Stella, Star Explorer (Kelly Leigh Miller)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Stella, Star Explorer by Kelly Leigh Miller, a trip through our solar system that combines practical knowledge and new perspectives (as well as a few laughs) along the way.

Stella LOVES space. She dreams of exploring the cosmos, the galaxies, and of any planet in the universe… except, that is, for dirty, boring old Earth. Deciding she needs a change, Stella and her dog don their spacesuits, say goodbye to Stella’s parents, and blast off on an interplanetary adventure. It doesn’t take long before she makes a new friend: a green, seven-limbed fellow explorer named Io and his purple snake/cat pet Mimas. The pair have gotten lost looking for a very special planet, but Io cannot remember its name! Determined to help, Stella takes him on a tour of the solar system to help narrow the search – but is surprised to find that his destination is a familiar one!

A wonderful mix of fact and fun. Stella’s tour of the solar system does a great job of incorporating true factoids about each of the planets while also providing simple comedy that engages young readers. Best of all, the ending of the story really brings home a nice lesson on appreciating the things we have – especially our own fascinating, unique, and special planet – with a continued thirst for exploration and knowledge. Miller’s cartoonish illustrations are wonderful, with colorful and detailed settings and characters both land-based and intergalactic. Diverse representation is nicely integrated – Stella is coded as East Asian, her caregivers present as a queer, mixed-race family, and other background characters reflect a small variety of skintones, body types, and hair textures. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ loved the adorable artwork and uplifting story. Overall, this one is a treat, and we really enjoyed 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.)

Little Sleepy Solar System (Dr. John Hutton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Sleepy Solar System, written by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Doug Cenko, a delightful board book inspired by the author and illustrator’s previous work, Sleepy Solar System.

Time again to meet the eight (maybe nine?) planets of the solar system, this time as they go about their adorable, anthropomorphized day. Count one through nine as they introduce themselves by name, learn a few distinctive colors, and opposites like near/far, big/small, and cold/hot. Then as everyone tucks in for bed, wish your new planetary friends and their moons a sweet good night.

Thoroughly charming. From the unbelievably sweet artwork of the planets – each meant to emulate fabric with illustrated fibers and stitches, giving them an extra-cozy feel – to the simple rhyming text, this little celestial exploration is a treat. Pluto is an outlier (listed as number “9?” in the first spread), though it is not explained why; parents will have to fill in that bit of trivia. The length is brief, and perfect for the very littlest of bookworms, but JJ also enjoyed this sweet little romp. Overall, a fun planetary primer that young readers are sure to enjoy. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Tiny Little Rocket (Richard Collingridge)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Tiny Little Rocket by Richard Collingridge, a journey through the stars on a very special day.

Once a year, a special little rocket leaves earth and heads to the stars. The little pilot (that’s you!) guides the wee rocket, with its silver fins and golden door, past the sun, past meteors, past the asteroid belt of our solar system. There are a few moments of peril and excitement, but the little pilot fears not, deftly guiding the rocket through the black until it can complete its mission: unfurling a great banner that reads “Happy Birthday, Earth!”

Lovely, yet a bit underwhelming. Perhaps because of the grand, majestic fantasy style of Collingridge’s last two picture books (When It Snows and Lionheart, which are two of the most visually stunning picture books I’ve ever seen), I was expecting something similar as he headed for the cosmos. And while there are some spreads that capture his impeccable sense of scale and detail, much of them focus on the vast, black emptiness of space and the little rocket’s interior, lit by the buttons and control panels. The latter has it’s own visual interest – though obscuring the pilot’s face behind a highly-reflective helmet makes it difficult to connect with them – but the former, while scientifically fascinating, may not hold the interest of young bookworms. Similarly, the story is a little uneven, using a rhyme scheme that changes abruptly, making it a challenge to read aloud, and a plot that feels a little directionless. However, it should be noted that both lead to a final fold-out spread that is absolutely worth the price of admission. The length was fine, and JJ enjoyed the moments of onomatopoeia and the more colorful illustrations, so overall, we’re calling this one Baby Bookworm approved.

Discover Our Solar System (Colin Stuart)

Hello, friends! Our book today Discover Our Solar System, written by Colin Stuart and illustrated by Charlie Brandon-King, a rich compendium of science for young astronomers.

With an introduction that compares life on Earth to the scope of the celestial bodies in the universe around us, Stuart and Brandon-King then lead the reader on a journey across our solar system. Beginning at our Sun and traveling through each of the planets, ice belts, dwarf planets, moons, and more, each body is given a two-page spread filled with illustrations, detailed specifications, and fun facts to pour over. Also detailed is the science of how we study these wonders of space, including information on the Big Bang, space stations, craft, and the future of space exploration.

Educational and fun! Well-designed pages give STEM-minded readers hours of information to absorb, yet lays it out in a way that doesn’t overwhelm or confuse. The artwork ranges from highly technical to sweet and simple to awe-inspiring, adapting to the intended tone each subject or topic nicely. This isn’t a book for a single sitting at any age, but young kids like JJ will enjoy the illustrations, and older bookworms – especially those with a passion for space – will devour every page. A wonderful tome for young astronomers, or anyone who wants to learn more about the magic of the solar system that surrounds them. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

Sleepy Solar System (Dr. John Hutton)

Hello, friends! Today, we read Sleepy Solar System, written by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Doug Cenko, an astronomical bedtime story that takes us on a journey through the solar system.

It’s been a very busy day in the Milky Way, and Sun tells everyone that it’s time for bed. One by one, the planets tuck in for bed. Mercury has been spinning at a dizzying pace, and is ready for a rest. Mother Earth has on her blue-and-green jammies, with white clouds up in curlers. Uranus reads a story, and teeny Pluto asks for one more hug and kiss. Then all the planets settle in for a good night’s sleep.

This one left me with mixed feelings. For every bit that I liked, there was also something that was disappointing. Among the pluses, this is a very different take on the bedtime story, and filled with some great information about the plants in our solar system. The illustrations are exceedingly cute, and filled with great details. However, the rhyme scheme of the text was very inconsistent, which made it difficult to find a rhythm when reading aloud. And while the length was fine for a bedtime story, JJ wasn’t as excited about this one as she tends to be. I should also mention that other reviews have pointed out minor scientific errors, but that’s best left to reader discretion; most of the inaccuracies are fairly trifling, considering the entire premise of the book is scientifically impossible (how can an entire planet have “night” at once?) and meant in good fun, rather than purely educational. Overall, this was a neat introduction to the planets for little astronomers, but ultimately lackluster. Still, the original concept and adorable art alone is enough for us to call this one Baby Bookworm approved!