What If Everybody Thought That? (Ellen Javernick)

Hello, friends! Our book today is What If Everybody Thought That?, written by Ellen Javernick and illustrated by Colleen Madden, a look at the perils of making assumptions based on appearances.

Third in the pair’s series about bullying and discrimination, the reader is introduced to various scenarios in which a child who is different (a girl with alopecia, a boy with dyslexia, etc.) is surrounded by classmates with presumptive thoughts. “He’s too short to play basketball,” a group of taller boys conclude about a team hopeful. “Too bad she can’t do the relay race in that wheelchair”, a pitying peer thinks of her classmate. But what if everybody thought that? They might never learn that the boy with dyslexia is a talented robotics enthusiast, the girl with alopecia knows her way around a stylish wig, the shorter boy is the quickest and nimblest player on the team, and the girl in the wheelchair is the fastest relayist. By judging others based on outward appearances, we often miss out on getting to know their best qualities, or seeing them as well-rounded people. So before you let judgmental thoughts form your opinions, ask yourself: what if everybody thought that?

Wonderful. I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous book in this series, so I went into this one not knowing what to expect, and was very pleasantly surprised. The art and text have a wonderful clarity of tone and purpose that creates a multi-layered look at how destructive thoughts can harm not only the people we have them about, but ourselves as well. Even details like the pseudo-subliminal affirming messages hidden throughout the artwork (“U can do it!”; “Run your own race at your own pace”) help further the message of positive thinking. I really like the idea of teaching kids to question their own biases and examine their gut reactions; it’s a quality that people of any age could use more of, because it allows us to build empathy and understanding. The diversity in the art is fabulous, the length was fine, and JJ enjoyed it. A wonderful reminder to never judge a book by its cover, and it’s 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.)

Delivery Bear (Laura Gehl)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Delivery Bear, written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Paco Sordo, a story about learning to be yourself.

Zogby the bear has wanted to be a delivery animal since he was a cub. When he sees an ad for a cookie-delivery animal, he hurries to apply. But he faces discrimination from the get-go: the manager says that he simply doesn’t have the Fluffy Tail Cookie “look”. Zogby begs for a chance, and the manager hires him on a trial. His luck, however, seems to end there: at each delivery attempt, Zogby’s clients are terrified and scream at his arrival. Zogby sings the friendly company jingle, even attempts to make himself look more like a bunny, but to no avail. Dejected, he heads back to the headquarters, until the lyrics of the dutifully memorized jingle inspire him to win people over, simply by being himself.

I am conflicted on this one. The premise was promising, a clear reference to discrimination based on appearance and how unfair it is. JJ screamed with laughter during the delivery recipients’ exaggerated reactions to Zogby, and we were enjoying it. But when Zogby decides that he must take it on himself to earn the trust and acceptance of his prejudiced clients in order to keep his dream job… hmm. At the very least, Zogby was deserved an apology for the prejudice that literally drove him to tears, but he didn’t receive it – only acceptance once he assured people that he wasn’t a dangerous bear. Otherwise, the illustrations are very sweet, and Zogby is about as lovable a bear as I’ve ever seen. It’s a good way to start conversations about discrimination, but perhaps not the best way to end them. For the entertainment value and illustrations, this one is Baby Bookworm approved – just be sure to share with bookworms that snap misjudgments are never the fault of the person being judged.

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

Mixed: A Colorful Story (Arree Chung)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung, a wonderful lesson in the importance of community diversity.

At first, there were only three colors: the Reds, the Yellows, and the Blues. The Reds were the loudest and most opinionated, the Yellows the brightest and most cheerful, and the Blues were the coolest by far. At first, they all lived in harmony, until a disagreement broke out about which color was the best. The negativity spread to every citizen in the city, and soon the colors had segregated themselves, building walls to keep those different from them out. But one day a very special Blue met a very special Yellow, and found that their differences complimented each other. Despite the disapproval of others, the two mixed together their lives, getting married and creating a new color: Green. She has a mix of her parents’ traits, and yet is a color all her own as well. The other colors begin to take notice, and realize that by reaching out, accepting, and loving those different from them, they are creating a stronger and infinitly more interesting world.

Wonderful! Creating a simple narrative to examine the causes and effects of prejudice, this story can help children to understand why diversity – not only of color, but also culture, ability, faith, gender, sexuality, etc. – helps communities to thrive and grow. The symbolism of the colors is easy to grasp yet still conveys the dangers of separatism with gravity. The text is lovely, honest yet hopeful; the length is great, and JJ loved identifying the colors and watching their world grow and change. A timeless story with timely applications, 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.)

The Case For Loving: The Fight For Interracial Marriage (Selina Alko)

Hello, friends! Today’s review is The Case For Loving: The Fight For Interracial Marriage, written by Selina Alko and illustrated by Alko and Sean Qualls, which tells the true story of the family behind the landmark case of Loving v. Virginia. 

Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving grew up in a small town in Virginia. Both were quiet, humble, and kind, and eventually they fell very much in love. It never mattered to either of them that Richard was white and Mildred was black/Native American. Unfortunately, it mattered to the state of Virginia; at the time, it was illegal there and in 17 other states for people of different races to get married. Richard and Mildred wanted to be together though, so they married out-of-state, but were still arrested when they returned home to Virginia. So the Lovings decided to fight for their right to be together, and hired lawyers to argue their case in court. And in the midst of working and raising three children, the two quiet, humble people won their right to be together, and changed the laws of the United States in the process.

I adore the story of the Lovings, so I was delighted to see a children’s book that recognizes this courageous family. And this absolutely lived up to expectations: the Lovings’ story is simplified well for young readers, yet treated with honesty and respect. It takes the time to explain the anti-miscegenation laws and systemic racism that infringed on the couple’s right to be a family, and gives easily-understood context for the prejudice they suffered. The illustrations are lovely and fit the romantic and inspiring themes of the story well. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved it. This is a must-read for little ones, to show them the importance of standing up for what’s right, and that no matter what it looks like on the outside, love is love. Baby Bookworm approved!

Nugget & Fang (Tammi Sauer)

Hello, everyone! Today’s book is Nugget & Fang, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Michael Slack, a hilarious and charming book about two best friends.

Nugget and Fang are the best friends in the ocean. They spend every day together, and that’s just about perfect. So naturally, it’s very difficult for them when Nugget starts school – and even more so when his school friends and teachers inform him that sharks like Fang eat minnows like Nugget! When Nugget informs Fang of this, effectively ending their friendship, Fang is brokenhearted: being a shark doesn’t make him a bad guy, does it? What he does know is that he needs his best buddy, so he’ll have to figure out a way to prove that being toothy doesn’t make you scary… but how?

This is always a fun one to read aloud for JJ; it’s got some wonderfully colorful art, expressive text and dialogue, and a great story with a surprisingly deep message. The way Nugget is peer-pressured and discouraged from his friendship with Fang, their reason being simply that Fang is a shark and therefore must be bad, is pretty clearly a metaphor for judging people on appearances and stereotypes. It’s a good way to teach children that people can’t be painted with broad strokes: Fang happens to be a vegetarian, and it’s his big sharp teeth that save the day. The art is fun, wth a cartoonish quality that gives the characters tons of personality. The length it great, and JJ adored this one. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!