A Song of Frutas (Margarita Engle)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Song of Frutas, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sara Palacios, a heartwarming love letter to family and Cuban culture.

The young narrator opens the story by enthusiastically recounting the delights of visiting her Abuelo and helping him sell frutas – fruits – in the marketplace. When she visits him in Cuba, she relishes the chance to sing out the names of the fruits, haggle prices, and watch the other pregoneros (singing vendors) sell their own exciting wares and treats. Her favorite visits are on the eve of el año nuevo, when she sells grapes and partakes of the tradition of eating all twelve at midnight, making wishes for each. She always saves a wish that friendship between Cuba and the US will grow, so that someday her Abuelo can visit her home as well.

Sweet, immersive, and touching. Engle’s text perfectly captures the colorful and exciting narrative through a child’s eyes, mixing guileless sincerity with fancy and wonder and creating everyday magic on every page. The gorgeous artwork adds to this immensely, filling the scenes with color, atmosphere, and a diverse cast of characters; the little girl and Abuelo are particularly charming. The choice to include Spanglish in the text adds authenticity, as many dual-language Spanish/English speakers use this blended dialect. Backmatter features author’s notes on the Cuban traditions and current travel restrictions mentioned in the story, which are edifying for readers young and old. The length was great for a storytime, and JJ loved this one. Overall, a heartfelt treat, 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.)

How To Code A Sandcastle (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How To Code A Sandcastle, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sara Palacios, a wonderful introduction to computer language as part of Girls Who Code’s book series.

Pearl is excited: today is the last day of summer, and her last opportunity to build the sandcastle of her dreams. She’s tried before, but various frisbee-, surfboard-, and dog-related incidents have impeded her work. But today, she’s brought her trusty robot Pascal to help her. Pearl expects that Pascal will be a very helpful addition, but she has to give him instructions in “code” – specific programming language that machines understand. Using methods such as detailed instructions for finding a site, using a looped sequence for gathering sand, and an IF-THEN-ELSE for finding decorations, Pearl and Pascal are able to create a lovely sandcastle. But when they are gathering the finishing touches, high tide sneaks up and washes away their work! Pearl is momentarily dispirited, but she quickly has a flash of inspiration: building a moat will protect the castle! So using her recycled code from the first castle and a new command for moat-building, Pearl and Pascal set their sights on not just one castle, but a whole sand kingdom.

LOVED this! What a clever and fun way to introduce the language of computer science to little readers. The way the basic concepts are translated into child-friendly examples is inspired, with an appendix that goes into the commands with more detail. The illustrations are fun, bright, and fit the tone and subject matter perfectly. And I especially loved that, as a book that encourages ALL kids to explore computer science, Pearl is not only a girl but a POC as well. The length is great, JJ loved it, and this one was just wonderful! Baby Bookworm approved!

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World (Susan Hood)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed The World, written by Susan Hood and illustrated by 13 female artists, a collection of poetry that celebrates fourteen trailblazing women.

Each poem introduces us to the life and work of a remarkable young woman: Molly Williams, the first known female firefighter in the US; Maya Lin, the architect who, at only 21 years old, designed the Vietnam War Memorial amid great controversy; Pura Belpré, the NY public librarian who broke the race barrier for children in libraries; and many more. Familiar heroes like Frida Kahlo, Malala Yousafzai, and Nellie Bly share the spotlight with lesser-known heroines like Angela Zhang, Annette Kellerman, and the Nearne sisters, and leave readers with an inspiring truth: courage and brilliance know no race, age, or gender.

FAN. TASTIC. The poems are brief, use clear language for little readers, but do a phenomenal job of encapsulating each woman’s obstacles, her accomplishments, and her spirit (the Ruby Bridges entry caused me to openly weep). The art is a treasure trove, with each artist bringing their own style to their individual subject, their passion for which explodes from the page. And while these collections often neglect feminist icons of color, this one does not, including role models of Asian, Middle-Eastern, Latina, and African-American descent. It might be a little long to cover in one sitting with smaller bookworms, but could easily be put down and continued another time. And needless to say, JJ and I loved it. This is a powerful book that would be welcome on any little one’s bookshelf. Baby Bookworm approved!