Just Bunny and the Great Fire Rescue (Jeanne LaSala Taylor)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Just Bunny and the Great Fire Rescue, written by Jeanne LaSala Taylor and illustrated by Ana Sebastian, a sweet tale of a girl and her very special bunny.

New Yorker Francesca’s best friend in the world is her stuffed gray rabbit named Just Bunny. After a day of play at the park with her mom and little sister (and Just Bunny, naturally), Francesca and her family stop at a restaurant for dinner. But shortly after their chips arrive, the waiter appears to usher everyone out of the restaurant – there’s a fire in the kitchen! Safely out on the street, the family moves to another restaurant, but Francesca quickly realizes that someone was left behind: Just Bunny! Rushing back to the scene of the fire, Francesca and her mother implore a kindly firefighter to look inside for the plushie, explaining that he’s not simply a toy, but Francesca’s best friend. The firefighter understands, and braves his way inside to search… but is it too late?

Very sweet. While the rhyming text often loses meter and can be a little clunky when read aloud, the slice-of-life plot if simple and relatable, especially for any family who is familiar with the importance of a little one’s special toy. Indeed, the moment in which the firefighter asks if Francesca needs Just Bunny to sleep absolutely rung true to me, and was a heartwarming and realistic moment of a one parent understanding another family’s needs based on personal experience. The way this also celebrated the work and compassion of firefighters was a wonderful and unexpected theme. The art is colorful and lively, and the length is fine. One complaint, however, is the inclusion of a tertiary character named DJ Big Apple, a bunny identical to Just Bunny with the exception of sunglasses and a watch who, after an introductory page, appears in the background of each two-page spread, up until one scene where he… IS Just Bunny? Even though they both appeared in previous scenes? It’s unclear and feels like an unnecessary addition to an otherwise well-rounded story. Still, JJ enjoyed the tale of Just Bunny, and we can recommend this one. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Bolivar (Sean Rubin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Bolivar by Sean Rubin, a phenomenal modern fairy tale of a dinosaur in the big city.

Young Sybil, a school-age girl living in a New York brownstone apartment, has quite the dilemma. You see, despite numerous attempts, she can’t convince anyone in her life that her next door neighbor is a dinosaur. Even her mother scoffs at the idea – after all, everyone knows that dinosaurs are extinct. Except… they’re not. Bolivar, a mild-mannered, modestly-sized (though still quite large) theropod, is the last dinosaur anywhere. And since he prefers not to be noticed, he’s made his home in New York City, a place where everyone is far too busy to take note of a dinosaur. Bolivar goes about his day, getting his NEW YORKER from the newsstand, shopping for old books, dining on corned beef sandwiches in cafes, and no one notices, all too consumed in their own lives to spot the massive yet quiet dinosaur in their midst. Everyone except Sybil, of course. And in her quest to prove Bolivar’s existence, she ends up setting into motion a chain of events that brings them adventure, friendship, and parking tickets.

We. LOVED. This. Right off the bat, this mashup of picture book, early reader, and graphic novel is not a quick read; it took JJ and I about half an hour to cover the story, and twice as long to pour back over the gorgeously detailed illustrations of the city that never sleeps. But JJ was riveted, and so was I – this modern take on classic tropes like “fish out of water” and “a day in the city” are made delightful with a fresh, wonderfully funny story and a thoughtful commentary on the connections we make with others. Readers will immediately fall for the timid, gentle Bolivar and the tenacious yet kindly Sybil. And the art – intricate, lovingly and painstakingly illustrated scenes of the city and her people – is a marvel. This one may take a few sittings to get through for younger bookworms, but I promise – it’s well worth the ride. Baby Bookworm approved!

Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventures In The Big Apple (Allison Pataki & Marya Myers)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Nelly Takes New York: A Little Girl’s Adventures In The Big Apple, written by Allison Patacki and Marya Myers, and illustrated by Kristi Valiant.

