Swim, Jim! (Kaz Windness)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Swim, Jim! by Kaz Windness, a silly story about facing fears, supporting siblings, and swimming.

One night in the Swigwater Swamp, three baby crocodiles were hatched – Sim, Kim, and Jim. While older sisters Sim and Kim are natural swimmers, Jim can barely bring himself to dip in a toe. It’s not that he’s afraid of swimming; he’s afraid of SINKING. His sisters tease him, but Jim just can’t get past the darkness and deepness of the scary swamp water. Jim decides to set out and find a small, well-lit swamp to practice in. After a fruitless search, Jim stumbles upon a strange-looking group of scaleless crocodiles swimming in a clear “swamp,” and using floaties and noodles to keep from sinking! Maybe Jim should try… and maybe he’ll have some unexpected help while he tries to be a swimming Jim.

Very cute. A multifaceted story, Windness does a great job balancing lessons on overcoming the fear of swimming (including a few instructions that little ones learning how to swim themselves will recognize) and being supportive of companions who may take longer to learn a skill. The text can be a little tough when reading aloud, as the Sim/Kim/Jim/swim sounds can result in some serious tongue-twisting, but the humor and resolution are both enjoyable. The exaggerated illustrations are colorful and the crocodile characters are charming, though scale can be a little difficult to determine, especially for the human characters. Other than that, the length was great, and JJ and I enjoyed this one. A fun summer read, especially during swimming season. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Before the World Wakes (Estelle Laure)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Before the World Wakes, written by Estelle Laure and illustrated by Paola Zakimi, a celebration of the magic of daybreak.

There are plenty of lovely times of day. When it’s bright and sunny, when spending time with family or school friends, bathtime, mealtimes – all these have their own charm. But for the sibling protagonists, the best time of day is the early morning hours of the day, when they wander outside together and feel the dewy grass on their toes. Wrapped in warm blankets, they can appreciate the peaceful sunrise, observe the slow dance of snails, and listen to the joyful songs of the stirring birds. When their mother asks what they did, they always say, “nothing” – their special time before the world wakes is just for the two of them.

A lovely concept with flawed execution. Early bird readers will likely agree that the predawn and dawn hours have a unique magic to them, and I loved the depiction of a special friendship between two siblings, which felt heartwarming and genuine. Evocative text like “the sky goes the color of a wish” is a pleasure to read aloud, and watercolor, pencil, and gouache illustrations capture a sense of wonder and playfulness. However, as a parent, the idea of my children sneaking out of the house unsupervised while I’m sleeping is TERRIFYING, and it’s this plot detail that may leave adult readers with unease. There’s also a disappointing lack of diversity in the school and crowd scenes, which are populated almost entirely by white-presenting characters. Otherwise, the length is fine for an elementary storytime, and JJ enjoyed some of the elements, especially the snails. This one has positives, but for us, also has to come with a serious conversation about safety that’s worth noting. Overall, Baby Bookworm approved, but with a pretty big asterisk.

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

Roly Poly (Mem Fox & Jane Dyer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Roly Poly by Mem Fox and Jane Dyer, a sweet and wintery tale of brotherhood.

Roly Poly lives alone with his mother and father, and that’s just fine with him. He has his room and his bed all to himself, he gets to eat the fish he catches without having to share, and when he plays with his favorite walrus tooth, nobody bothers him. That is, until he wakes one morning to find someone else sleeping in his bed: Monty, his new brother. And now, everywhere that Roly goes, Monty tails behind. The newcomer is always climbing all over him, trying to play, and trying to touch his fish and favorite walrus tooth! So when Monty accidentally gets stuck on an ice floe – one that is slowly drifting out to sea – Roly Poly initially says good riddance. But when Roly hears his little brother’s pleas for help, he finds he can’t abandon Monty in his hour of need.

Sweet. This tale of new siblinghood hits some of the classic beats one might expect, and the resolution is heartwarming with a touch of realism; Roly Poly accepts and loves his brother, even though he still finds him annoying sometimes. Yet Fox and Dyer – veteran kidlit creators – know exactly how to make a simple concept sparkle. The guileless, matter-of-fact tone of the text perfectly captures the inner dialogue of a little one, and the incredible needle-felted characters against miniature backgrounds create visuals that are simple, accessible, and full of heart. JJ was particularly drawn to this one, with the earnest characters who behaved like believable children (despite being polar bears), and the cuddly-cute artwork. The length was great for a storytime, too. This one would be a great gift for any big siblings who may be dealing with their own little brother or sister woes; a reminder that irritation is temporary, and family love is far stronger. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Twins (Mike Ciccotello)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Twins by Mike Ciccotello, a silly yet sweet tale of a rather unusual set of siblings.

Beings a twin is lots of fun: you always have a pal to play with, someone who knows you better than anyone else, and sometimes people can barely tell you apart! Of course, that’s not to say twins are exactly the same – even the things they like to do together, they might do differently (like building snowmen, or eating salad). They might even have fights or disagreements, just like all best friends, and need some space from each other for a while. But that’s the best thing about twins: they always come back together (after all, they’re a perfect pair… even if one of them is a giraffe).

A cute tale of twins from an author with twin sons, this reads as a straight and sentimental look at what it’s like to be part of a set of twins. The joke is in the illustrations – the twins are a little boy and his brother, a giraffe. This peculiar set of circumstances is never explained to the reader, and the joke seems to illustrate the legitimate point that each twin is very much their own autonomous person, even while they share this special bond with one another. It’s a gag that will amuse little ones, especially those who are twins or have siblings otherwise very close in age. The illustrations are a bit simple but very charming, and the length is fine. JJ enjoyed it fine, but this is definitely one that will mean more to the subjects of the story themselves; still, 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.)

Flora’s Tree House (Gabriel Alborozo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Flora’s Tree House by Gabriel Alborozo, a wonderfully sweet sibling tale.

Flora watches her little brother Will as he rambunctiously plays around the tree that holds her treehouse; he’s more than a little rude and annoying, but he’s a wonderful muse for her artwork: crayon drawings inspired by his limitless imagination and the adventures he conjures with it. This day, Will curiously follows Flora up the ladder to her tree house (despite the “No Wills Allowed!” sign), and marvels to find the walls filled with drawings of his escapades. While Flora is initially nonplussed by his presence, she is quickly charmed by his fascination with her art, and the two bond by reminiscing over the memories of Will’s adventures. Will is especially surprised to find that even when he didn’t notice her, Flora was always there with him, exploring the cosmos or battling mummies, or even off on adventures of her own. Realizing that these playtimes were something they actually shared all along, Will invites Flora to be a part of his newest, a ocean-faring quest beset by pirates – Flora is happy to volunteer her treehouse as their vessel.

Lovely! For whatever reason, there seem to be a lot of books about the bond between sets of sisters or brothers, but fewer about brother-sister relationships, and this one is a heartwarming example of how important those sibling relationships can be. Flora and Will’s sibling rivalry – and eventual harmony – feels organic enough to be realistic while setting a nice example for readers, and the focus on both imaginative play and creativity is wonderful. The illustrations are sweet, and are wisely centered around the crayon drawings, further inspiring little bookworms to create and pretend on their own. The length is fine, and JJ liked this one; overall, a solid read, especially for families with siblings. Baby Bookworm approved!

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