Have You Seen Gordon? (Adam Jay Epstein & Ruth Chan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Have You Seen Gordon? by Adam Jay Epstein and Ruth Chan, a hilariously clever twist on seek-and-find books.

Have you seen Gordon? You’d think a bright purple tapir wouldn’t be tough to find, but in a crowd of creatures of all shapes, sizes, and species, it can be tricky. Unless, of course, Gordon decides that he doesn’t want to hide – in fact, he wants to stand out. This fourth wall-breaking declaration throws the book’s narrator for a loop, and they are left fumbling with how to continue a seek-and-find book with a irrepressibly fabulous and flamboyant main character.

A perfect mix of humor and heart. Epstein’s witty take on seek-and-finds – particularly the dialogue between the narrator and the characters – is immediately enjoyable for readers of all ages. What’s truly impressive is how it also explores the idea of agency and individualism: by the end of the book, both the narrator and reader have been shown that the characters in the crowd scenes should be treated with respect as individuals with their own personalities, preferences, and life stories. It’s a surprising turn that frames the entire book in a different light, and had us eager to go back and explore every inch of the intricately illustrated spreads to see all the details we had missed (which Chan even uses to introduce some lovely moments of comedy and inclusivity). The length is perfect for a storytime, but these charming crowd scenes make the book endlessly explorable as readers begin to imagine each background character’s story. JJ and I absolutely loved it; she was giggling up a storm by the midpoint. A perfectly constructed story that entertains as it enlightens, and we were blown away. 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 Great Indoors (Julie Falatko)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Great Indoors, written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Ruth Chan, a cute tale of woodland creatures getting away from it all.

Soon after a family pulls away from their home, their car loaded up with camping gear and supplies, a group of animals peeks out from the bushes and ventures into the empty house. The Bears, Beavers, Deer, and many more woodland families join in this annual tradition of living the “simple” life in the great indoors. The Bears cozy up in front of the couch, the beavers take command of the kitchen, the deer bring the party, and all the families marvel at the “creature comforts” of their home away from home. But soon, the inconveniences of indoor life begin to grow frustrating, and the indoor campers are ready to head back to normal life in the woods – wonder what their human hosts will think of the mess they left behind?

This is such a great concept: the idea that animals “camp” in our homes just as we camp in theirs. The story has a lot of fun with this, drawing various parallels to both the joys of camping and its frustrations while framing it around this concept, and it makes for a few good laughs (and even one gag that’s worth thinking about: how would YOU feel if someone left their mess on your home after camping?). Chan’s artwork adds a chaotic energy to the bunch, and does a great job of tracking the mess in the house as it gets more and more out of control. The length is good, and JJ liked it. A great one to read pre-camping trip, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Mervin The Sloth Is About To Do The Best Thing In The World (Colleen AF Venable)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Mervin The Sloth Is About To Do The Best Thing In The World, written by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Ruth Chan, a delightful silly and sweet story of anticipation.

Attention everyone: MERVIN THE SLOTH IS ABOUT TO DO THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD! Of course, Mervin is a sloth and moves quite slowly, so we’ll have to be patient while he works up to it. In the meantime, the announcement (via fourth-wall-breaking letters that appear from the sky) draws in Mervin’s fellow animals, all of whom eagerly wait for the momentous occasion while guessing what the “best thing” might be. The birds insists that it’s flying, the gazelle is sure that it’s “gazelleing,” and a slightly overzealous gopher is pretty darn sure it will be digging. But Mervin is taking a long time, and with the exception of Red Panda, the animals are starting to get bored. Finally losing interest, the group disbands, except for Red Panda, who finds that Mervin just wanted to give him a hug – because hugging your best friend is the greatest thing in the world.

This one was absolutely charming! The absurdist humor, the ridiculous dialogue of the animals (the story is almost entirely dialogue, so there’s lots of chances to play with different voices), the wonderfully sweet conclusion; everything fit together for a perfectly enjoyable story start to finish. The illustrations are fantastic, and fit the style and tone of the text perfectly. We especially loved the detail that the sedate Mervin is very slowly, page by page, lifting his arms for the climactic hug. The length is perfect for little ones, and JJ was laughing at the animals’ antics all the way through. This one is everything a picture book should be: funny, charming and sweet. Emphatically Baby Bookworm approved!