How to Eat a Book (Mrs. & Mr. MacLeod)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightfully bizarre How to Eat a Book by Mrs. & Mr. MacLeod, an extremely satisfying tale of books and reading.

One day, Sheila and her twin cousins, Gerald and Geraldine, find themselves consumed by literature – literally. Sitting down to “eat” their books, the books eat them instead, transporting the children into atmospheric worlds of wonder. Sheila soars the cosmos, Gerald encounters a great beasty, and Geraldine… well, a great beasty encounters HER. Filled with new knowledge, the three begin to ask questions and overtake their literary realms, and suddenly the books begin to realize that maybe they aren’t the ones doing the eating after all…

Marvelously weird and wonderful. Rife with a whipsmart blend of kid-friendly comedy, clever metaphor, truly engaging text, and stunningly original visuals, the MacLeods spin a yarn that is surprising, invigorating, and charming in equal turns. The main theme of the how reading can overtake, change, and inspire us works wonderfully; adults and older kids will smile at the sage metaphor, while younger kids will giggle at the unexpected twists and turns of the plot (and may just discover the adventure in reading for themselves). The illustrations are truly eye-catching, utilizing cut-paper pen-and-ink to create fascinating visuals that are filled with energy. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both had a wonderful time with this one; she was laughing madly by page two and didn’t stop until the endpapers. A decidedly fresh and fantastically fun way to celebrate the transformative power of books, and we highly 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.)

A Bear Far From Home (Susan Fletcher)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Bear Far From Home, written by Susan Fletcher and illustrated by Rebecca Green, a deeply contemplative and moving tale based on a true story.

Once upon a time, many hundreds of years ago, a polar bear was born in the arctic snow. She likely did the things that bear cubs do: cuddled her mother, played in the snowdrifts, dove through the icy waters. Until one day, trappers came and shipped the bear to England, a gift from Norway’s king to Henry III. The bear was kept in a menagerie in the Tower of London, crammed in a small enclosure, far away from everything that once was home. She must have felt very lonely and confused, and while we don’t exactly know why, King Henry decided to do an unusual thing to allow her some freedom: she was allowed to swim in the river Thames.

Hauntingly beautiful. Using the handful of historical records that remain of Henry III’s actual white bear, Fletcher builds a spellbinding story that treats the bear’s journey as less a factual account and more a rumination on what the bear might have thought or felt as each development unfolded. Fletcher strikes a unique (and effective) middle ground between realism and anthropomorphism, repeating asking the audience to “imagine” or “consider” how the bear was perceiving her experiences. In doing this, the story weaves together themes like the ethics of owning wild animals, moving to an unfamiliar and unwelcoming environment, and even finding the joys that one can in times of sadness. It’s deep and weighty yet somehow not bleak, and is enhanced greatly by Green’s rich, medieval-inspired illustrations. The length is good for a storytime, and JJ was particularly engaged with this emotional story, which prompted an important discussion on how we treat wild and captive animals. Overall, this is a beautifully-made and truly beautiful story, and we absolutely recommend it. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I Cannot Draw a Horse (Charise Mericle Harper)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Cannot Draw a Horse by Charise Mericle Harper, a delightful fourth wall-breaking adventure about creativity and confidence.

Our story begins with a shape, a “nothing” shape to be precise. The shape wonders what it will be, and the unseen narrator crafts it into a cat. Excited by this change, the cat asks for a horse companion, but therein lies the rub: the narrator cannot draw a horse (horses are hard to draw). The narrator offers plenty more suggestions and sketchy ideas, leading the cat on some energetic adventures, but the cat will settle for nothing less than a horse for a friend. Can the narrator find a way to appease this fickle fictional feline?

Silly fun with a hint of encouragement. This meta take on creative ability is one that artists of any age can laugh at; after all, horses ARE pretty hard to draw. And while the ending of the book is slightly abrupt, the subtle lesson on trying something new – even if you’re not sure you can do it – lands perfectly beforehand. Harper’s narrative between artist and creation is tons of fun to read aloud, seamlessly flowing between text and speech bubbles and paired with perfectly simplistic yet expressive art. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ had plenty of giggles over the cat’s unexpected antics. Overall, a charming read that perfectly balanced laughs and a lesson, 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.)

When You Take a Step (Bethanie Deeney Murguia)

Hello, friends! Our book today is When You Take a Step by Bethanie Deeney Murguia, a thoughtful title on the incredible worlds we can discover by way of our very own feet.

When you take a step, you take control of your destiny. You can discover new worlds of knowledge, of friendship, of nature and community. You can forge trails, or walk in the history of those that came before. You can make change for many, or realize something new about yourself. There’s a whole lot of wonder to be found in the great wide world, and it begins with one single step… so, where will you go first?

Inspiring if slightly vague. Murguia’s sparse text and minimal illustrations, which are largely grayscale with pops of pinkish-red, do cover a wealth of opportunities that can be found simply by having the motivation to pursue them; in this, the title serves as a very gentle inspiration to go out and explore the world. However, it’s possible that the theme is a little too gentle, as it flits from thought to thought without lending visual or textual weight to each concept it introduces. For instance, Murguia does well to include those with different ambulatory means (such as wheelchairs or walkers), but only in crowd scenes, when those with unique “steps” could have been featured more prominently to make a statement on inclusive mobility. Pursuit of knowledge, appreciation of the natural world, and civil disobedience are all given similar treatment: cursorily touched on, but not explored to an extent that makes a true impact on the reader. This leaves the final product as uplifting, even encouraging, but not particularly rousing or motivational. The soft art is quite lovely, but similarly lacks a dynamic impact. Otherwise, the length is fine for storytime, and JJ did enjoy the soothing flow of the well-constructed text. Overall, absolutely worth a read, but best as a springboard for conversation on self-motivation rather than a contained lesson – 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 Awkward Avocado (C.J. Zachary)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Awkward Avocado, written by C.J. Zachary and illustrated by Zac Zachary, a short and simple indie about being true to yourself.

Avocado is one of a kind. Occasionally, their quirks can seem odd to others, such as their nervousness in groups, their unique dancing skills, and their encyclopedic knowledge of the moon. The fact of the matter is that around the other produce, Avocado is often… awkward. But while the verdant fruit may lack some grace and poise, who really cares? Fitting in is not the most important thing, loving and accepting yourself is. So if you’re an awkward avocado too, take a breath, be yourself, and do the things that make you happy – odds are, you’ll find someone who likes those very things about you.

Adorably accepting, if occasionally awkward. Taking a grocery staple spin on a classic picture book theme, Zachary and Zachary combine affirming text with some truly unique illustrations to write a solid advice book on being oneself. And while the meter of the rhymes is occasionally inconsistent, the overall concept of the book works very well. Particularly notable is the fact that many of Avocado’s “awkward” quirks (hyperfixation, speech issues, etc.) could be interpreted as markers of being on the autism spectrum, and for kiddos with ASD, hearing the message that “there’s not really a certain way that you need to act or play” is a welcome one. The length is fine for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed this one a lot, especially since she saw a lot of herself in Avocado. Overall, a very cool little indie title that reinforces a timeless message: being who you are is the best way to be. Baby Bookworm approved!

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