Luli and the Language of Tea (Andrea Wang)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Luli and the Language of Tea, written by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, a sweet tale of cross-cultural connection.

In her ESL daycare, young Luli notices that none of the children are playing together; despite being full of young ones, the room is quiet, as none of the children share a language. Luli, wanting to find a way to bring her playroom together, comes up with a plan. She brings in a teapot, a thermos of hot water, and a ball of tea leaves, as well as enough teacups for everyone. When the tea is steeped, she calls out: “茶!” (Chá!), inviting her friends to the table. While the children do not share a language, the language of tea is universal, and each one responds with the word for “tea” in Russian, Swahili, Persian, Turkish, etc. But when they gather at the table and Luli is finished pouring, they find that there is not enough for everyone to have a full cup! What can they do?

Wonderful! Finding cross-cultural connections, especially in cuisine, is always a great subject for a picture book, and this one cleverly incorporated a beverage that is a dietary and cultural staple to so many: tea. Wang’s text is simple and sweet, and cleverly structures the multilingual sections to represent both the written version of the language and the phonetic pronunciation, the latter of which can often feel intrusive or extraneous in multi-language books but works perfectly here due to the breadth of languages and the similarity between the the different pronunciations of “tea.” Yum’s illustrations of a diverse group of characters and their caregivers are adorable, immensely playful and bright. Endpapers featuring traditional teacups from around the world are especially delightful. Informative backmatter gives a brief overview on the history of tea, tea traditions in each character’s native country, and a few notes on immigrants living in the United States. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both really liked this one. This is a great way to introduce the idea of language and cultural diversity – both what makes us different and what we share – and we absolutely recommend 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.)

Love (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Love, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, an ode to ways of feeling and expressing love.

What is love? What does it look like? Like a fancy meal or a designer card? Is it expensive gifts or fancy dinners? What do we mean when we say it happens at first sight? And how can we express it to the people who matter to us? A gloriously diverse cast of characters show the reader that love comes in many forms, and that there is no way too big or too small to show someone we love them.

Fabulous. As with their previous books Beautiful and Brave, McAnulty and Lew-Vriethoff expertly utilize the convention of making broad statements in the text then subverting them with the illustrations: “fancy dinner” is a lovingly-prepared bowl of food for an injured pet dog; a “designer greeting card” is a child’s joyously expressive crayon drawing; “first sight” is an adoptee being greeted with signs and grins by their new blended family. Especially striking is the tremendous diversity of these characters: adults, children, elderly, differently-abled, hearing-impaired, different faiths, different versions of non-traditional families, all in a rainbow of skintones that create a story world as vibrant as our own. The love is equally as diverse, showing the love we have for family, friends, pets, neighbors, or even total strangers. It’s an uplifting and affirming reminder that love colors our lives in every way imaginable, and is something we all share, and has infinite means of expression. The length is great, JJ loved it, and we can’t recommend it enough. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Rain (Anders Holmer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Rain by Anders Holmer, a lovely look at nature and life in haiku form.

Using the format of the traditional poetry form, each spread offers an expanse of scenery from around the world and a glimpse into the lives of those that inhabit it. A group of humans and reindeer cross a tundra, the youngest calf stopping to discover fresh lichen. A song plays on a car radio, but no one hears it; the driver is changing the tire and his children are greeting a dog. As cherry blossom petals flutter down, two friends are struck by the beauty and quickly resolve a spat, enjoying moment together instead. The reader journeys around the world, showing how different the world can be, even when it often comes down to something we all share, like rain.

Soft, simple, and beautiful. This book had such a wonderfully calming look and tone, using the haiku format to tell each story richly yet with an economy of words. The art uses light and dark to perfectly set the stage while pops of color, details, and movement make the subjects come alive. It inspires the reader to examine each scene carefully, and allows the art and spare text to evoke the desired emotion. The length is great, and JJ and I really enjoyed it. A soothing meditation on a wider world, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.

This Is How We Do It: One Day In The Life Of Seven Kids From Around The World (Matt Lamothe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is This Is How We Do It: One Day In The Life Of Seven Kids From Around The World by Matt Lamothe, a fascinating look at the differences and similarities in daily life across cultures and continents.

The first page proclaims “This is me,” and we are introduced to real-life children from seven locales: India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Peru, Russia and Uganda. We meet their families, learn about their schools, and gets a taste of their daily meals and chores. At last, as they tuck into their different beds for the night, we are shown that while their daily lives may be very different, they all share the same night sky.

Very interesting! Concise, matter-of-fact text describes the daily lives of the subjects, occasionally underlining a vocabulary word that is then defined in the glossary in the back of the book. The art is the real star here, using detailed, realistic digital illustrations that either recreate or emulate photos of the children’s lives. Social issues are sidestepped, understandably – this is meant as an introduction to global thinking, especially considering the final spread. However, this is definitely not meant for little bookworms to read in a single sitting: while JJ adored the art, the text is strictly informational and there’s a fair amount of it, so she was getting pretty squirmy 2/3 of the way through. But for slightly older readers, this is a great way to begin thinking about the larger world around them, and the children – both unlike and and just like them in many ways – in it. Baby Bookworm approved!

What’s On Your Plate?: Exploring The World Of Food (Whitney Stewart)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What’s On Your Plate?: Exploring The World Of Food, written by Whitney Stewart and illustrated by Christiane Engel, a cookbook/celebration of international cuisine for little readers.

There’s a world of food out there, and chances are that what’s on your plate is not the same as children in other countries! So follow along as readers are taken on a tour of 14 countries (such as Mexico, Thailand, Ethiopia, etc.) and given a crash course in their food culture, popular dishes, and even a recipe to try at home (with parents’ help, of course). By the end, readers will gain an appreciation for new and interesting dishes and cultures, and find that our love of food is both what makes us unique and brings us together.

Very cool! Each spread is informative, interesting, visually fun, and the recipes look delicious. It’s a great way to encourage little ones to be adventurous with their meals and to learn more about other countries and cultures. The illustrations are perfect fun, make the food look delectable (there are also photos of some dishes), and the maps of the countries and their native ingredients are awesome. This is not a storybook, and reading it in one sitting would definitely be for older bookworms, but JJ enjoyed the illustrations, and I imagine this will be a popular book for our adventurous eater in a few years. A great way to introduce little foodies to international cuisine, 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.)