The Polar Bear in the Garden (Richard Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Polar Bear in the Garden by Richard Jones, a warm and comforting tale of loving and letting go.

One Monday, a child finds a polar bear in their garden. The creature is small enough to fit in the palm of their hand, and the child offers the tiny bear assistance, thinking that it must be lost. Each day, the bear grows a little bit larger, first fitting into a pocket, then a hat, and so forth. By Wednesday, the child decides that it’s time to take the little polar bear home, and sets sail on a ocean voyage to reunite the bear with its family. By the time they’ve reached the icy floes, where a family of polar bears welcome them, the polar bear has reached full size. But how can these friends, who have been through so much together, say goodbye?

Lovely. With gentle, soothing text and adorably tender illustrations, Jones weaves a story that is both bittersweet and uplifting, an delicate balance to achieve. While the reader will empathize with the necessity of the friends’ goodbye, the story’s main message is clear – that their time spent together was far more meaningful than their parting. For caregivers, this will especially tug at the heartstrings, and for kiddos facing tough goodbyes, it could be a wonderful source of comfort. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both loved it, especially the incredibly charming illustrations of the tiny polar bear. Overall, a cozy tale with an impactful lesson, 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.)

Paper Planes (Jim Helmore & Richard Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Paper Planes by Jim Helmore & Richard Jones, a touching story of enduring friendship.

Mia and Ben are best friends. They grew up next door to each other on the shore of a great, wide lake. They share everything, especially their greatest passion: aeronautics. Making paper and model planes, they would race their creations against the flying geese and dream of one day making a plane that could fly all the way across the lake. Yet their idyllic friendship is suddenly dealt a heavy blow; Ben breaks the news that his family is moving very far away. The pair promise to remember each other, and to stay friends. But as the seasons change, Mia begins to feel ever lonelier, hurt, and sad. In a rage, she smashes the model plane Ben had given her as a goodbye present, and feels even worse. That night, however, something magical happens: the plane is restored, and able to fly Mia across the sea to visit Ben in her dreams. And when she wakes, she finds that, even through distance and strain, great friendship is worth working on.

Fantastic. This gentle and tender tale of the difficulty of losing a friend to distance – both literal and figurative – is as beautiful to look at as it is to read. Mia and Ben both experience the quiet and lonesome frustrations of their separation in a way that does not trivialize these very big feelings, yet gives the reader hope that those same feelings will pass. And Ben’s final gesture of reaching out to Mia works as a wonderful metaphor for the work that both parties must put into a friendship, and how incredible the results can be. The soft, chalky art is stunning and emotional, and fits the tone of the story perfectly. The length is fine for any age and JJ and I both loved it. A great story of the power of friendship to help us fly, 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.)

Whale In A Fishbowl (Troy Howell & Richard Jones)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Whale In A Fishbowl by Troy Howell and Richard Jones, the sweet fable of a whale named Wednesday.

Wednesday is a whale, so named because she is at the center of everything. She lives in a giant fishbowl in a city center, surrounded by speeding cars and bustling crowds, all covered in grayish smog. She has rocks and plants and food, but it still doesn’t feel quite right – she yearns for a life beyond her bowl, and for the glimpses of a vast, perfect blue she can see in the distance when she jumps into the air. One day, a little girl named Piper comes to see Wednesday, and as they look at one another, Wednesday feels a connection to the familiar blue of the girl’s eyes. Piper introduces herself, and leaves Wednesday with a cryptic thought to ponder: “You don’t belong in there.” Turning over the words in her head, Wednesday begins to believe more and more that the blue is where she needs to be, and puts all her effort into one last break for freedom.

Hauntingly beautiful. I love these sorts of stories for children because the story itself is clear and easily-followed, but it allows for multiple interpretations as to its meaning. Is it a lesson in believing in your dreams? Following your heart? Having the courage to explore the unknown? Perhaps a meditation on captivity of animals, or even of people (a timely issue)? It’s the sort of story that inspires kids and adults to think, consider, and discuss afterwards, and that’s awesome. The art compliments the story perfectly, using color, tone, and the abundance, then absence, of energy to connect to audience to Wednesday’s emotions. The length is great, and JJ seemed spellbound. This is a gorgeous book in art, language, and story, and will give bookworms of any age lots to think about. Baby Bookworm approved!