The Little Bear (Nicola Killen)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Little Bear by Nicola Killen, latest in the author-illustrator’s My Little Animal Friend series of charming, animal-themed adventures.

It’s the eve of the first day of school, and Ollie – known to fans of the series as an imaginative little girl who loves dressing up in animal costumes – is feeling a little nervous. After packing her backpack and practicing classroom behavior, she tries to drift to sleep, but is awoken by the call of an owl. Following the owl out into the woods, Ollie finds herself racing alongside more animals towards something – a little schoolhouse in the middle of the forest! There, she meets a little bear, a fellow student who is also feeling nervous about his first day. Ollie suggests that they stick together, and both students end up having a fun- and learning-filled evening of lessons.

Absolutely adorable. Fan of Killen’s series will be well-pleased with this entry, as it is filled with the wholesome energy, engaging text, and heartwarming illustrations of previous installments. Those new to Killen’s work will also find plenty to love, as the story explores a common kidlit theme – anxiety about starting school – in a cheerful, encouraging, and fresh way. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed this sweet tale, especially the subtle cutouts and shiny gold accents in the artwork. Overall, a great back-to-school tale for little readers, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Meet Your School! (Cindy Jin)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Meet Your School!, written by Cindy Jin and illustrated by Melissa Crowton, an adorable interactive look at what makes a building a school.

With short rhyming couplets of text and a large cast of bipedal animals as students and staff, this lift-the-flap board book walks little readers through some of the common rooms found in a school. Bookworms follow the students of various species as they attend class, make projects in the art room, get active in the gym, eat their lunch in the cafeteria, and more. Along the way, there are secrets and surprises to explore behind the flaps, and fun details to find in the illustrations.

Delightful! From the cheerful, sweet illustrations that feature a variety of animal friends (including one in a wheelchair) to the bouncy rhymes that are easy and fun to read aloud, this makes for a great back-to-school read. The lift-the-flap theme lives up to its promise, and there are around 10 flaps to peek under on each two-page spread, letting readers peek into cabinets and drawers, behind doors and windows, and even just showing motion and activity in the classrooms. It’s a quick read, but JJ had a blast checking out all the flaps and exploring the different school rooms. This is a wonderfully fun way to celebrate the start of the school year, and we definitely 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 Small Kindness (Stacy McAnulty)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Small Kindness, written by Stacy McAnulty and illustrated by Wendy Leach, a sweet story about how even the smallest acts of goodwill can have a huge impact.

“It was like a game of tag”, our story begins, over a sepia-toned schoolyard where Ms. Jones’s new class has congregated; all the children are sepia-toned as well, with the exception of Alice. But when Alice smiles at Lucas, a bit of bright color spreads to him. When Lucas says hello to Jasmine, the color spreads to her as well. And on it goes, with every small act of kindness – a joke, a compliment, an act of service, a word of encouragement, etc. – bringing more and more pigments to the students, adults, and the school itself. By the time class lets out, the dullness has faded away and left a world of color – and it all started with one small act of kindness.

Lovely. McAnulty’s story is just perfect for young readers – the “game of tag” metaphor and the simple, short sentences to narrative the “movement” of the kindness create a concept that is as easily recognized as it is universal. Leach does a nice job with the illustrations, showing a diverse group of kids and giving them individual styles and expressions, helping to distinguish them from each other as the kindness moves through the class. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed it. This would be a great addition to any classroom or home library, 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.)

Beach Toys vs. School Supplies (Mike Ciccotello)

Hello, friends! Our book today Beach Toys vs. School Supplies by Mike Ciccotello, an end-of-summer tale of teamwork and cooperation.

Shovel and the other beach toys are having a lovely, lazy day at the beach – until Ruler and his fellow school supply pals show up. There’s clearly some bad blood between these implement gangs: the beach toys accuse the school supplies of being stuffy know-it-all’s, while the school supplies write the beach toys off as frivolous and silly. Only one way to settle this summer showdown: a sand-castle building contest. And while the beach toys think they’ve got an obvious edge, the school supplies are more skilled than they expected. Who will triumph? And can the instruments find a common ground, or will they draw a permanent line in the sand?

Punny summer fun. As kiddos start making the transition from the end of summer to the start of school, this entertaining tale does a great job of showing the importance of balancing talents and knowledge through teamwork and communication. In the end, the school supplies create a better castle, but the expertise of the beach toys saves it from the rising tide of the surf; it’s a good example of cooperation that also works as a metaphor for the summer/school transition. The dialogue is punny, though not obnoxiously so, and fun to read aloud. The illustrations are cartoonish and fun, using cinematic angles and expressive characters to add to the excitement. The length is great for a quick storytime, and JJ loved the clever mashup of the tool groups and their beach tale. This is a great one to check out as summer winds down, and we definitely 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.)

Goodbye Kindergarten (Andrea Williams)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Goodbye Kindergarten, written by Andrea Williams and illustrated by Vanessa Alexandre, a sweet ode from teacher to student about moving on.

Schools are important places, where children go not only to learn, but to form friendships and a community. At the beginning of the year, they may feel nervous or unsure, but by June they have grown confident in the things they’ve learned, the routines they’ve followed, and the relationships with others that they’ve made. Yet when the school year comes to an end, it’s time to move on to the next grade – and to say goodbye to all the things, and people, that made the year so very special.

Heartwarming. Conveying what is clearly a very personal message, Williams (a former kindergarten teacher) uses simple and concise, Goodnight, Moon-style text to illustrate the pain and pride of a teacher watching their students move on while also helping them adjust to the change. Beginning with simple goodbyes (“Goodbye word wall. Goodbye storybooks. Goodbye reading mat”, etc.), the text transitions to a reminder of the life-lessons the teacher strove to teach that year: perseverance, kindness, care, and love. The words are earnest and universal, echoing the sentiments of any teacher bidding farewell to their class. The digital illustrations are simple and cheerful, and balance the bittersweet tone of the text well. The length is perfect, and JJ enjoyed it; it made us miss her teachers at preschool all the more. This little indie packs a big emotional punch, and would be a fantastic addition to any teacher’s end-of-year lesson plan. An unexpected treat, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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