Live Like a Hunter Gatherer: Discovering the Secrets of the Stone Age (Naomi Walmsley)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Live Like a Hunter Gatherer: Discovering the Secrets of the Stone Age, written by Naomi Walmsley and illustrated by Mia Underwood, an enlightening look at the prehistoric ages of man.

Do you have what it takes to survive the Stone Age? This comprehensive nonfiction guidebook to the lives of the earliest humans offers both the tools and the knowledge to help young readers answer that question. Bookworms can test their hand at building a Mesolithic shelter, making a (cloth-tipped) bow and arrow, or creating cave art, all while learning how early hunter-gatherers lived, played, slept, and even brushed their teeth!

Highly informative. The Stone Age isn’t a historical era that gets a lot of coverage in children’s nonfiction, so it’s awesome to see this extremely detailed and interactive book. The topics covered are engaging, and Walmsley deftly shifts genres between blocks of descriptive text, DIY-style instructions, and even fictional “diary”-type narratives. Underwood’s illustrations are rich yet clear-cut, and do well at establishing an atmosphere while also imparting visual information. Both the art and text do a wonderful job of dispelling the myth of hunting and gathering being segregated along gender lines; girls and women are shown hunting, boys and men are shown gathering. Some of the try-this-at-home activities will certainly make careful parents nervous (especially those that call for whittling knives), but safety precautions are mentioned, though they could be better highlighted visually. The length is best for middle-grade readers, but JJ and I thoroughly enjoyed flipping through this one, and we’d 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.)

A Dream of Birds (Shenaz Patel)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Dream of Birds, written by Shenaz Patel, illustrated by Emmanuelle Tchoukriel, and translated by Edwige-Renée Dro, a meditation on the concept of freedom.

On her way to school one morning, Sara spots something new in her neighbor’s yard: a house-shaped birdcage filled with a flock of parakeets. After being chased away by the grumpy neighbor, Sara thinks about the captive birds all day; are they happy in their cage? She remembers the flocks of wild birds that she used to feed with her late grandfather in his backyard, who would visit the old man daily to receive rice then fly off into the sky, free to return when they wished. When Sara finds the neighbor’s birdcage unlocked the next day, she has a decision to make – is it better to do what may be wrong (though she feels it is right), or nothing at all?

I have some pretty mixed feelings about the message of this book. As you might guess, Sara chooses to free her neighbor’s birds, and is punished by her mother for doing so. Yet while I commend the story for a least having some consequences for Sara’s actions, and pointing out that domestically-birds are unlikely to survive in the wild, Sara’s final “dream of birds” essentially brushes this off (“somehow she knows that her birds will be okay”). So while the book strives to create metaphors for freedom and grief, as well as condemn the exotic bird trade, it also presents a pretty big problem by encouraging young readers to essentially steal/destroy property, as well as possibly commit animal cruelty and/or introduce invasive species to an area. By forgiving Sara’s impulsive actions in the name of hope, it approves of her actions, something that will certainly turn most adult caregivers off (it did for me). Tchoukriel’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous, the length is fine for a story, and JJ enjoyed the sprinkling of bird sounds within the text, but overall, the problematic actions of Sara means that this one may be a little inappropriate for any readers that would fall within the standard picture book demographic. Overall, worth a look for bird-lovers, but not one we would necessarily recommend.

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

Parfait, Not Parfait! (Scott Rothman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightfully silly Parfait, Not Parfait!, written by Scott Rothman and illustrated by Avery Monsen, a rhyming book with an irreverent twist.

With each page using a one- to four-word phrase that ends in an “ay” sound, young readers are walked through a simple identification exercise. For instance, this tasty fruit-and-yogurt dessert? Parfait. This duck standing beside a lake? Not parfait. This wrinkly dog named André? Shar-Pei. This ecstatic-looking permanent felt-tip marker? Not Shar-Pei (Sharpie!). This goofy conceit draws the reader through more “ay”-ending words, ending with a satisfying twist on the formula, and a delicious treat.

Wonderfully whimsical. This is one of those picture books that really leans into absurdity in a way that kids love; it’s not here to teach a lesson or even really tell a story, but just to make little readers laugh. In this, it succeeds wonderfully – the combination of dry visual humor, repetition and introduction of unfamiliar vocabulary, and yes, even a poop joke, makes a great read-through experience that will definitely garner some laughs among younger audiences (shoot, even I chucked at a few of the absurdist gags). JJ thought this was one of the funniest books we’ve read all year, and couldn’t wait to read it again, and the short length and simple language made it easy for her to do so on her own. The Easter eggs of various “ay”-ending words in the artwork, as well as a small list of them on the credit page, is another nice touch. Overall, this was a sweet and silly treat that adults and little ones can enjoy together, 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.)

Great Lives In Graphics (Button Books)

Hello, friends! We’re bringing you a special weekend review and taking a look at the latest titles in Button Books’ Great Lives In Graphics series, which introduces notable figures from history in a kid-friendly, infographic-style format.

Did you know that William Shakespeare invented 1,700 words? Or that Frida Kahlo painted over 200 paintings in her lifetime? Did you know Jane Austen invented a writing technique called “free indirect speech” that changed the fiction genre forever? Or that Nikola Tesla could speak eight languages and had a photographic memory? Young readers can learn these fascinating factoids and more, laid out in a colorful and engaging infographic style that is sure to leave the audience with a better understanding of these fascinating figures.

We’ve reviewed a couple of titles from this series before, and these six new additions – covering Tesla, Shakespeare, Austen, Kahlo, Mozart, and Einstein – are equally edifying and fun. Information on the luminaries’ lives, the time periods and societies in which they lived, and the lasting impact of their work are all organized into infographics that are packed with facts but never overwhelming, and are perfect for grabbing the attention of elementary to middle-grade readers. Occasionally, some of the details or subjects covered can feel a little extraneous (such as the biological mechanics of how we hear sound in Mozart’s biography), but most are enriching and often fun; a particular favorite for me was the Regency Name Generator in Austen’s book, and JJ loved the Shakespeare Insult Generator. Overall, these are incredible ways to gets kids engaged in historical figures and events, and we highly recommend them. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: Copies of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Hello Sacred Life & Hello Sacred Creatures (Kim Krans)

Hello, friends! Our books today are Hello Sacred Life and Hello Sacred Creatures by Kim Krans, a set of mystic-themed board books that explore the wonders of the natural world.

Hello, sacred honey bee. Hello, sacred sun. Using simple salutatory phrases and strikingly vivid artwork, this set of board books takes a peaceful journey through nature for the youngest of bookworms. In Hello Sacred Life, readers greet elemental facets of nature, such as the moon, water, fire, darkness, and light. In Hello Sacred Creatures, readers meet a number of beautiful creatures of the earth, like giraffes, penguins, hummingbirds, and polar bears.

Very pretty. Known for her popular The Wild Unknown series of artwork and oracle decks, Krans uses her style of highly-detailed line illustrations over riotously brilliant watercolor backgrounds to create a visual treat for readers young and old. While the text is not particularly substantive, the art is engaging and rich, and feels very unique to the genre. For families whose spirituality leans towards the natural world, these titles will be especially valuable, as both emphasize the sanctity of nature. One quibble: the back cover description of Sacred Creatures describes the featured species as “endangered,” though only a fragment of them are actually classified as such; it’s slightly misleading, especially for those who might be in search of titles that cover endangered or threatened species. Otherwise, these are beautiful and vibrant books that little ones will enjoy; the lengths are perfect for very quick storytimes, and JJ liked them both a lot. We absolutely recommend them – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)