Jules Vs. The Ocean (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Jules Vs. The Ocean by Jessie Sima, a sweet and funny story of a summer’s day.

When Jules hits the beach, she has a clear mission: she wants to build the biggest, most awesome sand castle ever to impress her big sister. She sets to work right away, but as soon as she’s making progress – SPLASH! A wave rolls in to wash her castle away. Her sister promises that this happens to everyone, and encourages her to keep trying. Jules begins again, and again, yet each time the ocean sends a massive wave targeting her efforts. On her third try, it even snatches away her bucket, and she cries out in frustration. Her sister arrives once more to console her, and together they begin work on a masterpiece: the biggest, most fancy, most wonderful castle ever created! And no sooner are they done then – CRASH – the sea destroys their work once more. Yet this time the girls laugh and find joy in the shared experience, running off to tell their mother of their epic battle against the ocean waves.

Delightful. This adorable day-in-the-life tale uses a simple story with a distinctively childlike voice to explore a classic rite of passage and a loving relationship between sisters. The gentle humor – including a hilariously offbeat ending – gives the narrative a light and sunny feeling, perfect for a summer storytime. Sima’s art is colorful, fun, even edging on epic at times, enchanting to the “girl vs. nature” theme. The length is great, and JJ loved it. This is a fun read with a little humor, a little adventure, and a good deal of heart. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Proudest Blue (Ibtihaj Muhammad, with S. K. Ali)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Proudest Blue, written by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S. K. Ali, and illustrated by Hatem Aly, a beautiful tale of sisterhood and hijabi pride.

Sisters Asiyah and Faizah (inspired by Muhammad’s own sisters) are at the shop to pick out Asiyah’s “first day” hijab. Immediately, the older sister is drawn to a bright, rich blue, one that reminds younger Faizah of the ocean on a clear day, when it meets the sky and seems endless. As the two walk to school the next morning, they both beam with pride: Asiyah donning her new hijab and Faizah in awe of how regal her sister looks (“I’m walking with a princess”). Yet when the two get to school, the reactions of the other children are mixed: Asiyah’s friends love her new look, but some – such as a young classmate of Faizah’s – are puzzled by it. Worse, several children bully and even threaten Asiyah. Faizah watches as her older sister refuses to acknowledge such ignorance and, remembering lessons their mother taught them to deal with bullies, is filled with pride for her sister all over again. She draws a picture for their mother of two princesses in hijab, and decides on the walk home that when her “first day” comes, she knows exactly what color hijab to pick: the proudest shade of blue.

Stunning. There has been some wonderful kidlit about hijab in the last few years, and this deeply personal and affirming title is a fantastic addition to the sub-genre. Multiple themes are explored, from the deep bonds of sisterhood, the difficulties of facing ostracism and bullying, hijabi and Muslim culture, and how all these can and do weave together. Several passages give bullied children, hijabi or otherwise, a good roadmap for dealing with the hurtful words of others, and the beautiful descriptions and interpretations of the blue headscarf inspire pride for young Muslim readers. The art is fittingly gorgeous, in particular the spreads in which Asiyah’s blue scarf becomes a peaceful sky or a powerful sea. The length is perfect, and JJ and I both loved it. A touching story for readers of all faiths, and a powerful love letter to young hijabi girls. Baby Bookworm approved!

I Used To Be Famous (Becky Cattie & Tara Luebbe)

Hello, friends! Our book today is I Used To Be Famous, written by Becky Cattie and Tara Luebbe and illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, a follow-up to last year’s I Am Famous.

Kiely – the precocious, performing girl of the first book – is back, and still the center of attention. She has practically everything one might expect from a triple-threat celebrity in the spotlight: a personal shopper (her mom), a dazzling biography (her baby book), and paparazzi following her every move… well, she used to! Suddenly there’s a new star in town: new baby sister Abby, who despite not being able to sing or dance or act (and sort of smelling like poop), effortlessly commands the room. Kiely tries to wrestle the spotlight back to herself, but to no avail. She finally admits to defeat to Abby, but finds that her little sister may just be the loyal fan, performing partner, and perhaps even best friend she’s been looking for.

Very cute! Beginning by reestablishing the tongue-in-cheek humor of the first book, the author pair does a great job of continuing the story of Kiely while also allowing new readers to immediately engage with this boisterous and confident young girl. From there, we get a solid tale of becoming a big sibling through her eyes. It hits the familiar beats of a “new baby” book, but in a uniquely “Kiely” way, moving from jealousy to acceptance, to a growing bond of sisterhood, all with a focus on performing and their humorous “diva” status. Lee-Vriethoff’s art is as charming and endearing as ever, filling Kiely and Abby with loads of personality and emotion. The length is perfect, and JJ has a lot of fun with it. A great new baby book for the household diva, and 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.)

Marigold & Daisy (Andrea Zuill)

Hello, friends! Our book today is the delightful Marigold & Daisy by Andrea Zuill, a story of the highs and lows of sisterhood.

Life was pretty great for Marigold – that is, until her ultra-adorable, uber-annoying little sister Daisy was born. Daisy is such a pain! Everybody fusses over how cute she is, and she follows Marigold everywhere, and she gets away with everything! Marigold feels overlooked, under-appreciated, and most of all, irritated. In fact, she’s pretty sure that Daisy has a nefarious evil plan to take over the world using her super-powered cuteness. But when Marigold is bullied by another bug, she might be surprised at who comes to her rescue – and at what she has to say!

Very sweet. The transition from only child to big sister or brother can be a difficult one for littles, so we’re always on the lookout for books that deal with the range of emotions they can go through during this time. This one hits a lot of relatable emotions (Marigold’s sense of being pushed aside when the new baby comes, for instance) while also conveying the all-important moral of the story: sisterhood isn’t always perfect, but there’s no friendship or relationship like it. The text is easily read aloud, and has a bunch of great comedic beats that make it fun. The illustrations are wonderfully expressive, using a mix of pen-and-ink and watercolor to bring the world of snails and insects to life. The length is perfect, and JJ loved it. A great story for helping little ones laugh through a time of transition, and we recommend it highly. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Frozen: A Sister More Like Me (Barbara Jean Hicks)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Frozen: A Sister More Like Me, written by Barbara Jean Hicks and illustrated by Brittney Lee, a beautiful companion to the Disney movie that explores the true meaning and value of sisterhood.

Told in rhyme, and from both Elsa and Anna’s perspectives, our story begins in a similar place as the movie: when the sisters were very little, they were quite close. And while not explicitly mentioning the events that caused Elsa to initially withdraw, the story then explores the other reason the sisters grew apart – they were very different. While Elsa was organized, academic, prim and reserved, Anna preferred to be free-spirited, spontaneous, and independent. Often, the girls would wonder what life would be like if they had a sister more like them. But as the events of the movie unfolded – Anna seeing Elsa’s incredible powers and Elsa seeing her sister’s courage and loyalty – the women realize that the sister they already have is all they could ever want, because they are perfect just as they are.

Of all the Disney tie-ins we’ve read recently, this may be my favorite so far. It not only captures the spirit of the movie it’s based on, but actually enhances it by giving more depth to the characters. What’s more, its story is incredibly relatable for siblings, especially sisters, showing that while they may often wish for a sibling more like themselves, it’s important to love family for their own talents, strengths and interests. The art is as lovely and animated as one would expect from a Disney book, and translates the 3D characters of Frozen into picture book form perfectly. The length is great, the dueling narrative was interesting, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. A fantastic read for Frozen fans and their families, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!