A Home For Leo (Vin Vogel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Home For Leo by Vin Vogel, a lovely story about family, identity, and home.

Leo doesn’t look like the other sea creatures, but he definitely is one just the same. Lost at sea as a baby, Leo was raised by a family of sea lions. And while he loves his home in the sea – playing with his marine-life friends, diving and swimming through the water, sleeping under the stars – he can’t quite shake the feel that he doesn’t quite belong. One day, he discovers a creature who does look like him, and it causes quite a tizzy. He’s taken inland and his face splashed across the papers, but now Leo feels even more out of place. When his birth parents arrive, he is delighted to finally see familiar faces, and begins to feel a bit more at home and loved. But even as his family does everything they can to make him comfortable, Leo has trouble adjusting. He misses the sea, and the family that raised him. So he sets out to find a way to make everyone happy, and bring his two worlds together as one.

LOVED this. As the definition of family becomes more complex and inclusive, children in non-traditional families can often struggle with identity, and this is a story that gently introduces these themes through a modern fable version. Bright, cartoonish illustrations are hilarious and heartbreaking in turns, and create real empathy for not only Leo but his two families as well. They also work perfectly with the text, which knows precisely when to keep things simple and let the art do the talking. It reminded me a lot of Jessie Sima’s fabulous Not Quite Narwhal, but in all the best ways – showing little ones that family is love, and that finding who you are starts with people who makes you feel comfortable being you. The length was great, and JJ loved it – Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I’ve Loved You Since Forever (Hoda Kotb)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I’ve Loved You Since Forever, written by Hoda Kotb and illustrated by Suzie Mason, a heartfelt love letter from parent to child.

When does a mother or father begin to love their baby? From the day they meet them? No no, the love between a mother or father and their baby began long before that. It began before the flight of birds, and before bees made honey. It came before rivers and sunsets and even the silvery glow of the moon. Before all of that, there were two bright points of light traveling through the stars, destined to meet – and that’s when a parent’s love begins, and waits for the day that ”you and me” becomes a ”we”.

Sentimentally sweet, elegant yet earnest. There’s a sea of parent-and-child books out there, but there are a few choices that were made here that really makes this one stand out. Inspired by the adoption of her daughter, Kotb is careful to keep the story gender-neutral (with the exception of one illustration) and open a diverse cross-section of families: the narrator could represent a mother or a father, and could be a biological, adopted, step-parent, or other types of caregiver, allowing for many types of families to feel a personal connection to the story. Both the text and the art have a soothing, dreamy quality that makes for a perfect bedtime read, including a gorgeous reoccurring cosmic motif that serves as a beautiful visual metaphor for the story’s theme. It’s a relatively short book, which makes it fine for even the smallest bookworm, and JJ especially loved the hugably adorable animals. A wonderful update on a classic message, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Elliot, Big Family (Mike Curato)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Little Elliot, Big Family by Mike Curato, a story about the family we have and the family we make.

The second book in the Little Elliot series, the story opens with Elliot (a small, spotted elephant who lives in NYC) and his best friend and roommate Mouse waking to a lovely winter day. Mouse is in a rush; his family reunion is today, and he’s looking forward to seeing his two hundred-odd family members. Elliot sees him off, but immediately feels a bit lonely once his pal is gone. Going for a walk around the city doesn’t help much: everywhere he goes, he sees families spending time together. He even goes to see a movie, but is left in tears at the sight of an elephant family on the screen. Venturing back out into the snow, he is stopped by Mouse, who has missed him as well. Mouse invites Elliot to his family reunion, where everyone has a lovely time. And when the time comes to take the family portrait, the many mice find that there is plenty of room for a little elephant to squeeze in. After all, Elliot is family.

We have loved the Elliot books so far, which are sweet yet touching, and have a lovely, gentle innocence to the story and art. Elliot’s loneliness is so palpable through the text and illustrations, and readers would be hard-pressed to not sympathize with the sensitive little elephant. I also love that this is a book about found family, which is great for children whose families are not strictly biological. This is a story that children of blended families, adoption, or foster families might relate to, and that’s wonderful. The length is perfect, and JJ loved the “effent,” so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

Gaston (Kelly DiPucchio)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson, the story of a little “poodle” and how he brings two families together.

Mrs. Poodle has four lovely poodle children, but Gaston is different: he’s bigger, and he must try harder than his sisters at being dainty, delicate and polite. Still, Gaston works hard to be a good poodle, and his family loves him. Then one day at the park, his family discovers another mother with four pups: three French Bulldogs and a miniature poodle! Mrs. Poodle and Mrs. Bulldog realize what must have happened, and agree to let the children decide what to do. So the adopted pups decide to switch back, but quickly realize that even though they are with dogs that look like them, they miss their families and their mothers (and their mothers miss them), so they choose to live with their adopted families, and both families decide spend every day together at the park.

This book was wonderful! First, the illustrations are absolutely charming, the length was great for Baby Bookworms, and the text is a lot of fun and very interactive for younger readers. But I loved the story, and its message about adoption and what makes a family, most of all. Not only did it impress that families need not always be related by blood, they also show that family comes in every shape and size. It was also great that the two dog families decided to maintain a close relationship after the pups switched back: it showed that it’s okay to have a relationship with both adoptive and birth families. These are wonderful messages when more and more kids are being raised in blended and non-traditional families, and we loved it! Baby Bookworm approved!