Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog (Lisa Papp)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Madeline Finn and the Therapy Dog by Lisa W. Papp, third in the author’s sweet series on therapy dogs.

Readers once again join the timid yet kindhearted Madeline Finn and her young dog, Star (offspring of Bonnie, the titular library dog from the series’s first installment). Madeline has been training Star to be a therapy dog as well, and his final three tests are to take place at a retirement home, comforting the residents and showing the good canine manners he’s learned. While Madeline and Star’s efforts during the tests show promise, Madeline is troubled by one resident, Mr. Humphrey, who remains silent and withdrawn during their visits. After brainstorming ways to connect with the man – as well as conferring with her mother and Bonnie’s owner, Mrs. Dimple – Madeline decides on patience and kindness as her approach… with heartwarming results.

Lovely. Papp’s gentle story and soft illustrations fit in perfectly with the rest of her series, both an informative introduction to the training and value of therapy dogs, as well as a look at the merits of patience when overcoming a challenge. Newcomers to Madeline’s story may not understand some of the references to previous books, but these are quick moments that don’t distract from the main narrative, and that fans of the series will deeply appreciate (Madeline reading aloud to Mr. Humphrey is especially touching). Madeline, Star, and Bonnie are irresistibly cute in their illustrations, and the elderly residents are rightly humanized, if a little soft-focused to feel realistic (there is a distinct lack of wrinkles, age spots, or other physical signifiers of old age other than some white hair and wheelchairs). The story is a little longer, but worth the read, especially for patient readers; JJ loved the gentle pace and sweet artwork. A lovely continuation of a heartfelt series, 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.)

Snail Mail (Samantha Berger)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Snail Mail, written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Julia Patton, a charmingly original tale about four diligent mail carriers who just so happen to be snails.

Before the days of emails and digital communication, there was a thing called Snail Mail – actual, physical letters and packages sent from one person to another. And to this day, most people agree that some things are just better when sent by Snail Mail – for instance, the letter that a little girl in California is sending to a boy in New York. She made it herself, wrote it in her own hand, it even smells a little like her. Such a thing simply can’t be sent by computer, so she enlists the dedicated Snail Mail carriers: Dale Snail, Gail Snail, Col. McHale Snail, and Umbérto. The four plucky creatures carry the girl’s letter across the United States, seeing deserts, mountains, plains, and wonders both natural and man-made. At last, they deliver the letter to its recipient and are rewarded handsomely for their efforts.

A cute story with some great lessons. The main theme is a reminder that faster isn’t always better: the hand-made letter, how much the snails enjoy the sights and experiences of their journey – these are good lessons in both the virtues and rewards of patience. The character art is adorable, and imbues the friendly-looking snails with personality and charm throughout, and has some lovely, subtle details and visual gags. A few complaints: I’m not wild about children being represented as having romantic relationships in general, and that was undeniably shown here. Also, there were some spots in the art that seemed oddly pixelated, but this is likely a formatting or printing error. But overall, a pretty darn sweet story with a great lesson in slowing down to appreciate the world around us. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda (Steve Antony)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony, the second book in the adorable series on manners starring Mr. Panda.

Opening on the dour Mr. Panda, who is back to his love of baking treats for those polite enough to warrant them. This time, many animals stop by to ask about his activities. An anteater inquires after cookies. A rabbit and his colony wonders if it’s cupcakes this time. To each curious visitor, Mr. Panda instructs them simply to wait and see, as it is a surprise. Yet, rudely, each animal decides that waiting is not for them and make their departures… that is, except for one little penguin who promises to wait patiently for Mr. Panda to finish his masterpiece. And at last, when the delicious treat is finished, the penguin is in for a generous surprise to reward his patience and good manners.

We absolutely loved the previous book in this series, Please, Mr. Panda, and its follow-up did not disappoint! The beauty of these stories are the simple way they teach and reinforce good manners, and this one definitely brought home the virtues, and spoils, of being patient. The wonderful hodgepodge of animals that Mr. Panda encounters is still lots of fun to give voice to when reading aloud, especially Mr. Panda’s terse, succinct, yet oddly endearing style of speech. The art and text layouts are simple yet wonderfully expressive, and the length is great. This is a favorite bedtime story of ours, and a great way to teach little readers that patience is a virtue often rewarded. Baby Bookworm approved!

Celia (Christelle Vallat)

Hello, everyone! Today, we read Celia, written by Christelle Vallat and illustrated by Stéphanie Augusseau, a story about a boy in need and an old woman who listens.

Celia is a listener. Each Sunday, a line of townspeople form at her home, and whisper their concerns and problems and worries. In return for her kindness, they each give her a seed, which she sows into flowers and cupcake frosting and colors come Monday. One Sunday, a little boy named Julian is in line, but finds he has lost his seed! How will he rid himself of his worries if he cannot whisper them to Celia?

This is an English translation of a Belgian picture book, and while the art is very colorful and beautiful, I cannot help but feel that something got lost in the translation of the text. There are definitely metaphors to be found here: on friendship, patience, kindness and optimism, even the value of talking about your troubles instead of bottling them up. In fact, there are so many metaphors that fit together in such complex ways, I was left scratching my head a bit at the end, wondering if the main point of the story had gotten past me. Maybe that’s good thing? It’s definitely one that, for better or worse, you will ponder over after it’s closed. With that in mind, this one may be better suited for slightly older kids; while the length was fine, and the colors were nice, JJ was not overly interested in the story. Still, definitely an interesting book, and one that other readers may enjoy, so Baby Bookworm approved.

Egg (Kevin Henkes)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Egg by Kevin Henkes, an adorable story of four little eggs and the surprises they hold inside.

Laid out in graphic-novel style, four colorful eggs sit, waiting to hatch. Soon, three of the eggs crack and open, revealing colorful baby birds. But the birds eventually notice that their fourth friend has yet to hatch. The birds attempt to help the egg along with some pecking, and soon enough they hear a telltale “crack”! But what’s inside the egg is not what they were expecting at all!

This was a simple, fun little book about eggs, patience, and friendship, and we had a lot of fun with it. It’s especially great for very young readers because the text is minimal and repetitive: by the third “peck-peck-peck” panel, JJ was tapping the book and “ek”-ing along with me. The spring-themed color scheme is bright, simple, and visually pleasing, and Henke’s illustrations are as sweet and charming as always. The length is just perfect for babies, and as you can tell from the photo, JJ absolutely loved it! This is an easy and fun springtime read, and we recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!