Rosa’s Song (Helena Ku Rhee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rosa’s Song, written by Helena Ku Rhee and illustrated by Pascal Campion, a touchingly bittersweet story of friendship, community, and the immigrant experience.

New to “the country, the city, the building,” young Jae is struggling to adjust to his new surroundings and new language. His mother suggests introducing himself to some of the other kids in the building, and behind the first door he tries is Rosa and her pet parrot, Pollito. Rosa is a warm and welcoming bundle of energy, who instinctively sees Jae’s homesickness for his native country and invents games of imagination to help him adjust. She also teaches him to sing her special song with Pollito: “When I fly away, my heart stays here.” All summer, the friends play, pretend, and learn from each other… until the day that Jae wakes up, and Rosa has suddenly left. Heartbroken, Jae is left only with Pollito, a parting gift from his friend when her family had to leave “in a hurry” against their will. Once again, Jae struggles with sadness and loss, but now for a person instead of a place. Yet with the help of Pollito’s song and some new faces, Jae may learn how to carry on the spirit of Rosa’s friendship.

A complicated theme executed with tenderness and hope. Rhee’s wistful tale follows a familiar format at the start, but takes a surprisingly bold turn with Rosa’s departure, both hinting at the immigration status of Rosa’s family and facing the sometimes transitory nature of friendships based on proximity (as a former military family, we FELT that). This development is handled impeccably though, with honesty and heart, and may help little ones who experience similar closure-less separations from loved ones. Campion’s illustrations are warm, soft, and comforting – even in moments of sadness – and help ease the reader through the sadness of the plot. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ liked the rich artwork, especially of adorable and expressive Pollito. Overall, this is a poignant tale that encourages us to reach out and form connections – even if they may not last. It’s moving, and we loved it; Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Paper Planes (Jim Helmore & Richard Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Paper Planes by Jim Helmore & Richard Jones, a touching story of enduring friendship.

Mia and Ben are best friends. They grew up next door to each other on the shore of a great, wide lake. They share everything, especially their greatest passion: aeronautics. Making paper and model planes, they would race their creations against the flying geese and dream of one day making a plane that could fly all the way across the lake. Yet their idyllic friendship is suddenly dealt a heavy blow; Ben breaks the news that his family is moving very far away. The pair promise to remember each other, and to stay friends. But as the seasons change, Mia begins to feel ever lonelier, hurt, and sad. In a rage, she smashes the model plane Ben had given her as a goodbye present, and feels even worse. That night, however, something magical happens: the plane is restored, and able to fly Mia across the sea to visit Ben in her dreams. And when she wakes, she finds that, even through distance and strain, great friendship is worth working on.

Fantastic. This gentle and tender tale of the difficulty of losing a friend to distance – both literal and figurative – is as beautiful to look at as it is to read. Mia and Ben both experience the quiet and lonesome frustrations of their separation in a way that does not trivialize these very big feelings, yet gives the reader hope that those same feelings will pass. And Ben’s final gesture of reaching out to Mia works as a wonderful metaphor for the work that both parties must put into a friendship, and how incredible the results can be. The soft, chalky art is stunning and emotional, and fits the tone of the story perfectly. The length is fine for any age and JJ and I both loved it. A great story of the power of friendship to help us fly, 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.)

Butterfly Park (Elly MacKay)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the gorgeous Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay, a joyful story of a little girl and her love for butterflies bringing a town together.

A little girl is moving to a new town and is sad to leave her country home, especially the beautiful butterflies that live there. Moving to a house in the city, she feels lost at first – until she finds that she lives next to a Butterfly Park! When she visits the garden the next day, she finds that there are no butterflies in barren park. She goes searching, and find one in a neighbor boy’s yard. She asks for his help to catch it and bring it to the garden, but when they release it, it flies away. Enlisting more neighborhood children, they capture more butterflies, only to have them fly away as well. The kids begin to follow the last remaining butterfly, chasing it through town and attracting a parade of amused onlookers. At last, the butterfly leads them to a garden and the girl realizes her mistake: butterflies are attracted to flowers! She returns to the park with flowers, but still no butterflies arrive – until the park is suddenly filled with the townspeople, who happily help the girl build a flower garden that attracts her beloved bugs.

This was a wonderfully sweet story, filled with a guileless innocence that captures a feeling of childhood awe. But the absolute star of the show here are the gorgeous paper-cut illustrations, arranged and captured using tilt-shift photography, that give the art of the book a positively magical air. The reader can practically feel the movement, energy, and warmth of the characters within a three-dimensional space, and it’s really quite beautiful. The length was good as well, and JJ enjoyed it. This is a genuine feast for the eyes paired with a charming story about community, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!