Ramen for Everyone (Patricia Tanumihardja)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Ramen for Everyone, written by Patricia Tanumihardja and illustrated by Shiho Pate, a charming tale of culinary tradition and creativity.

Hiro’s dad makes ramen for dinner every Sunday, and Hiro always watches closely and takes notes. His dad’s cooking and their family’s recipe – which has been passed down for generations – combine to make the most delicious ramen, with toppings perfectly customized to each family member’s taste. After much studying, Hiro makes a decision on his seventh birthday: it is time for him to attempt the ramen recipe. Yet despite all his preparation, there are more than a few stumbles in the kitchen that leave him disheartened. Can Hiro concoct a ramen that does his family proud?

Marvelous. Combining Japanese culinary tradition, dynamic manga-inspired illustrations, and a heartwarming story of perseverance, this story manages to deliver some exciting highs as well as some poignant quiet moments. It was a great choice to have Hiro fail his first solo attempt, as it assures young readers that they may not always get things perfectly right the first time, yet he finds a good balance in the ending that allows him to express a special talent with the support of his father’s expertise. The art is fantastic (and looks scrumptious!), especially the cooking sequences. Length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved this one. A wonderful and tasty tale, and we absolutely 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.)

Babajoon’s Treasure (Farnaz Esnaashari)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Babajoon’s Treasure, written by Farnaz Esnaashari and illustrated by Nabi H. Ali, a sweet family tale about making cultural connections across generations.

Every summer, Miriam travels to spend a week with her Babajoon and Mamanjoon – her grandfather and grandmother – and it always feels like a magical adventure. One day, after a picnic, Miriam spies a strange coin fall from her Babajoon’s pocket. Then, as they enjoy popsicles, she hears him exchanging a melody with a wild parrot. Miriam begins to wonder: could Babajoon be a pirate? After observing him speaking to a friend in an unfamiliar language, she’s almost positive… yet the explanation for Babajoon’s talents is one much closer to home.

Very cute. While some of the “mystery” may strike adults as far-fetched (would a second-generation Iranian-American really never have heard Farsi spoken before?), for the most part, this is a lovely story about generations connecting through shared culture. The text suggests that Miriam is a fairly “Americanized” kid of Iranian descent, yet in the end, both she and Babajoon find a bond beyond even their shared heritage; as Babajoon suggests, he can teach Miriam more about her Iranian roots, while she can teach him more about her younger and more American perspective (“There’s always time to learn”). It’s a nice way of incorporating tradition with an acknowledgment that the descendants of immigrants tend to straddle both cultures, and their identity usually involves a blend of both. Ali’s illustrations are richly-colored and utilize incredibly charming character design that exudes warmth, especially between the central characters. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both liked it a lot. A delightful story with a lot of heart, 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.)

Daddy Dressed Me (Michael Gardner & Ava Gardner)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Daddy Dressed Me, written by Michael Gardner and Ava Gardner, and illustrated by Nadia Fisher, a touching dad-and-daughter story about how mutual love and support can inspire us to do our best.

Ava’s dad is incredibly creative and crafty; he makes delicious dinners, paints flowers on her bedroom walls, and made her a shiny crown for her last birthday! But his greatest skill is sewing, and Ava is always excited to show off the stylish dresses he sews for her. One day at school, Ava learns that during the Move Up Day ceremony she will be presenting a piece of poetry – memorized! – and will need to dress to impress. Obviously, Ava turns to her dad, and the two decide on a plan: Daddy will help Ava memorize her poem, and Ava will design and help craft a spectacular dress, one that will give her confidence. Together, this father-daughter duo can’t fail, but can they complete their projects in time?

Heartfelt, warm, and affirming. Based on the real-life Ava and her father Michael, this is a simple tale of familial support and teamwork, as well as parental love. Ava and her daddy share a close bond that many kids and their parents will relate to, and it’s wonderful to see them working together and supporting each other as they each tackle a new challenge. What truly sets this story apart is the way is breaks from traditional gender roles, not only showing a father passionate about traditionally “feminine” hobbies, but also one who is a confident caregiver, and one who is comfortable having flaws or making mistakes. It adds a wonderful layer of depth to Daddy and Ava’s story, and assures readers of all ages that the best way to be a father is to simply show earnest love. The artwork is fine; scenes revolving around the in-progress dress are standouts, but many other scenes are lacking in texture and depth and come off a little flat. Otherwise, the book’s length is great for storytime, and JJ liked it a lot. Overall, we would definitely recommend it, especially for dads and their little ones. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know (Leslie Odom, Jr. & Nicolette Robinson)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know, written by Leslie Odom, Jr. and Nicolette Robinson and illustrated by Joy Hwang Ruiz, a heartfelt ode to the bond between caregivers and their children.

On the day that a parent or caregiver meets their child, they give them their heart, and as the child grows – and perhaps the family does, too – that connection never wavers or lessons, never breaks, and never ceases. On through good times and bad, through big moments and little ones, as that child grows and learns and becomes a grown-up themselves, the love of their caregivers is a constant that can be relied upon, even if it can never truly be described.

Lovely. Odom, Jr. and Robinson’s rhyming text is simple and lyrical, aside from occasionally clunky meter, and filled with universal sentiments that the adult caregivers will connect with and kids will understand. Yet as fine as the text is, Hwang Ruiz’s illustrations positively shine from every page, filled as they are with genuine warmth and tenderness as they depict a fantastically wide scope of family life. Inclusive illustrations not only show a wide range of skintones, body types, adaptive apparatus, family compositions, religious apparel, body modifications, hair textures, and LGBTQ+ representation, but also include elements rarely acknowledged in picture books such as body positivity and breastfeeding. It’s the kind of thoughtful and authentic diversity that is wonderful to see in children’s literature, especially as the genre faces attacks on diverse and accurate cultural representation. Further, the length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A warm hug of a book for caregivers and their kids to cozy up with, 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.)

Outside Amelia’s Window (Caroline Nastro)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Outside Amelia’s Window, written by Caroline Nastro and illustrated by Anca Sandu Budisan, a quiet yet stirring story about having the courage to leave one’s nest.

When the little boy in the blue cap and the little girl with pigtails move in next door to Amelia, her mother suggests that she try to play outside with them. Yet Amelia doesn’t feel that she can play the way she did before, “not anymore” (while the text never states it outright, illustrations and context show that Amelia is transitioning to the use of a wheelchair for an undefined ailment). While watching the outside world from her window one day, a bird steals her yellow ribbon and uses it to build a nest, fascinating Amelia. She does some research and finds that the mother bird and her chicks – whom she names Penelope and Osiris – are migratory redstarts, who will fly tens of thousands of miles once they are mature. Inspired by Penelope and Osiris’ courage and growth, Amelia decides that perhaps she can make a journey of her own; one that is much shorter, yet requires no less fortitude.

Lovely. Times of transition are always tough for kids, and this one subtly weaves in more than a few into its allegory on learning to fly. Notable is the choice to make Amelia’s disability an element of her journey but not the main obstacle; from the jump, the audience understands that it is not that Amelia CAN’T go outside, it’s that she isn’t READY as she is transitioning to the use of her wheelchair. The narrative also never suggests that her unreadiness is a negative – like the redstart chicks, she will leave the nest when the time is right for her. It’s a nuanced and delicate approach that assures as it encourages, and works wonderfully, especially alongside the intricate and atmospheric artwork. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ and I both liked it. A heartwarming and heartening tale, and it’s 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.)