Tyler & Lucy Are The Best Of Friends (Alicia Arso-DiStefano)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tyler & Lucy Are The Best Of Friends, written by Alicia Arso-DiStefano and illustrated by Alejandra Lopez, a look at a special relationship between a baby boy and his dog.

When her parents bring home baby Tyler from the hospital, Lucy the dog is excited! She’s always loved playing with little ones, but she’s never had a little baby brother of her own. From day one, the little gray dog is gentle and sweet with the tiny baby boy, and baby Tyler is as equally enamored of her. As Tyler grows and becomes more mobile, he and Lucy manage to get into all sorts of adventures – and occasionally trouble as well! Dutiful dog Lucy is quick to make Tyler giggle or kiss away his tears, and Tyler is happy to share his snacks and give her cuddles.

Very sweet. Based on the author’s real-life son and dog, it’s easy to see that each moment is drawn from reality, and the doe-eyed character art and colorful cartoon setting create engaging visuals for this boy-meets-dog tale. The story structure is a bit uneven; it starts with an origin story, then shifts to a “day in the life” without much rise or fall in action. It reads as a mother’s celebration of her child and dog – not necessarily a bad thing, as this creates a soothing story that little dog lovers will enjoy. The illustrations are full of character and color, and while there are a few spreads that rely a bit too much on negative space, the characters are adorable enough to forgive this. The length is great and JJ and I enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

No Frogs In School (A. LaFaye)

Hello, friends! Our book today is No Frogs In School, written by A. LaFaye and illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans, a sweet and funny story of little boy and his indomitable love of animals.

Bartholomew Botts loves his pets – his many, MANY pets. Dogs, cats, goats, pigs, lizards, guinea pigs, etc.; it seems as though Bartholomew has at least one of each, and at least one goes with him everywhere. So when he heads for school on Monday, he thinks nothing of bringing his new frog, Ferdinand, along – until the little frog escapes and causes a fuss. The teacher, Mr. Patanoose, sets a new rule: no frogs in class. So on Tuesday, Bartholomew brings Sigfried the salamander instead (after all, salamanders aren’t frogs). Mr. Patanoose decrees “no amphibians!”, so Bartholomew brings Horace the hamster on Wednesday, and so on. Bartholomew does his best to follow each new rule, but with each new pet, Mr. Patanoose seems more exasperated than the last, finally declaring that Bartholomew can bring NONE of his pets. But the little boy just loves his animals so – how can Bartholomew enjoy his pets without breaking the school rules?

Delightful. The hilarious winks to the audience about poor Mr. Patanoose’s frustrations coupled with Bartholomew’s earnest innocence over the trouble his beloved pets inadvertently cause give the story a warm, almost timeless sensibility, and any animal-loving child or adult will relate. The illustrations are packed with adorable creatures and clever details – a grumpy-faced cat hidden on the first page gave me a big chuckle, and JJ loved spotting the numerous animals. The length is great, and we had a ton of fun reading it together. Pure, simple, and good-natured fun. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The True Adventures Of Esther The Wonder Pig (Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter & Caprice Crane)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The True Adventures Of Esther The Wonder Pig, written by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter and Caprice Crane, and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld, the delightful true story of the porcine social media star.

Esther was rescued by her two dads when she was just a baby, and from the moment she looked at them with THOSE eyes and THAT smile, they knew it was love. Esther’s dads brought her into their small home, already filled with two dogs and two cats but just big enough for the supposed miniature pig as well. But as Esther began to grow, and GROW, her daddies began to wonder if she was really a miniature pig at all! In the meantime, clever and affectionate Esther was spent her time learning, playing, and getting into mischief. Finally, when she reached over 600lbs(!), her dads decided to move the family to the country, where Esther’s family could help even more animals, and Esther would have plenty of room. And while she still got into mischief, her family was happy – because no matter the size or shape, all that you need to make a family is love.

So adorable. Esther is a well-known social media star, and her story translates well to picture book format, making for a fun real-life entry to the “unusual pet” genre. The typical story beats are here – silly, sometimes destructive antics, finding ways to deal with unusual problems, etc – made all the more enjoyable by knowing that the events really occurred. There’s also a nice nod to non-traditional families, wisely kept subtle (as the family in question is largely pets) but still present. Even the fact that Esther has two dads is treated with refreshing normalcy. The illustrations are fantastic, and readers of all ages will fall in love with the bright-eyed characters. The length was great, and JJ adored it, so this one is definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

Frida Kahlo And Her Animalitos (Monica Brown)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Frida Kahlo And Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra, a lovely storybook primer on the beloved artist.

Frida Kahlo had many passions, and two of them were painting and animals. She had many pets throughout her life: a parrot, spider monkeys, two turkeys, three dogs, a black cat, an eagle, and even a baby deer. The animals reflected much of Frida’s nature and history: she was curious and clever like a monkey, independent and resilient like a cat, and loved growing up in a lovely blue home the color of her parrot’s feathers. Even through sickness, injury, and loneliness, Frida took comfort in her animals and her art. And even today, her home is a sanctuary for the animals that inspired her.

This was a unique and sweet way to introduce Frida to a younger audience, and mostly succeeded in doing so. The layout of the story – introducing the animals first, then connecting them to various times, events, and themes of Kahlo’s life – is very engaging for little ones, and feature a loving look into Frida’s relationships with her family, her pets, and her culture. The art is lovely, combining a vintage storybook style with Frida’s own color palette. However, one quibble: not ONE of Kahlo’s painting was featured! The backmatter includes a photo and recommendations for paintings to look into, but no samples of Kahlo’s actual art can be found. It was a noticeable omission, and a disappointing one. Otherwise, the length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the illustrations, so we’re still going to recommend this one, but perhaps as a supplement to a fuller lesson on Kahlo and her work. Baby Bookworm approved!

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s The Favorite (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s The Favorite, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Edward Hemingway, a delightfully silly yet sweet tale of a little girl’s loving – yet feuding – pets.

Mr. Fuzzbuster and his human girl Lily have been the best of friends forever, ever since he was a kitten and she was in diapers. They do everything together: crafts, meals, playtime, naps, etc. And while Lily may have other pets – a dog, a lizard, a fish, and a parrot to be exact – Mr. Fuzzbuster knows he’s Lily’s favorite. He even has proof: an old crayon drawing of him with the word “favorit” scrawled on it that Lily made for him. However, the other pets have the audacity to insist that no, THEY are Lily’s favorite! Mr. Fuzzbuster decides to settle this the best way he can – he writes a note to Lily on the back of his crayon drawing, asking her who her favorite is. Mr. Fuzzbuster isn’t worried; he knows where he ranks… or does he?

This one was pure fun from start to finish. The text is lighthearted with touches of wry comedy, and does an especially humorous job of capturing the personalities of each animal; the dramatic imperiousness of Mr. Fuzzbuster is exactly what I would imagine a cat like him would sound like if it could talk. The story is clever and has a nice message about love and friendship not being a competition, which can be important for little ones just beginning to form sibling and playmate relationships. The art does a wonderful job of expressing the text, even adjusting color and tone to fit what is happening in the story. The length was great, and JJ had a blast with this one. A fantastic read – particularly for little animal lovers – and it’s Baby Bookworm approved.