We Are Water Protectors (Carole Lindstrom)

Hello, friends! Our book today is We Are Water Protectors, written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, a conservational call to action and celebration of Indigenous pride.

A young girl of Ojibwe descent recounts a lesson her grandmother imparted to her: “Water is the first medicine.” She points out that we come from water, from the earliest days in our mothers’ wombs; once born, the planet we all share nurtures us with water in the same way. Her people talk of a black snake that will spoil the water and destroy the land, and in the form of high-volume oil pipelines, the black snake has arrived. So the girl and her people make a stand, fighting for their rights… and protecting the sacred safety of the water.

Beautiful. This deeply passionate and original tale, written and illustrated by Indigenous creators, is part historical account, part rallying cry, and part unabashed expression of cultural pride. Drawing inspiration from the Standing Rock protests and ongoing fight to prevent oil pipelines from being built on tribal nations’ lands and waterways, the text reads like flowing, free-form poetry, yet manages to incorporate themes like stewardship of nature, community, and heritage throughout. The dreamy, rich artwork is absolutely stunning, and JJ and I found ourselves marveling at every page. This length is great for any storytime, and the message within is a critical one for right now and always: we must rise to protect life and what sustains it from those who would destroy it – it is our responsibility to the planet, and to each other. A fantastic title, and we adored it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call To Save The Planet (Jeanette Winter)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Our House Is On Fire: Greta Thunberg’s Call To Save The Planet by Jeanette Winter, the story of the young climate change activist and how her passion and determination led a wave of student protests.

Growing up in Sweden, Greta Thunberg was certainly not a household name; the young girl was quiet and shy. Sitting in the back of her classroom and saying little, she thought of herself as invisible. But the day her teacher taught a lesson on climate change was the day that changed everything. Greta, who could “think about one thing for a long, long time” (the only allusion the story makes to her Aspergers Syndrome), began tirelessly researching the effects of climate change, growing more anxious and depressed the more she learned. But what could one teenager do to make the world take notice? Greta decided to start small: with her parents’ permission, she began skipping school on Fridays in protest, picketing outside the Parliament building. At first, she was alone – she still felt invisible. But people began to take notice, and soon more students joined her, first in Sweden and then internationally. She became a powerful public speaker for change, invited to address powerful people all over the world. And her message is simple: we need to begin acting as if the house was on fire – because it is.

Stirring. Thunberg has been making headlines lately with her fiery speeches on climate change, and at the age of sixteen has become a powerful and formidable activist for reform; this book takes a look at how she rose from humble beginnings to do so, showing young readers that even small steps can lead to great things. The themes of the story can be a little intense, especially a sequence that looks at the tragic effects of global climate change, and while this does give the reader a deeper understanding of Thunberg’s despair and drive, it may stress out younger bookworms. I also wish they had explored Thunberg’s ASD more, as she is an inspiring figure for those affected by the disorder. Still, the art complements the text well, and the length is good for any age. JJ and I were moved, and we think you will be too. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

If You’re Going To A March (Martha Freeman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is If You’re Going To A March, written by Martha Freeman and illustrated by Violet Kim, a child-friendly introduction to the do’s and don’t’s of peaceful demonstration.

If you’re going to a march, you’ll need to make a sign – a leftover pizza box is perfect. There are quite a few rules to follow: dress for the weather, wear comfortable and sturdy shoes, bring snacks and water. Stay with your grown-ups, but have your phone number and address memorized in case you get separated. There might be speeches (this part can be boring) and there might be music (this part can be fun). There might be police, there to “keep people safe”. There might even be people who disagree with you, but they’re allowed – what you are doing can help to change minds and change the world.

This was very cool. Presented as a introductory guidebook of practical advice for children attending marches, the text intersperses solid advice for kids while giving them an idea of what makes peaceful protest such an important part of our democracy. The illustrations are colorful, clean, and bright, following four families and their young children through their day at a march for a nondescript cause (marches for causes like women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, etc. are briefly shown in the backmatter). There is no mention in the story of how marches can have destructiv or violent outcomes, but it’s tough to say if that would be appropriate in this context. Also, the message of police presence is appropriate for children, but may feel disingenuous to many adults. However, the length was good, JJ enjoyed it, and it’s mostly a great primer for children who are interested in exercising their civil rights or political voice, and we enjoyed it. 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 Red Prince (Charlie Roscoe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Red Prince, written by Charlie Roscoe and illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole, a riveting story that looks at the power of community.

In the kingdom of Avala, there was a king, a queen, and their young son, the prince. All three were beloved by the people, many seeing the king and queen off when they embark on a voyage, leaving the prince in charge. But as a winter snow fell over the land, invaders came and took the royal city by night, capturing the prince and locking him in a dark tower far from home. He and his faithful dog manage a daring escape, but now he is lost in the snow, his red pajamas marking him as the target of a manhunt. He meets a girl who tells him he must travel to the city, but he is alone and afraid. She assures him that if he has faith in his people, they will come to his aid; and as she promised, he finds that they do. But as he nears the city, he fears that he will no longer be able to hide himself or his red pajamas – until he discovers what can happen when many people band together to do what is right.

Very exciting! This one reads like an adventure story, and JJ and I were both captivated to find out what happened next. The ultimate lessons are that of what happens when large groups of people come together to fight cruelty, tyranny, or injustice peacefully – and the climatic movement was both surprising and touching. The illustrations are fabulous, and evoke a cinematic sense of storytelling, using color, layout, and character to create tense and dynamic scenes. The length is fine, and JJ and I both really enjoyed it. An exciting story combined with a good lesson in the power of the peaceful resistance, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

The Wedding Portrait (Innosanto Nagara)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Wedding Portrait by Innosanto Nagara, a lesson in civil disobedience drawn from a personal moment in the author’s life.

In a home, there is a wedding portrait… well, not quite. It is actually a photograph clipped from a newspaper, but it does show the author and his wife on their wedding day. The story of the portrait begins by explaining an important fact: while there are lots of good rules, some rules (or laws) are wrong. And oftentimes, it is up to people to challenge them through protests, blockades, boycotts, sit-ins. They often face obstacles, but change can come from the voice of ordinary people – like two people who chose to use their wedding day to do what they felt was right…

This was a very cool book. It’s an extremely personal story to the author; centering around his real life wedding portrait, he is addressing his child through the narration. This serves as a good jumping-off point for the main focus of the story, which is a brief history of civil disobedience: how it’s done, why it matters, and examples of it from history. These two factors blend together well, and Nagara does a wonderful job of distilling the stories and concepts down for young readers. The tone strikes a great balance between instructional and inspiring, encouraging little bookworms to have the courage to stand against injustice and explaining how to peacefully do so. The mixed-media illustration carries the tone well, using rich hues and bold visuals to connect. My only complaint is the text, which can sometimes be a little rambling and had a tendency to circle back on itself. It firmly made this a book for older bookworms – JJ was pretty much done about halfway through. Still, it’s a great primer to teach children about the power of protest, and we enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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