The Vanishing Lake (Paddy Donnelly)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly, an enchanting fable that celebrates imagination, curiosity, and everyday magic.

Meara loves to visit her Granddad and his pet otter, Cara, at his home of the shores of beautiful lake called Loughareema. With cool water to swim in, scattered rocks to jump across, and small islands to explore, Loughareema is a pretty normal lake… most of the time. But sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all, the lake will just up and disappear! Very suddenly, all the water will be gone until it rains again. Meara’s granddad has plenty of ridiculous explanations for this mysterious phenomenon, but Meara knows that there must be an answer in science. She begins to study and gather evidence of where the vanishing lake might be disappearing to, but with no answers and no leads. At last, Granddad offers to show Meara the truth about their disappearing lake… and it’s an explanation that no one expects!

Wonderful! I absolutely love a good plot twist in a children’s book, and this is one of the coolest – and most moving – I’ve ever seen. Loughareema, based on the actual vanishing lake near the author’s childhood home in Northern Ireland, actually does have a fascinating scientific explanation for its periodic disappearances, and one that Donnelly wisely adds in a very informative author’s note. But for the purposes of the story, it’s the magic of the mystery that is more important than solving it, and Paddy nicely balances fact and fantasy to sell the message that both scientific curiosity and imagination have value, especially for children. This is supported beautifully by the lush and atmospheric illustrations that pulls readers into the world of Meara’s lake, creating both a natural and somewhat mystical environment. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed the surprise twist, and loved that Granddad’s otter shared a name with her mom (lol). Overall, this was a wonderful read with a lot of style and a sweet message, and we highly 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.)

Who Is It, Whoodini? (Roman Yasiejko)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Who Is It, Whoodini?, written by Roman Yasiejko and illustrated by Gustavo Ramos, a playful pastoral tale of a mysterious discovery.

One day, two owls’ teatime is disrupted by a larger, colorful bird crashing into a nearby tree. Whoodini, a deerstalker-and-cape-clad owl, and her trusty pal Cahoots are on the case, embarking on an investigation to identify the rabble-rouser and where they’ve come from. After questioning a few animals at the nearby farm, Whoodini overhears a conversation that breaks the case wide open – but can the reader figure out the answer before the final page?

Uneven yet ambitious. What works in this Holmesian mystery tale for young readers works very well; it is a fun guessing game to try and determine the mystery behind the crashing bird, and one that is simple enough for little bookworms to suss out on their own if they so choose. The rhyming text flows extremely well, and it is a lot of fun to read aloud. I was even pleasantly surprised by Whoodini being given female pronouns, yet not overtly “feminized” visually; it was nice to find that our intrepid sleuth was a girl all along. However, there are a few areas falter a bit. I could nitpick about Whoodini’s slightly confusing name, especially as she is clearly modeled thematically and visually after Sherlock Holmes, but the main distraction was the disconnect between the artwork and story. While both are wonderful in their own right, it felt odd to have such a playful mystery paired with such deeply atmospheric acrylic and gouache paintings. While the artwork is gorgeous, it feels a little too weighty for such a light story, and the characters often blend in to the scenery a little too much. Otherwise, the length is fine for a storytime, and JJ did enjoy the final reveal. This one is definitely worth a look; even with its flaws, it’s a delightful ride from start to finish. Baby Bookworm approved.

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