Nelly wakes up in her West Village apartment bedroom to the familiar sounds of New York: the rumble of the subway, the beat of a street musician, the rattle of a shop gate being opened. Heading outside with her faithful beagle (named Bagel), she runs into Mr. Patel in his food truck. After telling him her morning plans, he replies enthusiastically: “The Big Apple is tons of fun!” Big Apple? Sounds exciting, and just the kind of thing she and Bagel would love to see. So Nelly and her pup set out on a Manhattan adventure that takes them from Union Square to the Museum of Natural History to the 9/11 Memorial; searching for the Big Apple, and finding it in the most unexpected of ways.

Native New Yorkers may chuckle at a few of the book’s premises and conventions – what school-age native New Yorker, old enough to traverse Manhattan unaccompanied, has never heard the phrase “Big Apple”? – but with a little suspension of disbelief, there still a lot to love here. While a few of the standard tourist landmarks – like Central Park and the Empire State Building – are highlighted, the story reads primarily as a love letter from a New Yorker’s perspective. Beats focus on the strong sense of community New Yorkers have and the unique beauty of the city; rich, gloriously detailed illustrations capture the famed architecture and unparalleled diversity of races, skintones, religions, and cultures. It’s a view of New York for both residents and non-residents, and overall does a lovely job of celebrating “the Big Apple”. The length was fine for a storytime, and JJ loved the illustrations especially the rascally Bagel. We really enjoyed it, so 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.)

Up In The Leaves: The True Story Of The Central Park Treehouses (Shira Boss)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Up In The Leaves: The True Story Of The Central Park Treehouses, written by Shira Boss and illustrated by Jamey Christoph, a sweet story of a boy’s creativity and love of trees shaping his destiny.

Bob had never been a huge fan of the city life: the noise, the traffic, the crowds. So after school, he would head straight to Central Park and climb up into the trees, where the air was clearer and quieter, and he could be by himself in the middle of a bustling city. At 13, Bob salvaged some scrap supplies and built a small treehouse where he could go to be alone, but the park officials found it and tore it down. As the years went by, Bob continued to build treehouses, each more elaborate than the last, often inviting up friends or spending nights gazing at the stars. Finally, as a young man, he was caught in the red-handed in his latest structure, and told to come down and face the consequences. But as Bob descended his treetop palace, he found not a punishment, but a welcome surprise waiting for him.

What a delightful little true story! Bob’s understanding of trees as well as his incredible tree-climbing skills eventually earned him a job as an arborist. It’s a nice lesson in how being ourselves and following our passions can guide us to what we are meant for. There is some flouting of authority and some questionable life-planning near the end (Bob was living in the treehouses part-time and had no plans for his future – he lucks into his job path due to the impressed park workers recommending it to him), but the intention is that of inspiring dreamers to find their field. The illustrations are lovely, creating a realistic yet wondrous world of Bob’s treehouses and the feelings they inspired in him. The length is fine, and JJ enjoyed it, so this one’s Baby Bookworm approved!

PS – You can enter to win a copy of this book on our Facebook page!

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

Lizard From The Park (Mark Pett)

Hello, friends! Hope you don’t mind that we took last night off! We’re back today with a new review: Lizard From The Park by Mark Pett, a sweet story about friendship, family, and dinosaurs.

While taking a shortcut through the park one day, Leonard comes upon a most unusual egg. He takes the egg home, playing with it and caring for it, until the next morning when it begins to hatch. Busting through the shell, out pops a tiny lizard whom Leonard names, appropriately, Buster. Leonard and Buster are inseparable, and Leonard takes his new little one to all his favorite places in the city. But as the two grow closer together, Buster is growing as well – he soon outgrows the other people, Leonard’s room, even the roof of the apartment building. Leonard needs to find a solution for his rapidly growing friend, even if it means having to say goodbye… 

This was a very sweet and playful story, with an honest yet hopeful ending that felt just right. Much like Love Is by Diane Adams, Leonard comes to terms with the fact that Buster needs to go out into the world on his own, making this a wonderful metaphor for parenthood as well as a sweet tale about friendship. The illustrations are perfect; sometimes wry, sometimes sentimental, and with a wonderful visual story that dovetails to the main theme nicely. The length is great, and JJ loved it. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!