Clueless: A Totally Classic Picture Book (G. M. Berrow)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Clueless: A Totally Classic Picture Book, adapted by G. M. Berrow and illustrated by Heather Burns, a kidlit tribute to the popular teen movie of the same name.

Cher and Dionne are the most popular, fashionable girls at Bronson Alcott Elementary – they know all the right looks, all the cool people, and all the trendiest hobbies. So when new girl Tai comes to school and they notice how nervous, out of place, and “clueless” she feels, Cher and Dionne decide to help her out. They take Tai shopping to help her find a new look, then they and their friends show her all the hobbies that the cool kids do. And while Tai appreciates their efforts, she still feels out of place, preferring her old style and hobbies. Perhaps Cher and Dionne need a makeover of their own, and learn how to accept their friend for who she is…

There’s been a fun trend of picture book adaptations of adult media lately, with admittedly mixed results. Some work spectacularly, some not as much; this effort falls somewhere in middle. There’s a distinct oddity to the VERY teenage themes of the Clueless film being shoehorned into elementary-age characters, especially for adult readers who are familiar with the source material. However, Cher and Dionne’s obsession with fashion and popularity is not much different than other kidlit characters geared towards little girls, and the main themes of this adaptation are surprisingly sound. There’s a nice lesson in appreciating people for who they are and the things they love, regardless of how different or unfashionable they may be (Tai is far more comfortable with her flannels and skateboarding than the trendier activities, but is happy to spend time with her new friends once they realize and embrace this). The cartoon illustrations are colorful and fun, and feature plenty of nods and winks to older fans of the movie. The length is fine, though the pace is uneven; it took a while for JJ to invest in the story, but she enjoyed the ending. An uneven adaptation, but one that’s full of heart. Overall, we liked it – like, totally Baby Bookworm approved.

(TM & © 2020 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Ava And The Rainbow (Who Stayed) (Ged Adamson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ava And The Rainbow (Who Stayed) by Ged Adamson, the story of a little girl and a very colorful friend.

After the rain, Ava runs to the hill; she is hoping to see a rainbow. And indeed, one is there – the most beautiful rainbow Ava’s ever seen. Returning home, she wishes that the rainbow could stay, and dreams all night that it could. When she wakes the next morning, she finds her dream has come true: the rainbow is still there, day and night, sunshine and rain. The town is sent into a tizzy, with visitors coming from far and wide, souvenirs being sold in shops, and events taking place under the rainbow’s arch. But as time goes by, the rainbow becomes commonplace, ignored and even disrespected by everyone but Ava. It decides that perhaps it is time to leave, and Ava is broken-hearted. But when the rain comes again, her friend is back, and she welcomes it with the songs and stories they shared from that very first day.

I confess, I didn’t quite understand the message of this one the first time around. After some thought, however, my interpretation is that it’s a comment on the fickle nature of popularity – the rainbow is honored and beloved when it’s a novelty, then quickly dropped as people’s attention moves on. Except of course for Ava, the rainbow’s one true friend – she understands when it is ready to do what’s right for itself, and is there for it when it comes back, the only person who shows genuine concern and support. And this is a wonderful lesson for little ones – friends are the ones who stay long after the fairweather followers have left. The cartoonish art is joyful, wry and colorful, and an absolute delight. The length is great, and JJ loved it. A subtle but powerful lesson in modern friendship, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Where Oliver Fits (Cale Atkinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson, a fantastic story of finding where you fit without compromising who you are.

Oliver is a puzzle piece, and like all puzzle pieces, he’s excited to find where he fits. He certainly hopes he’ll be a part of a super-awesome, exciting puzzle, but when he tries to fit into all the cool puzzles, they reject him. “Not enough red!” they say, or “too round, not square enough”. Oliver is sad, so he comes up with an idea: he will change the way he looks and is shaped so that he can fit in. But no matter what, he still stands out from the rest of the pieces, and they tease him away. Finally, in desperation, Oliver changes absolutely everything about himself, and finally finds an amazing puzzle to fit into. But when he sees his fellow pieces teasing other different-looking pieces, Oliver takes a hard look at himself and wonders: if he has to change everything about who he is to fit in, is it even still him anymore?

Fantastic. Using the wonderful puzzle piece metaphor, Atkinson teaches a valuable lesson in when the price of “fitting in” becomes a burden. It’s a story that assures readers that changing who you are to be part of the cool kids is ultimately quite empty, and may even limit your opportunities for finding your people. The last page is especially meaningful, reminding children that to make a complete, beautiful puzzle, every piece is important, including you – a poignant metaphor for “it gets better”. The art is wonderful, full of bright colors and fun visuals that kept JJ fascinated throughout. It’s a great length, and a vital reminder for little ones that, while it may take time, they WILL find where they feel – and make others feel – complete. Baby Bookworm approved!

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, And Mike (Cynthia Rylant)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, And Mike, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Mike Austin, a story about how the quietest among us can often be the most brave and helpful.

Henny, Penny, Lenny, Denny, and Mike are all old friends from the pet store, and as close as friends can be. So naturally, they are delighted when a little girl buys all five of them and takes them home to a shiny new fish tank! The tank has everything: orange gravel, a cool rock, a neat diver, bubbles, and well, a slimey snail, but no one pays him any mind. Soon a hilarious clownfish and a striking angelfish join their clique, and the girl even adds a beautiful fairy castle for them to swim through. But – OH NO – Lenny gets stuck and no one can figure out how to free him! What will the friends do?!

This was a great little tale of inclusion, and we liked it a lot. It’s an interesting twist on the “popular kids” story because it shows things from the opposite point of view than is typical. The fish aren’t mean or nasty to the snail (who eventually saves the day to great acclaim), they just sort of breeze past him because they focused on each other. It shows young readers that the popular ones aren’t always bullies and unpopular kids aren’t always loners – everyone involved might just need to find the right way to connect. The art is cute, colorful, and very expressive, and I loved the integrated comic-book style text. The length was good, and JJ liked it a lot. A great story with a strong message: sometimes, the person on the other side of the fish tank is just a friend you haven’t made yet. Baby Bookworm approved!