Stanley’s Secret (John Sullivan)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stanley’s Secret, written by John Sullivan and illustrated by Zach Manbeck, a sweet story about sharing one’s talents with the world.

Stanley is a quiet kid. He tends to spend parties reading in the corner, he speaks softly during book reports, and doesn’t speak up when the lunch lady makes his sandwich with mayonnaise, even though he’d asked for no toppings. So when he engages in his greatest passion, tap dance, he definitely doesn’t like to have an audience, unless it’s his pet mice, Squeaker and Nibbles. But one day, while dancing in an empty room, he is spotted by the school principal, who raves over his talent. She convinces him to join the school talent show, but while Stanley dreams of performing in front of an audience, he is still so nervous! Can he overcome his stage fright in time?

Heartwarming. Shyness and/or stage fright is something that plenty of young kids deal with, and while no one should be forced into the limelight against their will, Sullivan wisely makes it clear that Stanley’s dream is to find the courage to perform publicly. From there, the books reads as a subtle guide to overcoming such fears: performing for gradually larger audiences, gaining confidence through practice, even closing one’s eyes to help feel centered and not overwhelmed. Paired with Manbeck’s brilliant use of color, shadow, and light to show Stanley’s growth and the sparkling impact of his talents, and this makes for a wonderfully encouraging story for kiddos hoping to overcome their own bashfulness. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. Absolutely worth a read, 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.)

Kat And Juju (Kataneh Vahdani)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Kat And Juju by Kataneh Vahdani, a sweet tale about how friendship can help us overcome our fears.

Kat likes to do things her own way: she colors inside the lines, whispers her secrets to trees, and quietly finds beauty in places that others seem to overlook. She’s happy with who she is, but she sometimes feels lonely, despite being too shy to be herself around the other kids. That’s why she’s looking forward to her birthday: this is the year that she gets her “very best friend”, an anthropomorphic animal companion. The other children have gotten theirs, and Kat is eager to meet her own. Yet when Juju, a giant, fluffy red bird arrives on her doorstep, Kat is unsure. Juju is different than her in so many ways: he’s outgoing, adventurous, and seemingly unafraid of anything. Kat wonders if Juju will grow tired of her… but an unexpected series of events may show her that she doesn’t have to stop being herself to find her inner courage.

Very cute. While the pacing of this gentle coming-of-age story can occasionally feel uneven, its message is pure: true friends will appreciate you for who you are, even if they themselves are different. There’s also a nice theme of personal growth: through caring for an injured baby bird together, Kat begins to try new and adventurous things at her own pace, with Juju’s support and encouragement. The wide-eyed characters are adorable, from Kat’s oversized hairbow “ears” to the unbelievably endearing design of Juju. The length was great, and JJ loved it. A few rough edges, but overall a warm tale of friendship and self-assurance, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig)

Hello, everybody! Our book today is The Invisible Boy, written by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton, the story of a shy little boy making a new friend.

At school, Brian seems to be invisible: no one ever picks him for their team, they don’t invite him to parties, even his teacher forgets about the quiet boy sometimes. Until one day, when a new student named Justin comes to school. On his first day, some of the other kids tease Justin, so Brian decides to not be invisible for once, and offers Justin an encouraging note to cheer him up. In return, Justin might just be the one to help Brian become visible again.

This is a classic story about friendship and shyness, and we liked it. I especially liked that the book didn’t try to force Brian out of his shell into being the most popular kid: being shy and/or quiet is fine if that’s who you are! The important thing is having the courage to reach out occasionally, especially to be kind or encouraging. I also loved that Justin was as much a driving force for friendship: he repaid Brian’s gesture by reaching back to invite him into his circle of friends and support Brian’s talents. It’s a good way for kids to learn how they can help their more timid friends. The art is lovely, subtly using color, and occasionally its absence, to tell the story as much as the text does. The length was fine, and while JJ didn’t go as wild for this one (likely due to the more muted color scheme and subdued text), it’s a great story for older kids to learn about making friends, and being a good friend in return. Baby Bookworm approved!

Shy (Deborah Freedman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the lovely Shy by Deborah Freedman, a gorgeous fable about overcoming fears and shyness.

Shy is a very timid sort. He’s most comfortable hidden between the pages of a book (this one, to be precise). Still, he dreams of having the courage to explore “a land far away,” where so many of his books are set. One day, he sees a beautiful bird, one of his favorite reading subjects, a decides to do the unthinkable: he leaves home. What follows is a beautiful tale of what can happen when we step out of our comfort zones to create our own “Once upon a time…” 

We loved this book. The concept is unique and well-executed, the text is soothing yet inspiring, and the story’s message of courage and inner strength is wonderful. The art is also breathtaking: the colors of each page tell stories of their own, weaving together muted and understated with bright and vibrant depending on what the story calls for. This is an awesome book with a great length for baby bookworms, and JJ adored it, so definitely check this one out. Baby Bookworm approved.

The Bear Who Stared (Duncan Beedie)

Hello, everyone! Our book today is The Bear Who Stared by Duncan Beedie, a cute story about a socially awkward bear learning how to make friends.

Bear has a bit of a people-skills problem: he is curious and wants to make friends, but he is too shy to say anything, so he has a habit of staring. It annoys and bothers the animals around him, but he doesn’t know how to interact otherwise. Fortunately, a frog helps him find that a smile and a greeting can make all the difference when trying to make new friends, and Bear finds that when he has the courage to be friendly, he is met with friendliness in return.

This was a sweet book that helps with a very specific, though common, social issue that children sometimes have. Bear doesn’t mean to be awkward, he’s just shy, and this book can help children who experience similar shyness, as well as helping children to recognize shyness in others. It’s well-executed, with great illustrations and a good length for baby bookworms. We liked this one! Baby Bookworm approved!