Light For All (Margarita Engle)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Light For All, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Raúl Colón, look at the complicated ongoing history of US immigration.

For generations, United States immigrants have followed the beacon of Lady Liberty, coming from their homelands to seek their future here. Some came to join family who had come before, some fled war and poverty, and all were drawn to promise of the American dream. They and their descendants make up so much of our country, our society, our daily lives, even as so many are rejected for their language or the way they look. Many still love and take pride in their homelands, but they love their new homeland too, as they join the “nation of immigrants” and follow the promise of Lady Liberty’s light.

A refreshing mix of honesty and hope. While there are many picture books that talk about the United States’s complicated history with immigration, most like to focus solely on the positives of this national tradition. Engle’s free-form text takes a more balanced approach, both celebrating the promise of the immigrant experience while acknowledging the country’s history of slavery, occupation, land seizure, and prejudice towards immigrants. It’s a delicate line to walk, but Engle does it very well, leaving the reader with both a batter understanding of the struggles immigrants face and a belief that these issues can change for the better. Colòn’s rich and textured illustrations are filled with warm light and a beautifully diverse cast of children. The length is perfect for a storytime, and the content makes this best for elementary-aged readers; JJ especially enjoyed the engaging artwork. A look at a complicated US tradition that will educate and inspire, 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.)

Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story (Julia Alvarez)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Already A Butterfly: A Meditation Story, written by Julia Alvarez and illustrated by Raúl Colón, a magical tale of finding inner peace.

Mari is a very busy butterfly. Each day, she rises with the sun and spends every waking moment in motion. There are flowers to pollinate, nectars to gather, exercises to practice, to-do lists to consult, and the future to worry about. Yet even with all that work and worry, she still doesn’t feel like a real butterfly; she longs for the time she spent in her chrysalis, when she was warm and safe and had only her instincts to guide her. One day, she meets an unusual new friend: a flower bud named “Bud” who has embraced their transitional stage of life. Mari wonders how she may do the same, and Bud encourages her to quiet her mind, deepen her breaths, and find an inner safe place once more.

Truly unique. While most children’s books about meditation are more instructional, this title introduces the concepts of mindfulness and meditation through an original parable. Mari’s busy life will certainly strike a chord with older readers, and especially with adults, who will understand how quickly overwhelmed one can feel trying to get everything done in a day, and how one can often long for a quiet and safe place to decompress. And the resolution to Mari’s story is equally satisfying, as a few moments of meditation allow her to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the world around her long enough to untangle her mind and find her confidence. The artwork is similarly unique, and certainly filled with the ecstatic colors that a story of flowers and butterflies would want for. And while, purely personally, I was a little creeped out by the human/butterfly hybrids, the image of a brown-skinned girl in twists and wearing a golden crown as a beautiful butterfly will most certainly resonate with young readers of color. The length is best for slightly older bookworms, and JJ enjoyed this peaceful tale. A one-of-a-kind fable, 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.)

Counting The Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician (Lesa Cline-Ransome)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Counting The Stars: The Story of Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by Raúl Colón, a detailed look at the life and work of the noted computer.

Born to humble beginnings, Katherine showed an immediate aptitude for numbers and an insatiable curiosity. Encouraged by her parents and teachers, Katherine started school early, then managed to skip several grades by her teen years; in college, she was so skilled at math that an entire advanced course was designed with her as the sole student. After falling in love, marrying, and having three daughters, she and her husband moved to Virginia to pursue work, and Katherine was hired as a human “computer” for NACA (the precursor to NASA). Impressing the engineers, scientists, and astronauts with her incredible mind and impeccable work – and fighting for her place at the table to be recognized for both – Katherine went on to be a pivotal force in NASA’s Mercury missions and beyond.

Inspiring. Since Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson has become a far-more recognized name, and this detailed illustrated biography is a great way for middle-grade readers to get an introduction to her skills and contributions. Interestingly, the text mentions issues of race and gender mostly in passing, choosing not to dwell on the obstacles Johnson faced as a black woman at the forefront of STEM in the 50’s and 60’s, and instead focusing on her background and work. It’s a choice that works well, allowing Katherine, rather than racism and sexism, to be the focus of her own story. Colón’s art is beautiful, realism touched with bits of magic and science to capture Johnson’s inquisitiveness. This one is lengthy, and the language is for strong readers, but JJ loved the art and the compelling structure. A great inspiration for aspiring STEM minds, and we recommend 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.)