story of mother and daughter for readers of any faith. The length was great, JJ loved it, and this one is emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!

In A Minute, Mama Bear (Rachel Bright)

Hello, friends! Our book today is In A Minute, Mama Bear by Rachel Bright, a sweet tale of a mommy and daughter with conflicting schedules.

Mama Bear has a list of errands a mile long, and she needs to keep on schedule. But Bella Bear, her toddler-aged daughter, does things on her own time: when Mama picks out her favorite blue dress to wear, Bella insists on wearing her red jumper instead. A quick meal in the car? But Bella wanted oatmeal and pancakes! And proclaiming that she needs to use the potty before they leave, she takes her time perusing her books while she “goes”. Even when they finally get out the door, the have to turn around – Bella forgot her silly cup. With every delay and distraction, Mama Bear is pushed closer to her breaking point, resulting in her losing her temper when faced with a traffic jam. Spotting Bella’s meek expression in response to the outburst, Mama Bear pauses to consider how her mood affects her cub, and wonders if all those appointments are really as important as they seem.

This is one of those stories that absolutely feels like it was written for caregivers as much as their little ones; I was SO sympathetic to Mama Bear’s desperation to get out the door on time while Bella innocently dawdled and delayed. The lesson is very much directed at the adult reader: Mama Bear decides to put off her errands and skip Bella’s dance class, taking the day to go to the park and simply enjoy each other’s company. And while the notion of simply dropping all responsibilities for a day of play may feel a little fantastic, the core message is clear: remember to take the time to let kids be kids, at their pace and not yours. It’s heartwarming and sweet, and bolstered lovingly by the wide-eyed, energetic and expressive character design. The length is perfect for any age, and we liked it a lot. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

When I’m A Mommy Like You! (David O’Connell)

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

Hello, friends! Our book today is When I’m A Mommy Like You!, written by David O’Connell and illustrated by Francesca Gambatesa, a sweet ode to the special relationship between mother and daughter.

In conversational rhyming text, the book introduces a mommy and daughter who spend their days together: shopping, cooking, playing, etc. The mommy works very hard, and the girl thinks she is doing a wonderful job of being a mommy. The little girl tells her mommy that she’s learning how to be a grownup from her, and that she’ll do her best to be a great mommy like her. The mother is touched, and tells the little girl the secret to making their days fun and full of adventure: she does it because she loves the time they get to spend together, and while being a mommy is hard work, it’s very much worth it.

This was a sweet book with a lovely sentiment. I enjoyed the conversational nature of the text, how one spread would be daughter addressing mother, then the opposite for the following spread. The illustrations were adorable, done in a pastel-hued cartoon style that shows great affection for the characters. However, I do have two complaints: the rhyme scheme of the text is a choppy at times, and it can be difficult to keep the rhythm. Also, I would have loved to see the mother doing something that wasn’t domestic- or appearance- related. It might have been nice to show her teaching her daughter a skill that is not traditionally “feminine,” but instead stuck to wearing dresses, gardening, doing yoga and the like. Overall, however, it is a very nice book that explores a timeless dynamic. The length was fine, and JJ enjoyed it, so we’re calling this one Baby Bookworm approved!